Doyle McManus is a media pooh-bah. He sits in the nation’s capital and pontificates for readers of the Los Angeles Times about what really goes on in Washington D.C. His present concern is that folks not get too excited about what a Republican take-over of the U.S. House might mean for the president, Democrats, and their continued domination of national politics.
So his latest essay lays out Republican weaknesses, latent Democratic strengths, and traps that await the GOP newcomers to power:
➢ most voters — except for the "tea party" legions, of course — weren't . . . focused [on GOP] demands. . . The [actual] mandate is to deal with jobs. . .[Speaker] Boehner's [challenge] is . . . [k]eeping his 242 members (including 75 freshmen elected with tea party backing) focused on job creation . . .
Comment: McManus himself points out elsewhere that Republicans plan to make it as clear as they can that repealing Obamacare and cutting spending are both job creation strategies. The GOP knows voters care about jobs first and foremost.
Despite the party's electoral victory, polls suggest that many of the swing voters who put the GOP over the top didn't sign up for the whole program. A Bloomberg poll last month found that . . . the Republican Party is still less popular than . . . Democrats.
Comment: McManus is scratching hard for facts here. Gallup has just reported that the share of voters identifying themselves as Democrats is at an all-time low of 31%, only 2% above the still-damaged Republican label. And when Gallup pushes independents to lean Democrat or Republican, Republicans are just 1% away from the parity with Democrats; parity they last achieved in 2002-3. Republicans are up from trailing Democrats by 12% just two years ago. Is McManus dishing his liberal readers false hope? You be the judge.
Most Republican voters want to repeal the healthcare law, but polls show the public as a whole evenly divided; about half of Americans want to keep or expand the Obama plan.
Comment: As mentioned in this blog earlier, “polls” is actually a single exit poll that asked voters if they wanted to repeal Obamacare on the one hand, or keep or expand it on the other. Voters were not asked if they wanted to fix Obamacare, the most likely eventual outcome. Taking away that choice skewed poll results toward “keep.” McManus knows better, but uses a poorly-drafted poll to help his liberal readers stay happy.
Boehner[‘s] biggest test will come in March, when the federal government is expected to bump up against the debt ceiling . . . Boehner[‘s] goal will be to use the debt ceiling to force Obama to cut spending without precipitating a federal government shutdown (a gambit that backfired on Gingrich in 1995) or, worse, a default that would be disastrous for financial markets.
Comment: Republicans know (as McManus says they do) that the debt ceiling will have to rise. They also want to use the battle to extract spending concessions from Democrats. Is McManus predicting Republicans won’t force even a single concession? We’ll see soon enough. Even pooh-bahs are right sometimes.