Yesterday, Democrats began their media push on the Buffett rule, which Sheldon Whitehouse and Tammy Baldwin have turned into legislation called the Paying a Fair Share Act. The bill would set a minimum 30% effective tax rate for earners making over $1 million. The revenue increase from the bill is actually kind of small. CBO estimates it at around $47 billion over 10 years, but that is under current law where the Bush tax cuts expire. If they are extended, it could increase to around $160 billion over ten years. But more than that, Democrats frame it as an issue of tax fairness, where the rich deliver a “fair share” toward funding the public sector. The bill phases in for people making between $1 million and $2 million to avoid a “cliff effect,” so there would be no strong difference in tax payments between those making $999,999 and $1 million.

Whitehouse, Baldwin and Chuck Schumer held a conference call yesterday on the legislation, and Schumer vowed that “even if we come up short of 60 (votes), we’re going to continue pushing this issue all year long. It’s an emerging contrast with Republicans.”

To that end, Democrats have begun to target Republican Senators in their states over the vote, scheduled for April 16.

Congressional Democrats and the White House plan to target Republican senators in 13 states next week, in an effort to pressure them to vote for the “Buffett Rule” tax on millionaires, a Democratic official said. The Republican senators represent Tennessee, Missouri, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Maine, Nevada, Nebraska, Alaska, Ohio, Florida, Indiana, Pennsylvania and Iowa, the official said.

Democrats are hoping to use their April 16 Senate vote on the Buffett Rule to divide Republicans and make their leaders – including Mitt Romney, the front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination – appear out of touch with voters.

This would include op-eds and public comments, but not paid media – at least not yet.

Obviously we’re looking at a message vote, and Democrats believe they have the upper hand. Republicans are “on the defensive on their signature issue, taxes,” according to Schumer. I’m not certain that’s true, but the comments of Mitch McConnell on the Buffett rule yesterday point in that direction.

“This is yet another proposal from Democrats that won’t create a single job or lower the price at the pump by a penny, but may have the opposite effect,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in a statement.

“Just as with their proposal to raise taxes on American energy manufacturers and increase the cost of energy, this is yet another sign that they’re out of ideas and simply focused on tax hike show-votes rather than pushing for the dozens of jobs and energy bills that have passed the House but are stalled in the Democrat-led Senate,” McConnell added.

Whitehouse responded that McConnell tried to change the subject, “when faced with opportunity to defend the rule that hedge fund managers should face a lower tax rate than a Rhode Island truck driver.” He said this showed the formidable nature of the legislation, which does poll quite well.

Taxes will be a signature issue going into the elections. Republicans passed a budget in the House that would slash tax rates while professing to cover those reductions with closing loopholes, though they fail to identify one loophole that should be closed, and they refuse to raise rates on dividend or capital gains income. Democrats have countered with the Buffett rule, and they want to roll back the Bush tax cuts for those making over $250,000 a year. The Bush tax cuts expire at the end of December, as does the payroll tax holiday.