On the sequester, is the GOP is winning the argument and losing the PR battle?

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Sean Higgins

The Pew Research Center’s most recent poll highlights an interesting contradiction in the political battle over the budget sequester: A solid majority agrees that the best way to avert the situation is essentially the Republican position: more spending cuts, not tax increases. A plurality (49 percent) opposes the sequester — which is spending cuts after after all –though and by a 49-31 percent margin, they’re more likely to blame the  GOP if it does happen.

The poll found that only 19 percent favored just or mostly raising taxes while 73 percent favored mostly or only cutting spending. Broken down by party affiliation, only or mostly cutting spending is favored by 88 percent of Republicans, 75 percent of independents and even 62 percent of Democrats.

So, then how is it that the are they are losing the blame argument given that fact that the White House and Congressional Democrats’ position is for tax hikes in any deal? One answer is the one made by my colleague Byron York: The GOP’s messaging on this debate has been horrible.

Another is that the poll’s phrase “mostly spending cuts” is too vague to be of any real use. Note that that is the stance of 56 percent of Democrats. A staunch supporter of tax hikes and big government may nevertheless claim that that is their position too so long as they support hypothetical cuts somewhere else in the budget. The “mostly spending cuts” crowd probably encompasses a substantial number of people who would back tax increases, even substantial ones, and for whom the GOP’s opposition to any further tax increase is just stubborn and intransigent.

A third answer is that people just aren’t paying close attention to this in the first place and so all of these numbers should be taken with a grain of salt. The Pew poll found that only 27 percent said they knew “a lot” about the sequester, while 43 percent said they knew “a little” and 29 percent said they knew “nothing at all.” The most ignorant are Democrats: 33 percent said they knew nothing at all, compared with 29 percent of independents and only 22 percent of Republicans.

That helps to explain President Obama’s shameless demagoguery on the issue. For a lot of those voters his speeches may be the first time they are hearing about this.  I wonder how many of those listening know the sequester was the White House’s idea in the first place, that Obama signed it into law and initially vowed to veto any effort to undo it?


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Sean Higgins

Senior Writer
The Washington Examiner