If you are feeling a sense of deja vu about where the current budget debate in Congress is headed, you aren’t alone, and I offered an explanation at New York:
In the partisan messaging battle over the federal budget, Joe Biden seems to have Republicans right where he wants them. Beginning with his State of the Union Address in early February, the president has hammered away at GOP lawmakers for plotting to gut wildly popular Social Security and Medicare benefits. This has driven Republicans into a defensive crouch; they can either pretend their proposed cuts aren’t really cuts or forswear them altogether. It’s a message that Democrats would love to highlight every day until the next election, or at least until Republicans figure out a better response than lies, evasions, and blustery denials.
But as Ron Brownstein points out in The Atlantic, there is a logical path Republicans could take to counter Democrats’ claims that GOP policies threaten popular retirement programs. It’s based on pitting every other form of federal domestic spending against Social Security and Medicare, and on making Democratic support for Big Government and its beneficiaries a political problem among seniors:
“Republicans hope that exempting Social Security and Medicare [from cutbacks they are demanding for raising the federal debt limit] will dampen any backlash to their deficit-reduction plans in economically vulnerable districts. But protecting those programs, as well as defense, from cuts—while also precluding tax increases—will force the House Republicans to propose severe reductions in other domestic programs … potentially including Medicaid, the ACA, and food and housing assistance.
“Will a Republican push for severe reductions in those programs provide Democrats with an opening in such places? Robert J. Blendon, a professor emeritus at the Harvard School of Public Health, is dubious. Although these areas have extensive needs, he told me, the residents voting Republican in them are generally skeptical of social-welfare spending apart from Social Security and Medicare. ‘We are dealing with a set of values here, which has a distrust of government and a sense that anyone should have to work to get any sort of low-income benefit,’ Blendon said. ‘The people voting Republican in those districts don’t see it as important [that] government provides those benefits.’”
And so Republicans will very likely return to the messaging they embraced during the Obama administration. Back then, self-identified Tea Party conservatives constantly tried to convince elderly voters that the real threat to their retirement programs stemmed not from GOP budget cutting, but from Democratic-backed Big Government spending on younger people and minorities, with whom many conservative voters did not identify. Then as now, a partisan budget fight — and the threat of a debt default of government shutdown — let Republicans frame funding decisions as a competition between groups of beneficiaries, rather than a debate over abstract levels of taxing or spending.
The big opening shot in the anti-Obama campaign was Sarah Palin’s wildly mendacious but highly effective September 2009 Facebook post claiming that the Affordable Care Act would create “death panels” that would eliminate Medicare coverage for seniors or disabled children deemed socially superfluous (the barely legitimate basis for the attack was an Affordable Care Act provision to allow Medicare payments to physicians discussing end-of-life treatments with patients).
Soon Republicans would come up with slightly more substantive claims that Obamacare threatened Medicare. In 2011, House GOP budget maven Paul Ryan, whom Democrats hammered for his proposals to partially privatize both Social Security and Medicare, claimed that Obama administration projections of health cost savings in Medicare represented a shift of resources from Medicare to Obamacare. By 2012, when Ryan became Mitt Romney’s running mate, Ryan was campaigning with his mother in tow, claiming that Republicans wanted to protect her from raids on her retirement benefits by the redistributionist Democrats.
Romney and Ryan didn’t win, of course, but they did win the over-65 vote by a robust 56-44 margin, a better performance in that demographic than Trump registered in 2016 or 2020. As Thomas Edsall explained in The New Republic in 2010, the Tea Party–era Republicans understood they had to mobilize their federal spending constituents against alleged competitors:
“Republicans understand that one axis of the resource war will be generational. All of their vows to defend Medicare are coupled with attacks on Obama’s health care reform. They implicitly portray Democrats as waging an age war—creating a massive new government program that transfers dollars to the young at the expense of the elderly. Republicans have cleverly stoked the fear that Obama is rewarding all his exuberant, youthful, idealistic supporters by redistributing resources that are badly needed by the old.”
In a 2024 campaign in which Democrats are going for the jugular with seniors, a reprise of the GOP’s 2012 Medicare counterattack, dishonest as it was, might make sense.
During this year’s budget skirmish in Congress, House Republicans are expected to take a claw hammer to domestic spending outside Social Security and Medicare, as the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities reports:
“This spring, House Republicans are expected to release an annual budget resolution that calls for large health care cuts, and Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) marketplace coverage are likely to be prime targets. House Republican leaders are calling for cutting the deficit and making the Trump tax cuts permanent, while saying they will shield certain areas of the budget (Medicare, Social Security, and military spending) from cuts. To do all these things at once, it is highly likely they will propose cuts in health programs that provide coverage to millions of people.”
The House GOP has also already called for deep cuts in nondefense discretionary spending, including food stamp and nutrition programs. It’s likely the GOP’s state-based crusade against “woke” public education will lead to a renewal of ancient conservative demands to deeply cut or kill the U.S. Department of Education. Maybe those representing energy-producing areas will go hard after EPA or the Department of the Interior’s programs. Almost certainly, the GOP as a whole will embrace across-the-board cuts in federal employment or federal employee benefits under the guise of “draining the swamp.” Any and all such cuts can also be rationalized as necessary to avoid reductions in spending for Social Security, Medicare, and national defense, not to mention tax increases.
Whatever formula they adopt, there’s little doubt Republicans will find ways to present themselves the true defenders of Social Security and Medicare, just as many of them will always keep scheming for ways to damage or destroy these vestiges of the New Deal and Great Society. Biden seems committed to his effort to make seniors fear the GOP, and this is the only way Republicans can counter-punch.
I am bothered by the fact that this seems to be the poll the SCLM cites when discussing the horse race.
Bob Schieffer (sp?) on Face the Nation asked Tad Devine yesterday if Kerry had had a “reverse bounce” since Bush’s number have continuously risen since August 1. Devine pointed out that most polls, including CBS’s show a Kerry lead, but the loaded question probably made a bigger point than the reply.
Frenchfries: Well, I’ll grant you that the inconsistency is strange. And also, the link I sent you was wrong. Here’s a better one:
I’m going to guess that since the census report came out 2 years after the election, it may be the more accurate one. But who knows. I am totally confident that Gallup is NOT assuming a higher turnout than they think happened in 2000. That’s just not their style … they’re very very conservative (small “c”).
I’m not sure what Gallup is doing but it is telling that they are the lone poll out so it’s likely they’re wrong. I did read a comment of Charlie Cook’s where he notes that Gallup is doing “likely voter” polls right now and those are wildly off the mark this far out from election day. I’d also note that Gallup was one of many pollsters in 2000 who didn’t catch the swing back to Gore in the last 5 days of the election and who didn’t predict the Dem GOTV effort.
The fact that all other polls put K/E ahead, plus a lot of anecdotal evidence (huge crowds for K/E, lots of stories of former Bush voters now swearing off voting for him again) all point to K/E doing well. Plus there are undercurrents that the Gallup organization (and other pollsters, actually) are not catching. One, the dem vote is *highly* motivated to vote. The rep vote is apparently subdued. I have yet to see any evidence of any kind of “fire” to get out and vote for Bush. I’m guessing that Gallup’s “likely voter” is totally missing the fact that this year’s likely voter is probably going to the polls to Get Bush Out. Second, the undecided vote historically goes against the incumbent. Add to this the fact that the undecideds this year are even more anti-incumbent than usual. Incumbents get 1/3 of the undecided vote *at best*, and Bush looks likely to get not even 1/5 of it. If he’s not going into election day at least 3% points ahead of Kerry, he’s probably going to be toast.
I’m not confusing 2000 and 2002. (You did look at these links I posted, didn’t you? One is called “americanpresidency”.)
And frankly, I checked out your census link but I didn’t find the exact numbers. It says somewhere “55% of the voting population”. Is that it?
Here are the numbers of the Federal Election Commission for 2000:
Frenchfries: Check out that census link I posted up higher. I think it’s pretty much the gold standard for turnout numbers. Maybe you’re confusing 2002 with 2000? If I remember correctly, turnout in 2002 was indeed around 50%.
If everyone feels and knows that they are playing their part to get kerry elected and the polls are still showing these close numbers, then I think that someone needs to get the message over to the Kerry handlers that as soon as the GOP convention is over that they have to attack Bush on all his failed policies, his almost invisible military record, his constant failures while toying around with the economy… and the list goes on forever.
The democrats has sooooooooooooooo much fodder and fuel that thy can literally blow the GOP outta the water but somehow they seem afraid to use it… or maybe they are waiting to dump just before November.
I cant quite fathom how Bush can be running so close to Kerry and yet have such dismal records. This is more fascinating than anything. Personally, I think its an indictment on the democrats and the people as a whole. How can you throw your support behind such failed leadership? CEOs who function in the manner that Bush functions gets their desk cleaned out.. stuff placed in a box and they are given a formal package at the door the next morning.
How is it that nearly 50% of the electorate think that this CEO aint doing too bad and that he deserves the right to make things worse? This is interesting beyond measure and I doubt that anyone can come up with solid explanation for this. Its highly unusual.
I didn’t do much research. I just googled and found this:
What are your numbers?
Can some one tell me why all these polling firms include Ralph Nader when he has made it on to a grand total of TWO STATES? Maybe there are more since I last checked but it can’t be more than ten. And most of those signatures to get him on the ballot are made up by over 90% conservatives/republicans. Why can’t these firms get that A) national numbers mean squat, it is the state-by-state numbers in swing states that matter and B) Nader won’t be on the ballot in almost all of those swing states.
In reality, Nader will be lucky to get more than 1% of the vote. Nice try in handing the election to Bush a second time, old man. Give it a rest.
I put in about two hours a day for the locl Kerry campaign. I have given about three hundred a month to either Kerry, Move-on, or some Democrta’s campaign. I have a yard sign, bumpersticker and pin.
I think the reason Kerry’s campaign is stalling is that he isn’t running that great a campaign. The Bush negativity is working. Kerr’s ads (expect his war ones) are too vague and platitudinous. He should be slapping that 500billion dollar debt up in front of everyone’s eyeballs. He should have a ad which says point blank that Bush took taxes off the rich and put them on the middle. he needs to be more concise, more pointed and more informative and back off on the Democratic buzz words and Democratic emotional buttons.
The move on testimonial ads are also good and provide models for what the Kerry campaign should be doing.
He doesn’t know how to speak to the independents.
I agree with you, Bel. Stop whining, guys. Sit and write a letter to a newspaper or TV talk show.
If democrats are truely outraged and totally p$$sed with GWB, then kerry has no real problem no matter what the polls say.
I would tend to think that outrage would rally the party and get them mobilised to vote, as well as mobilise others to vote and to convert those repubs. who are also peeved at GWB.
I would think that this outrage would cause the democrats to support the 527s and other groups that are labouring to produce ads and cover the floor with blanket canvassing..
I would think that the outraged democrats would shower the stations like FOX with the real versions of the stories and challenge the Hannities and O’Reileys with something positive and truthful to talk about.
I am sure that outraged democrats would spread the word and sow the seeds day and night, just to show how outraged they are.
Outraged democrats will team up with other grass root organisations and literally flood the market with the Kerry message.
Outraged democrats will cover for Kerry when he mis-speaks and defend his positions to the death..
If this is what outraged and p$$sed democrats are doing, then Bush is merely a sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal.
Lets face it, if Bush is still running tied with Kerry, then the word is not getting out.. and the effect of the campaing aint biting yet.
While its true that I believe and am pretty sure that Kerry will win, I am not convinced one ounce that its because of the work of the democrats. I am happy with the work that the candidates are doing but they are a lonely pair.
I expect kerry and edwards to win simply because the electorate are simply fed up with Bush. Look.. the republicans cannot point to a single issue that Bush has done that benefits the nation. They cannot point to a single policy that is not in dispute as being useful or useless. Bush and his crew does not have a record or a platform on which to run but yet they are running tied with Kerry who has truck loads of ammuniition. Doesnt this say that something is desparately wrong?
Yes it does and hence I insist that if democrats are outraged and all these excellent descriptive terms, then they need to go out and change the numbers in the polls and change the president in November.
Being outraged and p$$sed dont means one scrap if democrats are not interested in palying a meaningful part. Being angry or any such unique term dont say squat until democrats quit chatting and start working…
Actually I am p$ssed that democrats are allowing the candidates to run this show all by them lonesome selves… what a pity.
The problem, Samuel Knight, is you’d have to assume that Gallup was picking up the results of this “successful” negative barrage at a time when no one else was. There’ve been all sorts of polls, national and state, issued contemporaneously with this Gallup, and none of them show the same result. The poll Gallup most resembles, in fact, is ITS OWN, from two weeks ago, right after the convention — which suggests it’s their methods/sampling, not their time-frame.
Gallup is, unquestionably, different from the rest right now. If it turns out they had it right all along, and everyone else was wrong, my hat will (sadly) be off to them. But I find it difficult to lean that way right now.
Kerry will “slam away” when he and his astute team decide it’s proper to do so. He’s run an excellent race so far, something which could never be said of Gore.
I’d have to disagree with those assailing Gallup’s methodology – they might very well be right.
It is going to be very hard to read this year’s electorate, response rates are low, old assumptions about turnout might be way off and people are seriously polarised.
Another possibility to account for the pro-Bush results of the Gallup and the Pew polls is that Bush’s relentless negative assult is starting to work. I’d love to live in a world where it didn’t. But the simple fact is that tearing down your opponent is a good way to win.
Bush has got his negative strategy, but Kerry doesn’t have his. Flip-flopper resonates. Kerry’s got a few options: incompetent, misleading, buffoon, he just needs to pick a couple and slam away.
Oh and one more thing …
Here’s the census link for turnout in 2000:
Also remember that turnout of REGISTERED voters in 2000 was over 86%. One of the least understood truths of American politics is that, in presidential elections, almost everyone who is registered does in fact vote. Or at least 6 out of 7. The problem is 30% of eligibles aren’t registered.
With respect to Frenchfries’ point — I’m not sure where you’re getting your turnout numbers, but last I checked turnout in 2000 was exactly 55% for all over-18’s (60% for all eligible voters, meaning over 18 citizens, which I strongly suspect was the universe for the Gallup poll). So in fact Gallup is assuming (at best) an identical turnout, perhaps a lower one, depending on exactly how their screen works.
It’s not the likely voter screen, folks. Check out the actual release (and for that matter the original posting). Even among registered voters, Kerry is only up one, which is 5-6 points off from the other recent polls. They have some sort of methodology that is setting them apart. There are many possibilities, some of which are:
1) They’re cutting corners on re-connecting with voters they can’t find on the first try … this is a very reliably pro-GOP shortcut.
2) They’re calling at a time or on a day when younger voters are unlikely to be home.
3) They’re not looking closely at their “random” sample to see if it makes any sense, i.e. if the R versus D ration is close to accurate.
Or, another possibility is that we’ll start to see close to dead even numbers from the other polls soon. Remember, it’s the battleground states that matter, not the national numbers. What seems to be happening is that Bush is rolling up huge numbers in the non-battleground states, but continuing to lose ground elsewhere.
In addition to switching from “registered votesr” to “likely voters,” another thing poll readers should do is switch from national polls to state polls about now. The reason is NOT, actually, because of the electoral college. In fact, I’ll bet the house that the winner of the popular vote this year will win the electoral vote too. Rather, what happens is that, inevitably, non-battleground states see lower turnout than battlegrounds (check the historic numbers … it’s not a perfectly true statement, but close). As a result, a candidate who is running up big leads in his base states but losing a lot of close ones will see his final numbers go down substantially from the final polls. That’s what happened to Bush in ’00, and it looks like it’s happening again. Most of the “swing” states right now aren’t even in the margin of error, Kerry’s doing so well. But he’s getting creamed in Texas and Alabama. Bush’s national numbers will almost certainly be inflated as a result.
The Gallup poll is getting trumpeted far above all other polls, especially when it come out showing Bush’s approval rating is over 50%. How convenient that just before their convention the public is now more favorable to Bush! We’ll have to wait and see if this is for real or an outlier. One indicator is whether or not other polls show approval trending up over the month. Anyway Gallup is getting way too much publicity.
When Fox has K/E ahead 3 points but Gallup has them behind, somthing is seriously wrong somewhere.
It’s true, if you look at the Gallup chart for 2000, that Gallup showed Bush far ahead for most of the fall:
The Gallup organization — like the Washington Post editorial page — benefits from being remembered as one thing (Gallup: gold standard of polling; WP: a liberal voice) so many don’t notice it has shifted into being something else (Gallup: consistent Bush-favorer; WP: war hawks).
Gallup gave Bush a 13 point lead over Gore ten days before Election 2000. Throughout the Bush presidency, it has shown a consistently higher level of support for Bush (in approvals and match-ups) than just about any other polling organization. Now, its “likely voter” model pushes that standard further, pruning it to make it MORE GOP-friendly. In the process, it sets itself apart from not only every other national poll, but also the aggregate results of all state polls — i.e., if Bush were ahead by 1 (RV) or 3 (LV) overall, there’s no way Kerry’d be taking such wide leads in FL, PA and MI, or leading NH or OH.
Now, there’s always the possibility Gallup has discovered a special sauce that gives it unique insight into this year’s electorate (though a LV model overstating GOP participation seems wildly at odds with anything perceptible out there this year). But the more likely conclusion is, Gallup has, for whatever reason, gone off a deep end.
It reminds me of a snarky thing my father used to say when I was a kid and persisting in some stubborn, unpopular position. He’d say “It must be the rest of the world that’s wrong”. On a rare occasion, I WOULD be vindicated. But most of the time, the rest of the world had it right.
In the text of the Gallup report, there is this comment:
“The likely voter model assumes a turnout of 55% of national adults. The likely voter sample is weighted down to match this assumption.”
Is this a hint that they’re weighting by party affiliation to reflect previous election turnout (and ignoring just how p*ssed off we Democrats are about Bush)?
That’s the only way I can see them coming up with numbers so out-of-sync with all the other national polls of the past couple of weeks.