THE PARTY WITH THE EDGE…. If you listen to congressional Republicans, you’ll hear plenty of proud boasts about how their fiscal and economic priorities reflect the will of the American electorate.
And if you listen to the American electorate, you’ll hear something else entirely. Take the new Washington Post/ABC News poll, for example.
When it comes to dealing with issue No. 1, the economy, Obama has an advantage: 46 percent say they put more faith in the president, 34 percent say so about congressional Republicans. Obama has a similar 12-point lead on the question of who better understands the economic problems people face, and a nine-point edge on dealing with the deficit.
Among those who say a government shutdown would be harmful, about twice as many say they would hold the GOP, rather than the president, responsible. A similar question two weeks ago showed that about as many said they would blame Obama as the congressional Republicans for such a stoppage.
On the economy, trust in the GOP among independents dropped from 42 percent in January to 29 percent in the new poll.
The Republican message would be less annoying if it were more connected to reality. I could understand if the GOP said, “We know our agenda isn’t popular, but it’s the right thing to do and the public will thank us later.” That’d be wrong, but it would have a certain integrity to it.
But that’s not the message. Instead Republicans are arguing, “Don’t believe your lying eyes — the American people support us and our agenda wholeheartedly.” The create-our-own-reality crowd is clearly still driving the GOP message.
I can understand why the poll would be disheartening to the right. For all of the Republicans’ messaging, Americans trust President Obama more on the economy and the deficit, and for those who believe the economy is recovering, they’re inclined to credit the president over the GOP, 39% to 6%.
What’s more, a plurality of Americans believe large cuts in federal spending — the Republicans’ raison d’etre — would cause job losses, while a large majority (64%) want to reduce the deficit by combining spending cuts and tax increases, a compromise today’s GOP refuse to even consider.
In other words, those who claim to represent popular will are doing the exact opposite.
This isn’t to say all of the news was great for Democrats in this poll; it wasn’t. Obama’s approval rating is down a couple of points, voters are in a deeply sour and pessimistic mood, and most of the public has bought into absurd GOP arguments about the efficacy of the stimulus.
That said, in general, Republican claims about public attitudes are patently false, and the American mainstream still isn’t buying what they’re selling. Ideally, this would help stiffen Democratic spines — and give Dems some added leverage in budget talks — since they’re the ones with the edge when it comes to popular will.