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Morning Jay: Same Old, Same Old

6:00 AM, Jul 1, 2011 • By JAY COST
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You get the idea. The Democratic party’s message is kind of like Lynyrd Skynyrd or Little Feat: The cast of musicians changes over the years, but the tunes are always the same. The Republicans are always undermining the average American family to give all kinds of tax breaks or benefits for “the well-to-do,” “the special interests,” “the rich” and now, apparently, the “corporate jet owners.” It's a pity that the president who once promised to move us beyond the same old partisan divide is now employing the oldest rhetorical trick in his party's playbook.

In fairness, the Republican party has its fair share of shopworn arguments – long accusing the Democrats of being closet socialists, for instance – but the interesting question in my mind is, why is Obama resorting to such tired partisan rhetoric in the middle of high-profile negotiations on the deficit?

One reason, perhaps: his numbers on this issue just plain stink. Here’s a summary of recent polling on approval/disapproval on the deficit issue for Obama.

You only get these kind of ugly numbers when a decent segment of your own political coalition disapproves of the job you're doing, which is a bad sign. And that's not all. Democracy Corps asked whether the public thinks, “the Democrats or the Republicans would do a better job with…spending and deficits.” Thirty-one percent said the Democrats would do a better job, and 48 percent trust the Republicans. Plus, a recent Rasmussen Reports poll found that “most Americans say reducing the deficit is more important than increasing food safety inspections.”

Meanwhile, although Paul Ryan's budget plan does not poll particularly well, Obama has yet to turn any Republican leaders into villains, despite his best efforts. Bloomberg found that 51 percent of respondents had no opinion of Paul Ryan. A Gallup poll taken in April found House speaker John Boehner’s job approval rating at 34-34, with 32 percent either having never heard of him or having no opinion. Compare these numbers to Newt Gingrich’s in April 1995, when Gallup found him with a 51 percent unfavorable rating. By that point Bill Clinton already had a perfect foil in Gingrich to identify himself in the minds of voters as the “adult in the room,” but Obama so far has no such counterpart.

So, lacking support on this issue and having no “malevolent” Republican playing the role of the bad guy, the president is amping up the partisan rhetoric in the hopes of moving public opinion. What else can he do?

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