DEMS SHOULDN’T FEAR A POPULAR POSITION…. The tax policy debate is pretty straightforward — President Obama is emphasizing lower rates for the middle class; Republicans are pushing bigger breaks for the wealthy and higher deficits. Congressional Democrats don’t seem especially comfortable with the debate itself, and don’t know what to do next.

It’s obviously a difficult election environment for Dems, but there’s nothing for them to be afraid of here. In the last two weeks, six national polls — count ’em, six — show Americans clearly preferring Obama’s policy to the GOP’s.

Here’s yet another report, based on a new survey from Democracy Corps.

This will be a tough election, but fortunately, the unfolding tax issue can work strongly to help Democrats and define the choice in the election. This is a case where Democrats are strongly aligned with public thinking and priorities. Only 38 percent favor extending the Bush tax cuts for those over $250,000 — the official position of Republican leaders and candidates. Clearly messaging around this choice — with Democrats voting for middle class tax cuts, while starting to address the deficit and protecting Social Security, contrasted with Republican candidates who still believe trickle-down economics and worsening the deficit — works for progressives.

Democracy Corps’ generic ballot shows Republicans with a seven-point advantage. After presenting voters with the parties’ competing tax plans, the GOP lead shrinks to two points.

In all, the survey shows the Democratic tax policy as far more popular, 55% to 38%, than the Republican alternative.

The report concluded, “Progressives should welcome the debate over extending middle class tax cuts while letting taxes increase for the wealthy as Congress re-convenes. It reflects good policy during these tumultuous economic times, and could prove to be good politics for those facing an uphill battle this November.”

DCCC Chairman Chris Van Hollen (Md.) told Greg Sargent something very similar yesterday: “A vote on this issue would help crystallize the choices before the voters. It would demonstrate clearly that Republicans want to hold tax relief for 98 percent of the American people hostage in order to get tax breaks for the top 2 percent.”

The issue may cut differently in various districts and states, but in general, this seems like a real opportunity for Democrats to capitalize on an issue where they enjoy strong public backing.

Our ideas can save democracy... But we need your help! Donate Now!

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.