A new poll suggests that President Obama has hit his stride in the budget battle with Congressional Republicans. And maybe the voters like the fighting spirit they’ve seen in Obama these days. Although the Quinnipiac University poll on the economy and the nation’s financial mess is not all rosy for the president, it is very encouraging for him as the election season heats up.
Fifty-six percent of voters in the survey say they disapprove of Obama’s handling of the economy, as opposed to 38 percent who give him a thumbs up. However, people also trust him more than Republicans in Congress to handle the economy, at a rate of 45 percent to 38 percent. Moreover, according to the poll, 71 percent believe America is in a recession. But 54 percent blame Bush for the country’s economic doldrums, with only 27 percent blaming Obama.
The country is in a recession, 71 percent of American voters say, but by 54 to 27 percent they blame former President George W. Bush more than President Obama. Independents blame Bush for the economy 49 to 24 percent. And American voters are more likely to blame Congressional Republicans 48 percent to 34 percent if the debt limit is not raised.
WATCH ‘TODAY SHOW’ COVERAGE OF THE DEBT CEILING DEBATE:
[MSNBCMSN video=”http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/32545640″ w=”592″ h=”346″ launch_id=”43766643^10^165880″ id=”msnbc96be85″]
In addition, over two-thirds say that any agreement to raise the nation’s debt ceiling should include more taxes for the rich and corporations as opposed to just spending cuts. And while 62 percent think it is more important to reduce unemployment than to reduce the government’s budget deficit, slightly more believe reducing unemployment is more important than cutting federal spending than not (49 to 43 percent).
With a 47 percent job approval rating — 46 percent disapprove — Obama is the most popular politician in Washington, outstripping Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill, who suffer from disapproval ratings in the mid-60s. Among his base, the president enjoys an 81 percent favorable rating, but 53 percent disapproval among independents and an unsurprising 83 percent disapproval among Republicans. Even among those who wholly disagree with his policies, President Obama is likable.
This comes amid news that Obama and the Dems scored a fundraising record, with $86 million collected over the last three months for their reelection coffers. The president and his party have far outpaced their GOP rivals, who have raised a total of around $35 million so far.
Although a poll this early in the election season is hardly a predictor of the 2012 general election, the Quinnipiac poll and the fundraising numbers tell a story: Despite GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney’s criticisms of Obama on the economy, including his insistence that the president drove the economy deeper into a recession, Obama so far is made of Teflon.
The public, by a substantial majority, holds Bush responsible for the bad economy. And while a majority of people disapproves of his handling of the economy, they certainly place less trust in Republicans to get the job done. This is a testament to President Obama’s formidability as a candidate for reelection in 2012, but also a measure of the fiscal extent of the damage created by his “conservative” predecessor — with tax cuts for the wealthy, an unfunded Medicare drug prescription program, and two prohibitively expensive wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.In addition, in the current budget and debt ceiling impasse, Obama is getting his mojo back, in the press as much as in the public eye. His visible anger and aggressive tactics are putting the Republicans on the spot and in a bind. Imposing a deadline for the Republicans to reach a deal makes Obama look like a tough leader. Further, the president’s exchanges with Rep. Eric Cantor (R, Virginia) — during which time Obama told the House Majority Leader “don’t call my bluff,” while Cantor reportedly interrupted the president three times — show that Obama has the upper hand in the war with Congress to increase the debt ceiling, and the media war for public opinion.
Meanwhile, Moody’s credit rating agency threatens to slap U.S. Aaa-rated Treasury bonds with a solvency downgrade if the government fails to increase the federal debt ceiling and fulfill its financial obligations. And a report by the IMF which determined that the U.S. budget would require a permanent 35 percent tax increase and 35 percent spending cut. Obama’s calls for revenue increases as a part of any deal — including the elimination of tax breaks and subsidies for oil companies and “fat cats” with corporate jets — makes him appear like the adult in the room.
This new “old” Obama — the Obama of “hope” and “change” from the 2008 election — appears to be re-emerging. The president’s supporters have been urging him to do grow a backbone, or at least find the one he already owned. Furthermore, his willingness to risk his presidency over the debt ceiling was made to order for his core supporters. Some suggest Obama has been suffering from Jackie Robinson Syndrome-, including the fear that black “firsts” have of being typecast as the angry black man.
Add to that a seemingly overdone, even quixotic attempt to compromise with conservatives who would map out his downfall. In addition, Obama may have fallen for “the best and brightest white guys” from Harvard, as Frank Rich elaborated recently in New York magazine. Rich was referring to “Ivy League liberals” who have dominated the president’s financial policy, and have served him poorly as his inner circle of economic advisors.
Now, for all we know, the president could have been playing an elaborate and sophisticated game of chess on his adversaries. Perhaps he has no intention of agreeing to Republican demands to cut entitlements such as Social Security and Medicare, a move that would almost certainly alienate the voters Obama needs next year. In any case, President Obama managed to make the GOP appear unreasonable, and expose them as unworthy of doing business with him.
For their own part, the Republicans have a host of problems, not least of which is a willingness to wreck the economy for political gain. Newly elected, ultra-right wing members of Congress, these “chai wallas” for the Tea Party, threaten to bring down the Republicans with their refusal to compromise. Doctrinaire and unbending in their adherence to ill-advised and failed economic theories, the Republican Party promotes an unworkable policy of fiscal austerity during a severe recession. Most of all, they barely make an effort to hide the fact that they are a wholly-owned subsidiary of Wall Street.
Their tax-cut orthodoxy renders them unfit to govern, as their coddling of corporations reveals a lack of concern for the hopeless, jobless millions of Americans out there. Coming into power with the promise of jobs, the Republicans have focused instead on such diversions as attacking Sharia law, abortion rights, voting rights and same-sex marriage. They have attacked the social safety net, assaulted unions and working families, obsessed over the president’s birth certificate and bashed immigrants. Obama should rejoice in the failure of his adversaries to articulate any vision aside from cutting taxes and cutting more taxes, and no strategy for job creation. This will serve him well come Election Day.
Meanwhile, a Gallup poll taken over roughly the same time period as the Quinnipiac survey should give President Obama cause for concern. According to that poll, a generic Republican candidate leads the president 47 percent to 39 percent. Further, the poll has him lagging behind with independents. The state of the economy looms large, with people dissatisfied and lacking confidence in the direction of the country. Sour economies made Jimmy Carter and Herbert Hoover one-term presidents. Obama should worry about the constant threat of high unemployment to his re-election chances.
Nevertheless, that pales in comparison to the Republicans’ problems if the U.S. defaults on its loans and sinks into another Great Depression — and they are blamed for the ensuing unemployment crisis.
Time is running out for Congress, and Obama knows it. One Republican lawmaker, Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tennessee), said that “Maybe the debt ceiling was the wrong place to pick a fight, as it related to trying to get our country’s house in order.” The Republicans are looking more and more like that crazy Uncle Ray who comes to the family cookout and acts the fool. Meanwhile, Obama exploits the insanity, using the debt crisis as a virtual stop on the campaign trail.