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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Cook: GOP Obsesses About ‘Scandals,’ as Public Yawns

If you have noticed a growing disconnect between the loudly trumpeted priorities of Republican political leaders and the reality-based community, you are in pretty good company. Charlie Cook’s National Journal post, “Republicans’ Hatred of Obama Blinds Them to Public Disinterest in Scandals” explains it well:

Red-faced Republicans, circling and preparing to pounce on a second-term Democratic president they loathe, do not respect, and certainly do not fear. Sound familiar? Perhaps reminiscent of Bill Clinton’s second term, after the Monica Lewinsky story broke? During that time, Republicans became so consumed by their hatred of Clinton and their conviction that this event would bring him down that they convinced themselves the rest of the country was just as outraged by his behavior as they were. By the way, what was Clinton’s lowest Gallup job-approval rating in his second term, throughout the travails of investigations and impeachment? It was 53 percent. The conservative echo machine had worked itself into such a frenzy, the GOP didn’t realize that the outrage was largely confined to the ranks of those who never voted for Clinton anyway.
These days, the country is even more polarized, and the conservative echo chamber is louder than ever before….Although the Republican sharks are circling, at least so far, there isn’t a trace of blood in the water. A new CNN/ORC survey of 923 Americans this past Friday and Saturday, May 17-18, pegged Obama’s job-approval rating at 53 percent, up a statistically insignificant 2 points since their last poll, April 5-7, which was taken before the Benghazi, IRS, and AP-wiretap stories came to dominate the news and congressional hearing rooms…
In Gallup’s tracking poll, Obama’s average job-approval rating so far this year is 50 percent. For this past week, May 13-19, his average was 49 percent, the same as the week before. The most recent three-day moving average, through Sunday, May 19, was also 49 percent. Over the past two weeks, even as these three stories/scandals have dominated the news, they have had precisely zero effect on the president’s job-approval numbers. His ratings are still bouncing around in the same narrow range they have been for weeks.

Cook acknowledges that “things could change” and the public might care more about the scandals later on. However, Cook notes that economists expect the economy to perk up at least a little in the second half of this year. Regarding the GOP’s scandal-mongering, Cook observes:

One wonders how long Republicans are going to bark up this tree, perhaps the wrong tree, while they ignore their own party’s problems, which were shown to be profound in the most recent elections. Clearly none of these recent issues has had a real impact on voters yet. Republicans seem to be betting everything on them, just as they did in 1998–about which even Newt Gingrich (who was House speaker that year) commented recently to NPR, “I think we overreached in ’98.”…Republicans and conservatives who are so consumed by these “scandals” should ask themselves why, despite wall-to-wall media attention and the constant focus inside the Beltway–some are even talking about grounds for impeachment–Obama’s job-approval needle hasn’t moved.

It’s a good question. But don’t expect a coherent answer from leaders of a political party that prefers pandering to hatred and wallowing in self-delusion to addressing the economic priorities of middle-class Americans with credible reforms.

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