Swing voters rally to big government amid budget crisis

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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President Barack Obama’s bargaining power in the budget impasse is being strengthened by new polls showing a drop in the GOP’s support.

A Gallup survey says the GOP’s favorability among adults has dropped from 38 percent in September to 28 percent by Oct. 6. The GOP’s unfavorable number jumped from near 50 percent to 62 percent over the same period.

The Democratic Party’s numbers moved much less. Its favorability rating dropped from 50 percent to 43 percent, and its unfavorability rating climbed from roughly 43 percent to 49 percent, says the survey.

The gradual shift is pressuring House Speaker John Boehner to give up demands for reforms to Obamacare and to spending, but is also creating an incentive for Obama to toughen his demands, and to deny any concessions.

The first set of polls taken in late September showed little movement against the GOP, bolstering Boehner’s position.

Obama is taking a hard-line, likely guided by his own polling. Late Thursday, Oct. 10, Obama and his team rejected a GOP compromise plan that would extend negotiations for several more weeks.

The clout of the two factions may shift to the GOP as federal spending nears its credit limit. Once the credit limit is reached, the government will be forced to pay creditors with funds taken from domestic programs.

Those programs are vital to the Democratic Party’s support and power, so Obama would have an incentive to compromise.

The budget and Obamacare standoff may even be helping the Democratic Party’s likely performance in the critical November 2014 elections. A Wall Street Journal poll of Americans says the Democrats have an eight-point advantage over the Republicans when respondents said who they preferred to be in charge of Congress.

However, the two polls show a shift among all American adults, not just voters, likely voters or mid-term voters, so they’re not a strong guide to the November 2014 ballot.

The poll by Wall Street Journal and NBC asked questions of 800 adults, and they indicated the GOP has a favorability rating of 24 percent, and the Democratic Party has a favorability rating of 36 percent.

The apparent budget crisis has also prompted some of the non-ideological swing-voters to minimize their financial risks by backing a larger role for government and the president. According to the NBC poll, support for Obama has remained steady, at just under 50 percent, but support for his takeover of the nation’s health-sector has risen by a few points.

Fifty percent say they oppose eliminating Obamacare, four points higher than a similar poll in September.  Still, most Americans want a gradual shift away from Obama’s government-run system.

A June poll showed the American public split 48 percent to 48 percent on whether government should play a larger role, but that split has shifted in the latest poll to 52 percent and 48 percent, in favor of a larger role.

“That is an ideological boomerang,” said Bill McInturff, a GOP-aligned pollster who conducted the poll for the Journal and NBC. “As the debate has been going on, if there is a break, there is a break against the Republican position,” he told NBC.

Those numbers would likely shift back towards policies favored by small-government conservatives if the economy was doing well, if unemployment was low, if wages were high and if the public was less worried about risky fights in Washington.

But that’s a strategic problem for conservatives and GOP supporters, because Democrats can use their allies in the establishment media to exaggerate the risks of small policy fights in Washington, frightening cautious voters into supporting big government.

But even regular supporters of both parties are being alienated by the current budget fight.

Fifty-two percent of people who identify themselves as GOP voters, and 49 percent of Democratic voters, reported they would favor a third party, according to a Gallup poll of 1,028 adults, announced Oct. 11.

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