Political Animal


January 18, 2013 10:24 AM Buzzkill

By Ed Kilgore

As House Republicans sit through presentations and discussions about their immediate and long-term fate in Williamsburg this weekend, the buzzkill background includes not only the 2012 election results and the strategic and tactical traps they seem to keep entering in negotiating with the White House on fiscal issues—but also current polling, which is not friendly.

The latest big poll from NBC/WSJ confirms the bad news. One of those mood-ring polls that mainly test how Americans are feeling about this and that, its approval rating numbers are an extended reality check for House GOPers. Interestingly enough, the president’s job approval ratio (52/44) is now very similar to his personal favorability ratio (52/37). This wasn’t the case during much of his first term, when the job approval numbers were often significantly lower. The “how do you feel about” numbers for the GOP are simply dreadful: the party as a whole is at 26/49; John Boehner is at 18/37; and the Tea Party Movement that has a mortgage on the GOP’s soul is at 23/47. The one major political figure with higher public standing than Obama right now is the woman most likely to be his successor as the Democratic nominee for president, Hillary Clinton (56/25, with a job approval rating of 69/25).

You never know, but it’s doubtful the GOP numbers are going to improve in the short term, as reflected in the reality that the retreating House Members are debating whether to sullenly accept the president’s position on the debt limit, or to threaten to destroy the U.S. economy unless wildly popular retirement and health care programs are cut. And the main help on the way (unless it’s in the “looming Dem divide” that Politico is ritualistically trumpeting today) is a midterm election in which Republican fortunes improve because fewer people vote.

But at least they’ll leave Williamsburg with the benefit of some sage political advice, and will mutter to themselves as they return to Washington: “Don’t talk about rape. Don’t talk about rape.”

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • c u n d gulag on January 18, 2013 10:34 AM:

    "The “how do you feel about” numbers for the GOP are simply dreadful: the party as a whole is at 26/49; John Boehner is at 18/37; and the Tea Party Movement that has a mortgage on the GOP’s soul is at 23/47."

    Boy, when you start polling below that signature "Authoritarian Nutjob" bar of 27%, you've really got troubles!

    Of course, they may have lost a few percentage points from the "Authoritarian Nutjobs' by not being "Authoritarian Nutjob" enough.

    Good they they securly gerrymandered their districts, isn't it?

  • T2 on January 18, 2013 10:48 AM:

    The fact is that the 23% is running the GOP show and has been since George W. Bush. When these predominantly TeaParty GOPers get together and confront the fact that the American public is growing more and more disenchanted with their 1) tone-deaf policy ideas, 2) their lunatic ravings on pretty much everything, it must be a strange conversation. On one hand they can talk about how totally right they are in everything and if they could only find the right way to explain it to the public, all would be good.
    On the other hand, they can look around the room and see the biggest conglomeration of misfits and sociopaths ever to serve in the nation's government and just say "gee, this doesn't look good". For the press, it's #1, but I'm betting that for a lot of them, in private, it's #2. They have a problem. Then there's the demographics....but that's another story.

  • davidp on January 18, 2013 10:54 AM:

    The Dems may also be secretly rejoicing to hear that people like Rubio are opting to stand shoulder to shoulder with the NRA. It looks increasingly as if public opinion is going the other way.

  • Ron Byers on January 18, 2013 11:00 AM:

    Even if the CW salesmen at Politico don't get it, I am sure some of the Republican professionals understand that if all you have is a feeling that you are going to do better in the midterms because Democrats don't vote then you are courting an epic disaster.

    Republicans need to get on the right side of history and they need to get there now.

  • Peter C on January 18, 2013 11:25 AM:

    In 1996, the Republicans launched the FOX News Channel. This gave them the ability to 'message' 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. They campaign for the 'Republican Brand' full time, all the time.

    The great failure of the Democratic Party is that we've NEVER developed an effective counter-strategy. We campaign every four years.

    The Republicans have distasteful personalities and unpopular policies. They should be completely marginalized. This is the take-away from the polling. Yet, they control much of government because they have built structures (like FOX) which allow them to maximize their strengths (their huge money advantage, and their exploitation of authoritative religious traditions). They've built their structures (FOX, Talk-radio, Permanent think-tanks) and attacked ours (organized labor, Acorn, Planned Parenthood).

    Our take-away from the polling should be: WE CAN WIN, but WE MUST FIGHT! We've got to drop our 'part-time' paradigm (whereby we pay attention only for the big campaign) and we've got to develop and fund a wholistic strategy. I feel that Howard Dean tried to start this effort, but was overcome through internal politics. We need to work to correct the deficiencies of our Party; they won't be improved my magic and without effort.

  • low-tech cyclist on January 18, 2013 11:30 AM:

    The Dem strategy for dealing with the GOP on budget issues should be: "you want cuts? OK, name them!" Because most of the cuts the GOP wants are only slightly more popular than the bubonic plague.

  • Mimikatz on January 18, 2013 11:58 AM:

    Potentially the GOP is losing suburban moms everywhere over the gun issue as well as residual distaste over the reproductive rights issues. but the Dems need to persuade people that voting isn't just every 4 years, it's every 2 years, and they need to start pretty soon on that. The Dems need a slogan. In 2006 it was "Had enough? Vote Democratic" and it worked. We took back the House. Maybe we can start with "Voting: it's not just for presidential years". Or "Don't like Congress? Get a new one. Vote Democratic". Certainly a campaign to women to vote lie your life depends on it! would help.

    Something catchy that reminds people to vote. Obama can campaign where it helps, Michelle too. I always tell people that they don't have to vote for everything, just the few races at the top is enough, a few proposition if they understand them, but it isn't a test and it is ok to leave many down-ticket races blank.

    But I really think that to keep repeating the idea that Dem voters will only vote once every 4 years is self-defeating.

  • Rick B on January 18, 2013 11:59 AM:

    Interesting discussion. Let's see if I have the situation right.

    The conservative dominated Republicans have reached well-deserved disaster-level lows in popularity. They are depending on the structures built into the Constitution to empower minorities, including the inability to remove idiots from office until their term is up (Allen West, now Steve Stockman) and the many, many procedures built into the Senate to delay or prevent legislation from passing. The Senate itself exists only to allow the powerful wealthy to stop populist legislation they don't like.

    The conservative power in the House depended on the gerrymandering allowed by (typical) low Democratic turnout in the 2010 election together with the power of money (symbolized but not fully explained by Citizen's United) to control the gerrymander after 2010.

    But if the idiots of the right are depending on the inability of Democrats to organize nationally to turn out the vote in 2014 they could be in trouble. They will be depending on the Democrats to be unable to organize in the face of their obstructionism and idiocy.

    I don't see any indications that Democrats are rising to the challenge nationally. I really hope I don't see anything because the Democrats do not want to energize the conservatives by exposing the threat and not the traditional inability to Democrats to organize.

  • rrk1 on January 18, 2013 1:07 PM:

    Obviously the Dems know perfectly well how to mobilize for a presidential 'election'. Howard Dean effectively started a 50 state strategy to prepare for mid-terms and to have organizations in place more-or-less constantly to be mobilized. What internecine nonsense derailed all that I don't know, but it worked while e had control, and the Dems need to understand the threat posed by 2014. Obama needs to understand as well, and has to keep hitting the Rethugs in their most vulnerable parts: women, guns, inequality, immigration. And do it each and every day. But that's not Obama's style.

    The Rethugs have learned nothing from November, or at least the Teahadists haven't, and unless the sane remnant of the GOP (it's hard to use both sane and GOP in the same sentence) changes the primary rules to stop the insurgency from the extreme right, we could see the crazy caucus grow. What's working against a return to even marginally functioning government is congressional districts having been gerrymandered very successfully to favor the Rethugs. That is a fact of life, and voters thinking their representative is not responsible for the gridlock that passes for governance, or the lack of it, poses a big challenge for the Dems. And that's not to mention 'Citizens' United'. Koch, etal., money isn't going to stop flowing.

    Lush Bimbo, Fox Faux News, and the right-wing echo chamber will be doing it's thing, but there are signs that people are waking up to all the BS. Now, if only the Democrats would.

  • Sean Scallon on January 18, 2013 1:18 PM:

    The line-up of speakers includes the same people offering same advice as they had before. What praytell are going to learn any different? Use better words, yeah I suppose. Frank Luntz gets paid a lot of money to say that.

  • Doug on January 18, 2013 6:19 PM:

    Mimikatz, how about "Voting, it's not just for President."
    Don't know how the Beef Marketing Board will feel, though...