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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

GOP Spin on Tea Party Downgrade Not Working

Not without good reason, Dems are calling the Standard and Poor fiasco the “Tea Party Downgrade.” As a credible soundbite/bumper-sticker, It could be a potent meme. Naturally, Republicans are mobilizing their message discipline apparatus to prevent the term from resonating.
The GOP has already launched their own buzz phrase, variations on “Obama inherited a AAA credit rating” from Bush, not mentioning of course recently revealed data about the Bush meltdown indicating that “the Great Recession, already the worst downturn since the 1930s, was even more damaging that previously recognized.” In their downgrade spin, More astute GOP message-makers will avoid comparisons to Bush, who lost 2 million jobs during his final few months in office.
House Speaker John Boehner reportedly held a conference call with Republican lawmakers on recess from congress, expressing his concern that “the president and Democrats” are blaming the tea party for the downgrade, and added “…If our our budget was law today, it’s unlikely anyone would be talking about the United States being downgraded today.”
In addition, Jennifer Steinhauer reports in The New York Times that the N.R.C.C has launched a telephone campaign to vilify Democrats for the downgrade:

In automated calls in 10 Congressional Districts from California to New York, the National Republican Congressional Committee is trying to tar Democrats with the recent crisis in the markets. The call script also pushes the Balanced Budget Amendment, a cornerstone of Republican economic policy that will likely be voted on in both the House and Senate this fall.

Republicans are rightly concerned, because polls indicate public attitudes toward the tea party are increasingly negative, as even Fox News reports:

A Pew Research/Washington Post poll finds 29 percent of those asked think Tea Party members have had a mostly negative effect in Congress. That’s up 11 percent in the eight short months since most of those members took office.
There are two other pieces of bad news for members who support the Tea Party in this poll. The first is that 35 percent of respondents think the group has not had much of an effect at all. Worse is that 28 percent of independents say that Tea Party members have had a negative effect, while 24 percent of the coveted group say they have had a positive impact. In January, twice as many respondents (29 percent to 14) expected the Tea Party-backed group to have a positive effect.

And Ryan Witt of the Political Buzz Examiner reports:

According to a CNN poll, 59% of registered voters now disapprove of the Republican Party compared to just 33% who approve. In comparison, 47% disapprove of the Democratic Party with the same number approving. In late October 2010, right before the victories that propelled them to a majority in the House, 44% of voters approved of the Republican Party compared to 41% who disapproves. Since that time, the Republicans have seen their approval ratings go down by eight points and their disapproval ratings skyrocket by 18%. Democrats have largely held steady.
The poll also shows a growing anti-incumbent mood, which is bad news for the Republicans who now hold the most incumbencies in Congress. Just 41% of Americans now believe that their U.S. Representative deserves re-election, compared to 49% who do not believe their U.S. Representative deserves re-election. Those numbers are very low. While Americans historically disapprove of the broader Congress, they usually approve of their individual representative. In August 2010, before many Democrats were voted out of office, 52% of Americans said their representative deserved re-election.

Additionally, a new McClatchy-Marist Poll pegs public approval of Republicans in congress at 27 percent, compared to 35 percent for Democrats and 44 percent for President Obama.
As Witt concludes, “…New polls show that conservatives may be losing the larger political war. The unfavorable ratings for the both the GOP and the Tea Party are now at new highs. If the trend holds, Republicans may pay a high price in 2012 for their short-term victories in 2011.”

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