President Barack Obama has stressed his refusal to renew expiring tax cuts for the rich. Democrats are encouraged.
But as the so-called “fiscal cliff” looms ever closer — the year-end showdown on the debt ceiling and the nation’s borrowing authority — Republican House Speaker John Boehner has once again pledged to force more cuts in domestic programs.
“There was a sense of deep demoralization for Democrats last time around,” said Jim Kessler, vice president for policy at Third Way, a centrist Democratic think tank. “All of the articles right after the last debt ceiling debate said Democrats once again were willing to compromise and Republicans once again held firm. And Republicans won.”
But did they really?
Kessler says in the long run, Republicans actually were hurt much more by the brinkmanship, and says the data prove it. Third Way took a look at the polls and averaged 11 reputable monthly job approval surveys in a simple infographic (above). They discovered the president recovering to an approval level of 48.7 percent — above the pre-debate baseline of 47.5 percent — while GOP lawmakers are still at 27 percent, below their baseline of 28.5 percent.
Kessler acknowledges other things have come into play that affect public opinion and approval ratings, but said the first debt ceiling debate was an iconic event in American politics.”Those moments last. They leave marks. And the conventional wisdom at the time was Obama lost it and the Republicans won it,” Kessler said. “But you saw after a couple of weeks that the Republicans actually went down [in the polls] and they have struggled to regain.”
This brinkmanship, or who-is-bluffing-and-who-will-fold-first, is not only a dangerous political game, but also one that can easily sway an electorate frustrated with politicians perceived as underperforming. So who could be hurt most by a political poker showdown, Part II?
“Public opinion is like sunburn,” Kessler theorized.”Not until hours after you’ve done the damage does the red show up.”