Friday, December 21, 2012
President Obama and congressional Democrats are still winning the messaging battle in the debate over the impending "fiscal cliff."
Republican House Speaker John Boehner tried to change that with a fallback position extending tax cuts for everyone except those making more than a million dollars a year and letting the scheduled spending cuts go through. As I write this, the vote on Boehner's "Plan B" has not been taken, but it doesn't really matter. Either way, Republicans will end up as losers in the court of public opinion.
That's true even though raising taxes on millionaires is supported by 62 percent of voters nationwide. Boehner's plan fails to accomplish the speaker's goal of showing that Republicans are willing to raise taxes on the rich, however.
Why? Because 59 percent of voters also want to see taxes raised on those who earn more than $250,000 a year. In other words, the president can continue his rhetoric unchanged, and people still will side with Obama over Boehner.
Most significantly, Boehner's plan doesn't gain Republicans any support from unaffiliated voters. Sixty-three percent of these voters like the idea of raising taxes for those who earn more than a million dollars a year. But the exact same number (63 percent) want to raise taxes on those who earn between $250,000 and a million dollars a year, too.
So by agreeing to raise taxes on anyone, Boehner has antagonized his base. By refusing to raise taxes on enough upper-income Americans, Boehner has antagonized those in the middle. Most Americans consider $50,000 a middle-class income, and the speaker is seen as trying to protect those who make five times that amount.
Republicans are losing the debate because the fiscal cliff talks are about fairness rather than about taxes and deficit reduction. Most voters (56 percent) believe the U.S. economy is unfair to the middle class. That's the issue Obama is talking about and Republicans are ignoring.
With Republicans avoiding the topic, the president defined the terms by saying those who earn more than $250,000 a year should pay more in taxes. It's true that $250,000 a year doesn't make someone rich, but the overwhelming majority of Americans defines such affluent citizens as "upper-income."
Republicans have a choice to make. They can continue opposing all tax hikes and attempt to make the case that it's the fair thing to do. If they take that approach, voters in the middle will tune out all other GOP talking points about the need for spending cuts and entitlement reform. Or they can let taxes go up on the president's terms and earn a chance to make the case for spending cuts and entitlement reform from a stronger position.
Both approaches are risky. That's what happens when you have a bad hand to play. But Boehner's plan is worse than either option because it further erodes support from the party's base without gaining any ground in the middle.
The only good news in all of this for the House Republicans is that the messaging over the fiscal cliff will not determine how they fare on Election Day in 2014. At that point, the president's popularity and his party's prospects will be judged by the state of the economy.
COPYRIGHT 2012 SCOTT RASMUSSEN
DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM
See Other Political Commentaries.
See Other Commentaries by Scott Rasmussen.
Rasmussen Reports is a media company specializing in the collection, publication and distribution of public opinion information.
We conduct public opinion polls on a variety of topics to inform our audience on events in the news and other topics of interest. To ensure editorial control and independence, we pay for the polls ourselves and generate revenue through the sale of subscriptions, sponsorships, and advertising. Nightly polling on politics, business and lifestyle topics provides the content to update the Rasmussen Reports web site many times each day. If it's in the news, it's in our polls. Additionally, the data drives a daily update newsletter and various media outlets across the country.
Some information, including the Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll and commentaries are available for free to the general public. Subscriptions are available for $4.95 a month or 34.95 a year that provide subscribers with exclusive access to more than 20 stories per week on upcoming elections, consumer confidence, and issues that affect us all. For those who are really into the numbers, Platinum Members can review demographic crosstabs and a full history of our data.
To learn more about our methodology, click here.