Budget deal turns to PR duel

White House debt-ceiling negotiations have collapsed into a public relations duel, as each political coalition tries to harness the public’s simultaneous fears of defaults and runaway budgets.

Obama administration officials want swing voters to pressure Republicans to agree to a tax increase in advance of the 2012 elections. Republicans want the same voters to pressure Democrats to accept budget cuts.

White House officials believe they have a winning hand. Republicans, meanwhile, view themselves as better positioned in the current debt-ceiling fight than they were in mid-1990s budget showdowns with President Bill Clinton.

“That’s really the nub of it — each side thinks they’re making progress, otherwise they would not be holding out,“ said Tevi Troy, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and a former senior official in the George W. Bush administration.

“The Democrats continually look back to the 1995, 1996, Clinton playbook, but we are in a different era with a much greater sense of reality [among the public] about the financial crisis we’re facing,” Troy said.

“The difference [now] is that you can turn on the TV and see riots in Europe, Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s threatening to downgrade our credit rating,” said Michael Franc, the Heritage Foundation’s vice president for political outreach. (Optimism for good deal on debt limit at all-time low)

On Monday, President Barack Obama announced that he would accept nothing less than a major tax increase, and that federal job-creation spending should increase once the deal is signed.

On Tuesday afternoon, the president increased the political pressure on Republicans when he refused to shield federal check-writing operations from an Aug. 2 budget shutdown. Each month those automated operations distribute more than 70 million Social Security, disability and veterans’ checks.

“Democrats see gaining a tax increase from the Republicans would be a huge political win for them,” said Troy. “They would pound Republicans just as they did with President George H. Bush” after he signed a tax deal in 1990.

On Monday, Sen. Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, predicted that Republicans would cave.

“When we get close, when the bond markets start to get a little jittery, God forbid, the pressure is going to fall much greater on them than us, and I think that will bring us to the table for a larger deal,” Schumer said in an interview on MSNBC.

There’s some evidence that poll numbers are moving in the administration’s favor.

A July poll released Monday, conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and The Washington Post, showed that 45 percent of swing-voting independents were more concerned about an economic default than they were about greater spending and debt. That’s up from 34 percent in mid-May.

Democrats have won these crisis showdowns many times before. (House members propose bill to ensure military checks if debt ceiling not raised)

In April, for example, Obama used the threat of a government shutdown to pressure Republicans for a deal which did not significantly reduce the federal budget.

Democrats also were victorious over House Speaker Newt Gingrich in 1995 and 1996, when the speaker wanted to cut spending and reform many discretionary and entitlement programs.

  • ofallon

    Now I know why little Timmy Geithner chose August 2nd for the deadline. It seems there will be a big 50th Birthday Bash in Chicago on August 3rd for the Prez. Of course an ABC source said it was contingent upon reaching the debt limit talks. What a nice birthday surprise for the President if he could be the hero of the debt negotiations instead of the Cry-Baby President. What a coincidence that this date was chosen as American Armaggedon.

  • joeaiello

    Game over, President Obama won. By exposing them as corporate lap dogs, he’s successfully made Republicans the enemy of the American middle class. Good luck in 2012!

    • Gonzo51

      Really? All I see is Obummer’s numbers tanking! The guy is toast….stick a fork in him! I just hope we can pick up the pieces and put them back together again once the dirt bag is gone! It just kills me that we are going to have to pay for his retirement until he croaks!

  • Fancy433

    Obama, yesterday, said that he would approach the American People with this stalemate. He must have forgotten that he just threatened these same people. He threatened the largest group of voters in the country. By stating that he couldn’t guarantee folks would not get their SS checks come August 3, 2011 was a very bad move. This group are the people that lived through WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Panama, the First Gulf War, Iraq and Afghanistan, to name a few. I think he picked the wrong group to threaten.

    I would like to see the amount of push back against the President if he did go to the Public. The majority has suffered under this administration from bad legislation, increases in the cost of living and the regulations that have caused more harm than good. Let’s not forget that over 1 million families a year have been losing their homes. I don’t think these people want to hear anything from Obama. They have to start from square one again, if they can find a job that is.

  • Fancy433

    Obama has been threatening the American Tax Payer since he got into office. Now he has threaten the majority of the American People, the older folks on SS and the Baby Boomer starting to get on SS, this is one huge part of the population.

    This debate is a political, no doubt, but Obama and the Democrats have shoved a lot of legislation on the Tax Payers that they did not want and we are paying big time because of that legislation and his new regulations. I don’t think the Public will be behind Obama this time. A temporary rise in the debt ceiling most probably will pass but only for a short period of time. The end of this year would be a good time frame.

  • Bob Knows

    Republicans have the trump card. The President cannot spend without the People’s House approval. The People’s House can just say “NO!” “NO!” and “HELL NO!”

  • Rush Youngberg

    This is no PR battle. It is for the survival of the Socialist-Workers Party.
    The thug buddies, Obama and Trumpka, figured on stealing the 2012 elections. What they did not take into consideration was the 2010 slaughter. They lost their House and control of the budget. They will lose the senate in 2012 and perhaps the presidency. This is their last gasp attempt at a breakout. Turn out the lights.