Our political Quote of the Day comes from Julian Zelizer, professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University and the author of “Jimmy Carter” and “Governing America.” He says that if spending cuts go through as expected a little more than a week from now, Republicans will get the blame — and it could cost them seats in Congress:
Until now “sequestration” has been a word that only means something to people living inside the Beltway or to political junkies who depend on their daily dose of Politico and The Hill. But if Congress and the president do not reach a deal by March 1, which appears likely, Americans will quickly learn what it means — namely deep spending cuts.
The spending cuts pose a significant political threat to Republicans, more so than to Democrats. Although many Republicans are standing firm, insisting that their party will be fine if the cuts go through, there are many reasons for the GOP, through a sober eye, to see the dangers that lay ahead.
The cuts could push congressional politics in a liberal direction and establish the foundation for solid Democratic gains in 2014.
The problem for Republicans is that the polls show that the approval rating of the GOP is in the tank while President Obama is doing relatively well. According to Quinnipiac University, only 19% of Americans approve of how Republicans are handling their job.
Obama is enjoying his highest favorability ratings since 2009, with 60% having a favorable rating of him in a Washington Post-ABC poll. The likelihood, as in 1995-1996, is that the public will blame the dysfunction on the GOP rather than Democrats and the party will suffer a further erosion of its standing as a result.
According to a recent poll by the Pew Foundation and USA Today, Republicans would be blamed for the cuts by almost half of Americans, while only 31% would blame Obama.
Sequestration will soon become a dirty word in the American political lexicon. While it is impossible to predict which way the political winds will blow, there is good reason for Republicans to see how they can suffer politically if some kind of deal is not reached.
Republicans, who have now struggled through two presidential elections and are facing a demographic shift that does not work in their favor, might want to start thinking harder about their strategy on spending. Deficit reduction is no longer a winning issue for the GOP.
What’s amazing about the current Congress-created crisis is that sequestration was put into place as if to say: “We’ll put this in place and there will surely be a deal. Surely Congress can be DUMB ENOUGH to let this stand.”
Hey, guess what?
And now, conservative blogs, Fox News, conservative talkers, are suggesting that if the cuts go through surely Obama will be blamed by the voters.
Hey: guess what??
UPDATE: A new poll finds that more Americans want the secuester put off until the economy approves than support it — more evidence that the GOP may be miscalculating (again):
Americans want Congress to delay steep spending cuts to give the economic recovery more time to take hold, according to a Bloomberg News poll.
When Washington does confront the deficit issue, Americans back a compromise that includes more tax revenue and fundamental changes to Social Security and Medicare, a deal that would require give-and-take by both Republicans in Congress and President Barack Obama.
Fifty-four percent of poll respondents favor postponing $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts during the next nine years beginning on March 1, compared with 40 percent who say Congress should act now before the deficit gets out of control, in the poll conducted Feb. 15-18.
“The across-the-board cuts that they’re planning to do would do more harm to the general population than trying to wait and pick and choose which ones we really need,” poll respondent Mark Seeger, a school psychologist from Valparaiso, Indiana, said in a follow-up interview. “Right now, a lot of people are holding on by the skin of their teeth — they’re opting whether to go to the doctor or have food — and I just think we need to wait until the economy gets back on its feet before we just go in and cut without thinking.”
Almost 3 in 5 say the budget deficit should be curbed through a combination of spending cuts and tax increases on companies and high earners, as the White House has proposed, rather than focusing exclusively on spending reductions, as Republicans assert. Majorities also say overhauls of Social Security and Medicare — including changes disproportionately aimed at wealthier recipients — are “necessary” to lower the deficit.
“For now, Americans favor Obama’s approach mixing cuts and new revenue to avoid a shutdown, and to let the economy that is perceived as gaining traction pick up speed,” said J. Ann Selzer, president of Des Moines, Iowa-based Selzer & Co., which conducted the telephone poll of 1,003 U.S. adults. The survey has an error margin of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.
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