Although there’s still plenty of time to turn it around, pollsters and pundits are warning Republicans that they are falling behind President Barack Obama and Democrats when it comes to effectively communicating their talking points in defense of their position on the debt ceiling.
Polls tend to show Americans are opposed to any tax increases — but even more opposed to a crisis over the debt-ceiling that some experts say could hurt the economy and job creation.
“It’s partially the message, and it’s in large part the messenger,” says Boston University communications professor and media analyst Tobe Berkovitz.
“And that’s a real problem especially compared to Obama … who doesn’t answer any of the tough questions, and pretty much gets away with saying whatever he wants without anybody dissecting it. The Republicans, meanwhile, are like a frog on a high school biology table. Everything they say is being dissected and pulled apart.”
Even potential presidential contender Sarah Palin jumped in on the argument, saying the GOP must refine its message clearly "by giving facts and numbers to the American public, so that those of us across the U.S. can start chiming in and letting our representatives know that we will not capitulate. We will not hand over more power, which I believe is unconstitutional, to President Obama to further manipulate our economy.”
As the scrutiny increases, Republicans erroneously look like they don't want to make a deal, experts say.
“The fault is clearly on both sides of the divide with hardliners on taxes and entitlement reform refusing to budge,” communications guru Mark McKinnon, who played a key role in former George W. Bush’s presidential campaigns, tells Newsmax. “But because the president controls the bully pulpit, he has a louder microphone and I suspect the public is increasingly viewing Republicans as the intransigents.”
Quinnipiac University’s Polling Institute released poll data that indicates Republicans’ message of fiscal accountability have yet to capture the hearts and minds of voters.
Although by a strong 56 to 38 percent margin voters disapproved of the president’s management of the economy, by a 45 to 38 percent margin they still trust the president more than they trust congressional Republicans on economic issues.
By a 14 percent margin, 48 percent to 34 percent, voters say they will blame Republicans over Obama if the debt limit isn’t raised in time to disrupt the normal flow of government.
A closer look at the survey results suggests the president is winning key aspects of the political spin-fest now underway in Washington.
By a 45 to 37 percent margin, voters see Obama’s proposals to raise revenues as “closing loopholes” rather than raising taxes. And by a whopping 67 percent to 25 percent, voters accept the Democratic argument that any agreement to raise the debt ceiling should include tax increases for wealthy citizens and corporations.
For Republicans and their tea party base, trying to wrestle the president to come up with specific proposals they can respond to has been like herding cats -- and they don’t feel they’re getting any help from the media.
But most observers tell Newsmax the GOP’s difficulties in getting its message across on a crucial issue that could well frame the 2012 elections goes far beyond perceptions of media bias.
Democrats enjoy one obvious advantage: They have an anointed leader and can speak with a single voice -- Obama's. Of course, the party out of power always struggles to speak with a single voice.
Even so, the mixed messages coming from Republican leaders in this budget battle are extraordinary. House Speaker John Boehner, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell all seem to be singing in different keys.
Obama, meanwhile, claims he’s open to cuts and reforms to Medicare and Social Security, dramatically opposite his party's platforms. That gives him the appearance of pragmatism — which is the very costume he needs to wear to enhance his appeal to the swing voters who abandoned him in droves in November. The power of the president’s pulpit is such that merely talking about compromise he is viewed as pragmatic, even without specific proposals to put the words to the test.
“The problem right now for the Republicans is that Obama looks flexible and they don’t,” Dr. Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, tells Newsmax. “He says, ‘I’ll put Social Security and Medicare on the table.’ They say, ‘Not a smidgen of taxes.’ To the public, it looks like Obama is the adult in the room, the one willing to compromise, while the GOP insists on having it all their own way.”
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