Pollster Scott Rasmussen told The Daily Caller he thinks coverage in the mainstream media will ultimately be one of, if not the, single biggest factors in how the congressional investigation into Operation Fast and Furious moves forward, and whether Attorney General Holder keeps his job.
A new poll Rasmussen’s polling firm released last week shows 40 percent – a plurality – of likely-to-vote Americans want Holder to resign. Only 27 percent of those Americans want Holder to stay, while 33 percent aren’t sure.
When it comes to self-identified Democrats, 21 percent want Holder gone, 33 percent aren’t sure and 45 percent – less than half – want Holder to stay.
Rasmussen said that while a “significant number” of Democratic likely voters want Holder to resign, the biggest takeaway from the poll is how few Americans – especially Democrats – are following the issue enough to care. Only about 50 percent of likely voters say they’ve followed the Fast and Furious saga “very closely” or “somewhat closely.” With Democrats, that figure drops to 43 percent whereas with Republicans it jumps to 60 percent.
“The biggest factor about the numbers is how Republicans are following it and conservatives are following it and hardly anybody else is,” Rasmussen said in a phone interview. “The danger to Holder and the administration is if this story really does move beyond that particular audience.”
“If the numbers grow with the people who learn about it and it becomes a bigger discussion, I think there’s some real potential downside [for the Obama administration],” Rasmussen said.
The reason why Americans aren’t following Fast and Furious, Rasmussen said, is because the mainstream media has largely ignored it. If media coverage increased, “that would be a significant change in the dynamics” of the story, Rasmussen said.
Rasmussen also said “it is possible” that more Democrats would want Holder to resign if the story got more coverage. “But, you got to remember, there are some conservative Democrats, people who are likely include in that number, who want Holder to step down. And, when we talk about increased coverage, we don’t know what that coverage will be like.”
“There’s no way, unless things get really out of hand, that most Democrats are going to want Holder to step down,” he added. “There is a potential to reach a point though where enough Democrats are having doubts about it and even for just the tactical purpose of getting the issue off the table, there might be some growing support to put the issue behind them.”
The way Fast and Furious hits the news more around the country, Rasmussen said, is whenever there’s a big development. He said the beginning of the contempt proceedings, and whether Holder can satisfy Issa’s subpoenas and document requests, will “either produce an explosion or a resolution.”
“It’s certainly not going to continue in this in between range,” he said. “If a contempt vote is held and passed, that will bring some much larger attention to it. So, I expect that it’s going to be there’s going to be a real potential the story will get a lot more attention.”
Rasmussen also said the lack of media attention has allowed Democrats to get away with dismissing the investigation as a partisan “witch hunt.” Most Americans, he said, will for now believe the Democrats’ claims that Issa’s investigation into Fast and Furious is nothing more than a “witch hunt” and “playing politics” just because “that’s the way they believe Congress operates.”
“So, it is a fairly effective rebuttal unless the issue gets much more widespread coverage than it is right now,” he said.
Rasmussen also said he thinks Fast and Furious “has the potential” to be used by presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s campaign in a way that’s similar to how they have focused on the Solyndra green-energy scandal.
“It also has the potential to backfire,” Rasmussen warned, because “Solyndra is a very easy story to understand and it ties directly into the most important issue of election 2012, which is the economy. Anything that distracts from the economy runs the risk of helping Barack Obama just because it draws attention away from the president’s biggest weakness.”
“On top of that, Fast and Furious, while the outcome is horrific, tracking the accountability and tying it in as cleanly as something like Solyndra is, is going to be a bigger challenge,” Rasmussen added.