James Carville famously kept the 1992 Clinton campaign on message with the simple refrain, "It's the economy, stupid!" That's just as true for politicians today as it was two decades ago.
Commentary by Scott Rasmussen
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President Obama handily defeated congressional Republicans in the political fight over his health care law. But the law will now face a much tougher opponent.
To borrow a phrase, Mainstream America and Washington's Political Class have become two nations separated by a common language. This gap was highlighted by a recent Pew Research Center poll showing that "for 18 of 19 programs tested, majorities want either to increase spending or maintain it at current levels."
There's a panic bubbling to the surface in Washington, D.C.
It's being brought about by the so-called sequester, scheduled to take effect next Friday, March 1. The sequester, a series of automatic across-the-board spending reductions, is a gimmick the politicians came up with in 2011 to force themselves to reach some kind of long-term deficit reduction deal.
There's still a lot of confusion in the Republican Party in the aftermath of the 2012 election. Part of the confusion stems from the struggle between the party establishment based in Washington and the party's base of voters all over the country. Sixty-three percent of Republican voters nationwide recognize that their leaders in Washington have lost touch with the base.
Added to that challenge is the debate over what type of change is needed. Some argue that the party needs to simply change the message and find a better way to sell its product. Others argue that more substantive policy changes are needed.
As President Obama prepares for his State of the Union address, he has indicated that gun control and immigration will be two of his top priorities. His administration's actions also indicate an ongoing commitment to place a high priority on environmental concerns. These items, though, tend to rank fairly low on voter lists of priorities.
A bipartisan group of eight U.S. senators has proposed an immigration reform plan that appears to broadly reflect what voters would like to see. But there's a catch.
President Obama in his inaugural address made it clear he intends to protect the nation's entitlement programs. In the world of Washington politics, this amounts to a pledge that the president will make sure that no changes will be made to programs like Social Security and Medicare.
Following the school shooting horror in Newtown, Conn., our nation shares a heartfelt belief that something must be done. Polls instantly showed an increase in support for stricter gun control laws. Fifty-one percent of American adults expressed that view in Rasmussen Reports polling.
Official Washington hailed the deal to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff as a significant bipartisan accomplishment. However, voters around the country viewed the deal in very partisan terms: Seven out of 10 Democrats approved of it, while seven out of 10 Republicans disapproved.
Just a few days after reaching that agreement, an inside-the-Beltway publication reported another area of bipartisan agreement. Politico explained that while Washington Democrats have always viewed GOP voters as a problem, Washington Republicans "in many a post-election soul-searching session" have come to agree. More precisely, the article said the party's Election 2012 failures have "brought forth one principal conclusion from establishment Republicans: They have a primary problem."
In Washington, many are celebrating the deal to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff. Some, like The Washington Post, are hailing the "strong bipartisan votes (on) a big, contentious issue."
Outside of Washington, however, the reviews aren't nearly as strong.
Tax reform with lower rates and fewer loopholes would be good for America and popular with voters. But substantive reform won't come any time soon. To understand why, it's helpful to remember that America's political heritage did not begin in 1776 but on the streets of London in the 16th to 18th centuries. Those were the formative years for the political ideas embraced by our Founding Fathers. Like America today, those years in London saw a high level of tension between the general public and the elites.
President Obama and congressional Democrats are still winning the messaging battle in the debate over the impending "fiscal cliff."
Having survived the Supreme Court and the November elections, President Obama's health care law now faces an even bigger hurdle: the reality of making it work.
President Obama is winning the messaging wars in the "fiscal cliff" debate largely because Republicans aren't even in the game.
The GOP leadership in Washington keeps talking as if the issue is deficit reduction, while the president is talking about fairness.
One little noticed and quite remarkable aspect of Election 2012 is that Barack Obama won a majority of the popular vote for the second consecutive time. With the exception of Franklin D. Roosevelt's four-term run in the 1930s and '40s, it's the first time the Democrats have won a majority of the presidential vote in back-to-back elections since 1836.
The Republican Party has won a majority of the popular vote just once in the last six elections. That dismal track record followed a party revival in the 1980s, when Ronald Reagan led the GOP to three straight popular vote majorities.
More than 40 years ago, the federal government launched a war on drugs. Over the past decade, the nation has spent hundreds of billions of dollars fighting that war, a figure that does not even include the high costs of prosecuting and jailing drug law offenders. It's hard to put a price on that aspect of the drug war since half of all inmates in federal prison today were busted for drugs.
One of the strangest aspects of Election 2012 is that voters are demanding change but didn't change politicians. They left Republicans in charge of the House, elected an even more Democratic Senate and re-elected President Obama. They're unhappy with the status quo in the country but left the political status quo in place.
Election 2012 has had few surprises. So it's somewhat surprising that heading into the final weekend of the election season, we are unable to confidently project who is likely to win the White House.