By Peter Roff, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
Even before the White House announced its record, $1.8 trillion, single-year deficit projection, the Republicans were gaining considerable ground on the Democrats among voters who expressed a preference concerning which party is better able to handle the country's economic woes.
As pollster Scott Rasmussen reported Monday, the two parties are "in a virtual tie" in terms of voter trust when it comes to the handling of the economy. "For the second straight month," Rasmussen said, "Republicans have inched closer to Democrats when it comes to who voters trust more to handle economic issues."
The Rasmussen telephone survey of 1,000 likely voters found that 44 percent trusted the Democrats more on the economy versus 43 percent who said they trusted the Republicans more. This is, the pollster said, the closest the two parties have been on the issue since last August.
This is definitely bad news for Obama, who remains personally popular, and the Democrats, who have seen support for their agenda ebb away on a consistent basis over the last several months. The continued increase in unemployment, the surging deficit, and the government's reluctant admission it cannot track, as it promised it would, the economic recovery spending it is currently engaged in are likely to further diminish public confidence in the administration and Congress's ability to enact meaningful and positive change.
The new Rasmussen numbers are not all good news for the Republicans either.
The realignment of voter preferences concerning the handling of the economy reflect growing support for the GOP's refusal to go along with Obama on spending, on tax hikes, perhaps even on the nationalization—excuse me—universalization of healthcare and cap-and-trade. But opposition only gets you so far. At some point the Republicans will have to come up with a positive agenda, meaningful alternatives to Obama's policies which, as the polling shows, are less popular with voters than he is.
The GOP can do this in one of two ways: It can come up with a series of market-based solutions that expand personal choice and liberty that do a better job of fixing the problems as they are defined by Obama and the Democrats; or it can try and change the subject. It is never enough, with apologies to Nancy Reagan, to just say "No" when it comes to matters of public policy.
The voters want to hear alternatives—and, more than that—they deserve to.
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