Carville: Outlook Bleak for Democrats

Friday, 02 Apr 2010 01:32 PM

By Theodore Kettle

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A new wide-ranging poll from the architect of Bill Clinton’s successful 1992 presidential campaign finds layer upon layer of bad news for Democrats this election year.

James Carville’s Democracy Corps and Tulane University paired up to sponsor a survey of just over 1,000 voters, conducted by Greenberg-Quinlan-Rosner March 15-to-18. The poll found that over a year into his presidency, Barack Obama “continues to get mixed reviews on his economic policies; just as many see them averting a crisis as see them adding to the deficit without creating jobs.”

It also discovered that “voters are wary of raising taxes, even if the revenue raised goes to something they deem important, like paying down the deficit.” “Important” is an understatement: a momentous majority – more than nine in 10 voters – considered the budget deficit “either a crisis or a major problem.”

Yet a majority of 51 percent opposed raising taxes to reduce the deficit, with only 43 percent saying the country might have to raise taxes. Such concern for the deficit while at the same time opposing higher taxes indicates that the public has identified the big problem to be over-spending.

“When asked as a forced choice,” Carville’s poll says, “voters overwhelmingly pick spending cuts over tax increases as the most effective way to reduce the deficit (71 to 18 percent).”

More bad news for Democrats in the poll was the answer to the question of what caused the deficit. Just 9 percent blame the Bush tax cuts. Far more blame Democratic policies like the stimulus (20 percent) and the bank and auto industry federal bailouts (blamed by 17 percent). Consequently, voters trust Republicans more to handle the budget deficit by 44 to 31 percent – “the largest gap they’ve held on the budget deficit since Democracy Corps started asking this question nearly two years ago.”

On government spending, not surprisingly, Republicans were preferred to Democrats by 43 to 32 percent.

Asked by U.S. News for his advice for Democratic candidates this year, Carville’s made the desperate prospects clear by recommending “a couple of novenas.” Even if Democrats “boost their voter intensity” and other things go right for them, the midterm election losses for the party this year would still be at least six Senate seats and 25 House districts, according to Carville.

Carville’s partner in Democracy Corps, Stanley B. Greenberg, who was pollster for President Clinton, attended a Christian Science Monitor breakfast along with Carville on Wednesday. Greenberg noted that President Obama’s boast in the State of the Union that “our efforts to prevent a second depression have added another $1 trillion to our national debt” was deplored by swing voters.

“The dial meters went through the floor,” according to Greenberg, who arranged a focus group to watch the speech in January. “People hate it. They think it is arrogant. It means you are not in touch with their experience.”

Greenberg also pointed to the Democrats’ big problems with white blue collar males. He warned that “as the elites try to make the case that this thing is coming back and the economic policies work, they are going to be angrier and angrier about the elites not getting what is happening to them.”

Carville and Greenberg believe the message of the President and congressional candidates can be adjusted to improve Democrats’ electoral chances; their own poll suggests the problem is policies – specifically unprecedented spending and taxes.

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