In Messaging War, GOP Says Obama Is Dramatic

On sequester, House conservatives say Americans aren't buying Obama's sequester hype.

Michigan Rep. Justin Amash, left, and Idaho Rep. Raul Labrador are among the congressman pushing for more purity within the GOP.

Michigan Rep. Justin Amash, left, and Idaho Rep. Raul Labrador are among the congressman pushing for more purity within the GOP.

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President Barack Obama's been stumping hard, traveling thousands of miles to warn Americans about longer airport security lines, a lack of food inspections, furloughed government employees and first responders, and teachers being laid off in droves as a result of sequestration, but House Republicans say their constituents aren't buying all the hype.

"We had a grand total of three phone calls concerned about it. They don't buy the scare tactics," says Kansas Republican Rep. Tim Huelskamp. "Most Americans are going to wake up Friday morning and yawn."

A new poll by NBC/ Wall Street Journal found that Americans were split on whether they thought the sequester should go into effect, with 53 percent supporting Congress enacting at least the sequester if not more cuts.

[CHARTS: Sequestration Drama May Overstate the Stakes]

Conservatives in the House Republican caucus see sequestration as an opportunity for their constituents to finally get the government cuts they have been promising. Sure, they would have liked to have seen lighter cuts on the Department of Defense, but legislators say it's better these cuts than none at all.

"It is going to happen. It is 2.4 percent of the budget, and it is not the end of the world," says Ohio Republican Rep. Jim Jordan. "We want the savings. We want to bank those savings, and we want to move on."

Out of the gate, the Republican conference appeared split over messaging on sequestration. House Speaker John Boehner and lawmakers with military bases in their districts called the cuts "devastating."

Some House Republicans though say these comments played right into Obama's hand, by allowing the public to think of the cuts as severe.

[READ: Bernanke to Lawmakers: Act Now on the Sequester]

"There hasn't been a consistent message," says Michigan Republican Rep. Justin Amash. "I think Republicans need to be clear about the fact that these are not devastating cuts."

Idaho Republican Rep. Raul Labrador says Boehner damaged the GOP in the court of public opinion by agreeing with Democrats that the cuts could damage the economy.

"It would have been better if he had not done that," Labrador says. "As we've seen in the last week or two, he has toned down on that. I think it was a mistake on our messaging...There was a collective sigh of relief when it was toned down a little bit."

[ENJOY: Political Cartoons About Military Spending]

GOP lawmakers accept that initially the American public may point its frustrations toward them, but in the long term, they are optimistic they'll win the political fight if they allow sequester to happen.

"Of course everything is going to be blamed on us, but the reality is that there is not going to be that much frustration," Labrador says. "They are going to realize President Obama has been playing Chicken Little this entire time and they are going to be disappointed in the president."

While no one on Capitol Hill is holding their breath that lawmakers and the White House can come to an agreement to replace the sequester, leaders on both sides of the aisle will meet Friday, just hours before automatic budget cuts will take effect.

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