In line with popular opinion

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?