The beefed-up GOP set to split power in Washington with President Obama in January could face a voter backlash if they fight President Obama too hard and continue their "party of no" approach to compromise, Democratic pollster Peter Hart tells us. "If the Republicans are recalcitrant and indifferent" to Obama's outreach, says Hart, "they will pay a price." His analysis was based on new polling and focus group work. [See photos of the Obamas behind the scenes.]
His and several other post-election polls found that voters are eager for Washington's warring parties to disarm and work together, though not cave in to the other's wishes. The nation, he said, is "looking for a compromise, a sense of a agreement."
But he said that there are several pitfalls facing the GOP. First, he said, the public in his polling is not interested in repealing healthcare reform, though he conceded that the Republicans have to try in order to fulfill a campaign promise. He also said that the GOP is in danger of looking like it only cares about the rich, having forced Obama to compromise on his wish to restore taxes to those earning $250,000 or more and fighting to end the death tax. He also said that the Tea Party will continue to push the GOP to the right. "They need to get to the center and they will be pushed to the right," said Hart. [Read 10 Things You Didn't Know About the Bush Tax Cuts.]
So far it appears that it's the GOP and not Obama that has scored the first points in the new relationship. This week's move by Obama to cave into GOP tax demands in order to keep tax rates from rising is a victory for the Republicans. While Hart says Obama made the right move, he should have fought harder for a better deal. "At the end of the day did he do the right thing? Of course he did," says Hart. But he adds that Obama went too fast for a deal and should have prolonged the fight for better terms. "He made a judgement too early and two easy," says the pollster.
And by jumping into a quick deal, adds Hart, Obama called into question his stamina for a fight and has Americans questioning his strength. "Americans are asking, 'Is this guy tough enough?'" says Hart.