Political Animal


July 16, 2011 10:35 AM In line with popular opinion

By Steve Benen

All recent polling shows the same thing: Americans want a debt-reduction agreement that combines less spending and more revue. This is a fact President Obama was eager to promote during his press conference yesterday.

“My hope, though, is that [members of Congress are] listening not just to lobbyists or special interests here in Washington, but they’re also listening to the American people. Because it turns out poll after poll, many done by your organizations, show that it’s not just Democrats who think we need to take a balanced approach; it’s Republicans as well.

“The clear majority of Republican voters think that any deficit reduction package should have a balanced approach and should include some revenues. That’s not just Democrats; that’s the majority of Republicans. […]

“The bottom line is that this is not an issue of salesmanship to the American people; the American people are sold. The American people are sold…. [Y]ou have 80 percent of the American people who support a balanced approach. Eighty percent of the American people support an approach that includes revenues and includes cuts. So the notion that somehow the American people aren’t sold is not the problem. The problem is members of Congress are dug in ideologically into various positions because they boxed themselves in with previous statements.

“And so this is not a matter of the American people knowing what the right thing to do is. This is a matter of Congress doing the right thing and reflecting the will of the American people.”

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) argued otherwise, apparently under the impression that the public is on the GOP’s side. As the day progressed, more and more folks on the right became quite agitated about this, insisting that the president is just wrong about public attitudes.

In fairness, Obama’s “80%” figure is an exaggeration. A Gallup poll this week found that only 20% of Americans agree with Republican demands for a spending-cut-only approach, but that doesn’t mean that literally 80% are on the other side. The results showed 20% support the GOP line, 69% want a plan with both cuts and new revenue, while 4% want an approach that only brings in new revenue and doesn’t cut spending.

But this still a terribly odd thing for Republicans to complain about. We can quibble on some of the details, but Gallup found 69% want a combination of cuts and revenue, while 20% want only cuts. That means — you guessed it — the GOP’s hard line isn’t popular at all.

And it’s not just one poll. Greg Sargent explained yesterday, “[I]t’s true that the 80 percent figure Obama cited at today’s presser is inflated. But polls from Pew, Quinnipiac, Gallup, and the Washington Post all find that large majorities do in fact favor a mix of increases and cuts.”

Indeed, none other than Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), of all people, said this week, “If I were Boehner and Cantor, I’d get one of our highly respected Republican pollsters to come over and brief them. Right now, we’re not winning the battle.”

Whether it’s 80-20 or 69-20 is largely irrelevant in the larger context, since the point is the same. Do Republicans really want to get into an extended debate — right now — over whether Obama’s approach is more popular than theirs or much more popular than theirs?

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


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  • Danp on July 16, 2011 10:47 AM:

    If I were Boehner and Cantor, Id get one of our highly respected Republican pollsters to come over and brief them.

    I suspect Frank Luntz would merely tell them to keep it up, but ditch the pin strip suits.

  • foosion on July 16, 2011 10:48 AM:

    The Republicans don't care what the public wants. They are on a mission to redistribute towards the wealthiest, and expect to be well compensated for their efforts.

    Continuing the Bush tax cuts for those paid more than $250,000 was quite unpopular, but that didn't stop them.

    The real mystery is why Obama has embraced the cut to grow vision. He sounds as if he really believes it.

  • Art Hackett on July 16, 2011 10:50 AM:

    I'm waiting for the Pants on Fire rating from Politifact because 69 doesn't equal 80 and the right wing outrage to follow.

  • jlt on July 16, 2011 10:55 AM:

    once you are up to your shoulders in lies --the gop feel they must continue..Wish they would .MAN UP. and do what is best for the USA..Instead of corps!

    Seems too much to ask in this day with these repubbagger cretins!

  • Joe on July 16, 2011 11:05 AM:

    Maybe Obama was just using the same methodology that the pollster Rasmussen uses on him--if you don't approve of Obama then your response must be measured as disapproval. All "no opinion/I don't know" reponses are counted as "disapprove".

    If that thinking is valid when it's applied to Obama, why can't Obama us it on Repubs?

  • c u n d gulag on July 16, 2011 11:09 AM:

    Ok, now RumpMcCainplestiltskin can go back to sleep.

    What's that, CAPTCHA girl?
    paysta father

    Oh, you lucky lady. No wonder you can such a rich obnoxious little sh*t, CAPTCHA - you have a father who's a Paysta.

  • kevo on July 16, 2011 11:12 AM:

    The prime problem for the Republicans when they speak for the "American people" is that the only Americans they recognize as people are the ones who vote for them!

    The rest are merely props to use as they may!

    The wildcard in this current mix? Why the attention deficit, wildly fickle American people - and that's exactly the target for the Republicans when they deliberately obfuscate and generally confuse the issues on a minute by minute basis, repeatedly, with same syntax talking points, and through multiple media outlets!

    Unrelenting, these Republicans seem! -Kevo

  • jjm on July 16, 2011 12:02 PM:

    So: Obama claims to be putting entitlements on the table; what he has proposed is cutting into the profits of big Pharma by permitting the federal government to bargain for lower prices--something the Bush administration barred it from doing. Sure that cuts billions from Medicare, but it doesn't come out of the pockets of beneficiaries or caregivers....

    But no, the 'left' is failing to see the political strategy here: Obama is calling the GOP bluff, again and again. He is giving ample proof that the GOP simply won't deal with the enormous debt IT created, and that it is more than willing to hurt ordinary Americans (and much of the rest of the world) to score points against him and to make their foreign financial backers verrrry happy.

    I just don't see how anyone can read this any other way. The GOP stance on the debt limit is perfectly consistent with their values: run up huge debts, then walk away from them. It's 1929 all over again. It's perfectly aligned with Republicans' core values: adamantly oppose anything that helps ordinary Americans, even the soldiers who defend you; your first allegiance is to international financiers, who will reap huge interest rate increases from us; your second is to Grover Norquist (the GOP=Norquislings).

    Why is this shocking to anyone? It's exactly what the GOP has long fought for: kill government for the many and hand it over to the few, who will take your tax dollars and put them straight in their pockets.

    How have the fooled people into imagining otherwise?

  • John MacDougall on July 16, 2011 12:27 PM:

    This is what the Terror looked like in France. Whether Tea Partiers want to compromise or not - they got elected by flinging crap at anyone who wasn't 100% pure, and they know what they'll get if they don't stay that way themselves. Sad way to run a democracy.

  • Stephen Stralka on July 16, 2011 12:54 PM:

    Maybe Paul Ryan would be willing to go explain to the House Republicans that 69 and 80 are both larger numbers than 20. Maybe they would find it sobering.

  • Big River Bandido on July 16, 2011 3:10 PM:

    Sorry, Steve, you lose me on this one.

    Obama and the Democrats really fucked this up by allowing the entire debt ceiling debate to become intertwined with austerity. Anyone who countenances a deficit-reduction policy at this point is insane.

  • Steve on July 16, 2011 3:28 PM:

    Take a quick look at what has happened in Minnesota, Gov. Dayton has abandoned his stand on increasing taxes on 7,700 millionaires and Kicked the can down the road. Republican used the tactic of Non-negotiation to win the arguement. Heaven forbid Congress shuts down the Federal government but given their success in the past of not giving ground and Obama's willingness to accomadate they may just push the issue to the edge of the abyss.

  • mr.irony on July 16, 2011 7:13 PM:

    republicans out of touch with a majority of americans?


    GOP Actions Often Defied What Most Americans Want On Key Issues - AP 12/25/10

  • OKDem on July 17, 2011 12:19 AM:

    I went back to the Gallup Poll and the breakdown is:
    Cuts Only 20%
    Mostly Cuts 30%
    Equal Cuts and Tax Increases 32%
    Mostly Tax Increases 7%
    Tax Increases only 4%
    Deficit? [No Opinion] 7%

    Therefore - 73% some to all revenue to 20% no revenue.

    No definition of "mostly".
    Gallup muddied the water as best they could by adding "Only Cuts" and "Mostly Cuts" to get 50%. That is NOT the choice.
    Obama's 85% cuts 15% revenue would likely fit 80-90% of "mostly". The Rethug position is Cut Only, full stop. The Rethug podsition has 20% support, at most.

    Also note that Gallup used "tax increases", not taxes and closing loopholes which would likely poll better.

    Finally, despite Boehner, the Rethugs on the talk shows and the boot-lickers of the MSM screaming "The US is broke!" only 1% of the American people were foolish enough to parrot the lie.
    Which makes 99% of the American people brighter than about 99% of the beltway infotainers.