With all the talk of punting and passing when it comes to lifting the nation’s debt ceiling, it’s pretty clear no one wants to own the deficit debate in 2012. But if polling is any indication, everyone just might.
Both sides are attempting to steer the crisis in their political favor, with President Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election prospects and control of Congress on the line.
Republicans believe they can win the messaging wars if they focus on jobs, one reason they will work the unemployment rate into most of the fiery debate on the Hill about this unrelated issue.
Republican strategist David Winston, who advises GOP leadership, said voters will continue to hear Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) ask, “Where are the jobs?”
“They should evaluate how do they take this particular situation and put it in the context of what it’s going to do to the economy and jobs,” Winston told Roll Call.
For their part, Democrats want to paint the Republicans as uncompromising and beholden to millionaires and anti-tax stalwarts such as Grover Norquist.
Polls suggest the Democratic messaging is working — an ABC News/Washington Post survey released last week found that 67 percent of voters said Republicans are “looking out for the interests of large business corporations.”
“Whatever advantage they had in 2010 on spending and debt issues, the way they’ve handled this has evaporated that,” one Democratic strategist said.
Whether voters will pay any attention is another matter entirely.
Multiple polls show strong majorities of voters don’t like how any of the players have dealt with the crisis, with the GOP taking the hardest hit. With no real compromise brokered and spats continuing up and down Pennsylvania Avenue, those figures are likely to climb before it’s over.
As both parties try to capitalize on the intensity of the moment, Boehner has emerged as the latest boogeyman for Democratic messaging.
Within 84 minutes of Boehner bailing on debt talks for the second time, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee was out with a harsh fundraising email calling the Speaker a quitter.
“It’s now clearer than ever that Republicans won’t say yes to anything and would rather see our economy fall into catastrophic default than offend Grover Norquist and the Tea Party fringe by asking billionaires to pay their fair share,” the DCCC’s Robby Mook wrote. He suggested Boehner was protecting “tax breaks for big oil companies and his billionaire jet-owning friends,” messages that Democrats have found resonate with independent voters.
The DCCC followed that up Saturday morning with robocalls in 60 GOP-held districts, tying each Member to Boehner and saying the two Republicans “would rather our economy default” than raise taxes. Democrats must win at least 24 seats to regain control of the House.
White House press secretary Jay Carney tweeted Monday that it is “indefensible” that Boehner “walked away twice from fair deals backed by the public,” saying the House GOP “risks our economy by refusing to compromise.”