The public is in a lousy mood. Pres. Obama’s approval ratings are at or near the lowest point of his term. But he still keeps outpolling all of the Repub presidential candidates in ridiculously premature trial heat polls. In a new Wash Post poll out today, respondents were equally divided on whether they trust Obama or the Republicans in Congress to strike the right balance in restraining federal spending.
But — with all the usual warnings about relying on polls in general, polls 19 months before Election Day even moreso, and polls with untested question wording that rely on the respondents understanding of complex arguments moreso than moreso – there are two questions in that Post poll that could have Republicans peeing their pants this morning – or maybe just crossing their legs a little more frequently than usual.
In one question (really series of questions) the Post offered respondents five ideas for reducing the national debt. Four of the five were unpopular but the two that were most unpopular were “cutting spending on Medicare” (78 percent opposed) and “cutting spending on Medicaid” (69 percent opposed). Also unpopular, but not as much, were cuts to military spending and a broad tax increase tied to small changes in entitlement spending.
There was only one proposal of the five that received majority support, and it was overwhelming — 72 to 27 percent support. That one was “Raising taxes on incomes over $250,000.”
The second challenge to Repub continence/incontinence spectrum was caused by this Post poll question:
“What is your view about the future of Medicare for Senior citizens?
It should remain a program of defined benefits.
It should be changed to a program where people receive a check or voucher to shop for private health insurance.”
The first answer, which represents the Dem position, received 65 percent support. The second answer, which purports to summarize the plan authored by Repub Budget Chair Paul Ryan and embraced by almost all House Repubs in a vote last week, received 34 percent support.
The Ryan idea is relatively new to most Americans. There will be big arguments about how to describe it accurately (although the Post poll did not adopt any of the highly-charged words that Dems will use, like “privatize” or phrases like “end Medicare as we know it.”) And who knows what various respondents think it meant by “a program of defined benefits.” Perhaps they are just responding – and responding negatively – to any change in Medicare’s structure.
But the frame that Obama has constructed for the basic choice that America will have to make is something like this: Would you rather cut Medicare or raise taxes on rich people?
At the moment, based on this poll, if the choices are posed that way, the answer isn’t even close.
And when Dems start to really have some fun portraying Repubs’ plans for Medicare, it might look something like this trial ad being floated by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee: