Plurality of Voters Want Dems to Withhold Funds if Bush Issues Iraq Veto

The latest polling from Bloomberg news and the Los Angeles Times (.pdf) offers some fairly interesting data on the sentiments of American voters on the issue of Iraq.

Q49. As you may know, Democrats in both houses of Congress passed legislation that ties further funding of the war in Iraq to targeted dates for withdrawal of combat troops from Iraq. Bush says he will veto any measure that sets such a timetable because he believes it would tie the hands of battlefield commanders and make defeat in Iraq more likely. Do you think that Bush should sign a funding authorization that includes a timetable for withdrawal, or should he veto that legislation?

AllRVsDEMINDGOP
Pass legislation4848744815
Veto It4344183980

Q50. If George W. Bush vetoes the legislation, do you think Congress should pass another version of the bill that provides funding for the war without any conditions for troop withdrawal, or should Congress refuse to pass any funding bill until Bush agrees to accept conditions for withdrawal?

AllRVsDEMINDGOP
Fund the war without
conditions
4344244073
Withhold funding until
Bush signs
4545664321

From this polling, it's clear that there is a real coalition behind ending the Iraq War -- even if it means dragging out the appropriations process until the President relents and accepts a timetable for the redeployment of American forces out of the country. To be clear, this polling does not show that there is an overwhelming mandate for such a course of action. Nonetheless, it does show that the Democrats have fairly strong backing (a plurality of registered voters, in fact) as they potentially move forward with aggressive steps to end American involvement in the war in Iraq.

Immigration Reform Still Looks Tentative in the House

Judging by reporting by Jonathan Weisman that runs on the front page of Monday's issue of The Washington Post, it looks like House Democrats are a bit skittish on the issue of immigration reform. Take a look:

In contrast to her approach to other controversial issues, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has told the White House that she cannot pass a bill with Democratic votes alone, nor will she seek to enforce party discipline on the issue. Bush will have to produce at least 70 Republican votes before she considers a vote on comprehensive immigration legislation, a task that may be very difficult for a president saddled with low approval ratings.

[...]

Last fall in Indiana, Ellsworth faced Republican ads asking: "Will Brad Ellsworth vote for liberal Democrat Nancy Pelosi for speaker of the House? . . . Pelosi and other Democrats want to raise your taxes, cut and run in Iraq, and give amnesty to illegal immigrants."

In Asheville, N.C., conservatives opposed to Shuler put up billboards of a Mexican flag flying atop an upside-down U.S. flag. Lampson, in his race for the seat vacated by former House majority leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), contended with campaign signs reading: "Want more illegals? Vote Democrat."

Challenging Rep. Brad Miller (D-N.C.), now in his third term, Republican Vernon Robinson charged, "If Miller had his way, America would be nothing but one big fiesta for illegal aliens and homosexuals."

"Something like 90 percent of Republican ads ran on immigration. These new Dems don't want to see that again," Flake said.

I understand that the Democratic freshmen -- particularly those who won by narrow margins and those who represent districts that tend to elect Republicans on the federal level -- do not want to give Republicans an opening for attack. As Jeff Flake, the Arizona Republican who is working with the Democrats to craft immigration reform in the House, correctly noted, most Republicans did indeed run ads on immigration on 2006.

Yet it is important to underscore the fact that despite the fact that Republicans continually harped on immigration, attacking Democrats for supporting legislation that would grant what they labeled "amnesty" to those in the country illegally, Democrats picked up more than two dozen seats in the House and did not lose a single member -- the first time in recent memory (and perhaps American history) that a party has not lost a single seat in an election. While it is also worth noting that the Democrats left a large number of seats on the table in 2006 and that one might argue that immigration played a role in at least some of the instances in which Democrats failed to capitalize on endangered Republicans immigration, it is worth reiterating that for all of the bluster about immigration, Republicans were thoroughly defeated in the race for the House.

Polling of the broader electorate and the American public as a whole shows great support for legislation that would reform U.S. immigration policy by creating an arduous pathway to legalization for those who are in the country unlawfully. Specifically, between about 60 and 70 percent of Americans support a move to allow illegal immigrants to remain in the United States if they meet a number of requirements.

It is certainly possible that views on immigration reform vary around the country and that there is less than majority support for such a move in certain districts such as the ones in which new Democratic Reps. like Ellsworth and Shuler will have to run for reelection next fall. What's more, it is also possible that the three-fifths of two-thirds of Americans supporting such reforms do not line up well with the cleavage within the electorate that brought us a Democratic Congress and, as such, a move to provide a path to legalization for those here without documentation could undermine the type of coalition that might reelect this Democratic Congress in 2008.

However, I have not seen evidence that this is the case. Rather, I have heard a lot of talk from the small minority of Americans who favor mass deportations -- so much talk, in fact, that it appears to some that their numbers are even greater than they actually are. Accordingly, I just don't buy into the notion that an attempt to pass immigration reform during the 110th Congress will lead to negative consequences for the Democrats next fall. Am I reading this issue incorrectly from my perch in the upper Northwest corner of this country?

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Approval Numbers for Democratic Congress, Pelosi Remain Robust

In recent weeks the press received by Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic Congress as a whole has been significantly less up beat than during the first part of the year when the House was blazing through the 100 Hours agenda. With less glowing press, the Democrats and Speaker Pelosi would naturally find their support among the American people on the decline, right? Well, apparently not, judging by some recent polling commissioned by two of the most respected players in the establishment political media.

This afternoon The Hotline, along with partner Diageo, released its latest round of polling (.pdf) on a range of topics (more political than potent potable), the results of which show continued strength of the Democratic brand, both in Congress and on the presidential level.

Congress' approval rating stands at 37 percent, up six points from January (.pdf), while Congress' disapproval rating stands at 52 percent, also up slightly (three points) from January. While these numbers are not terribly great, they are better than those of President Bush, whose approval spread stands at 35 percent, with 61 percent disapproving. Speaker Pelosi's approval numbers are even stronger than those of the Congress as a whole, with 44 percent of registered voters giving her positive marks and just 31 percent giving her negative marks, both numbers up from January when she clocked in with a 33/23 positive spread.

On the question of whether voters are happy or unhappy that the Democratic Party gained control of the Senate and the House last November, voters come out of the positive side by a 55 percent to 29 percent margin. Independents remain strongly in favor of Democrats in this regard (50 happy/26 unhappy), and even one in five Republicans (20 percent) say they're happy the Democrats, not the Republicans are in control of both chambers of Congress. By and large, these numbers echo the findings of the latest survey commissioned by the Cook Political Report (.pdf), which indicated that by a 28 percent to 18 percent margin, registered voters believe the country is better off with the current Democratic Congress than it was with the previous Republican Congress -- numbers that were effectively unchanged from February when voters voiced the same sentiment, though by a 30 percent to 16 percent margin.

Getting back to the polling from The Hotline, the Democrats are continuing to hold a strong lead on generic presidential balloting for 2008 -- not necessarily a sign of things to come in the race for the White House but certainly a sign of what voters think about the two major parties today. In the latest poll, 47 percent of voters say they would vote for the Democratic nominee for president if the 2008 election were held today while just 29 percent admit they would back the Republican nominee. These numbers are not dissimilar to the findings from January, when the Democrats held a 44 percent to 26 percent lead on the same question.

In short, these numbers only serve to underscore the conclusion already alluded to by the 2008 Democratic presidential candidates' significant fundraising lead over the Republican candidates: There is significantly more excitement on the Democratic side today than there is on the Republican side and, in fact, while the Democratic brand appears to be fairly strong the Republican brand is in near shambles. Things can still change, but for now the situation looks quite dire for the GOP and surprisingly (or perhaps unsurprisingly) rosy for the Democratic Party.

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Republicans Entrench Themselves on Wrong Side of Healthcare Debate

Late last week the Senate voted on language that would greatly expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) by raising the federal tax on a pack cigarettes by 61 cents. The measure passed by a 59 to 40 margin, with 13 Republicans, including stalwart conservatives like Richard Lugar of Indiana, Judd Gregg of New Hampshire and Ted Stevens of Alaska, joining 46 Democrats in voting aye. Yet the Bush administration, kowtowing to its ideological supporters in the anti-tax movement and within the tobacco and private insurance lobbies, is strenuously resisting the attempt to expand SCHIP. Robert Pear has the story for The New York Times.

The Bush administration says it will strenuously resist Democratic plans for a threefold expansion of the Children's Health Insurance Program, ensuring a clash with Congress over the most important health care legislation being considered this year.

Administration officials said that much of the new government coverage proposed by Democrats would simply replace private insurance, and they expressed concern about a sharp increase in the proportion of children covered by public programs in the last decade.

[...]

Representative Jack Kingston, Republican of Georgia, said he was distressed to see Democrats pursuing what he called "a huge expansion of government-sponsored health care."

"The Children's Health Insurance Program has given Democrats a wide-open door for socialized medicine," Mr. Kingston said in an interview. But he added, "The door was left open by Republicans, who were in the majority when we passed the original legislation in 1997."

As is quite apparent from this story, Republican opposition to expanding this program, which has been remarkably effective in decreasing the number of children in this country without healthcare (a move that can in turn potentially decrease healthcare costs down the line because healthy children are more likely to make for healthy adults than unhealthy children), stems almost entirely from an ideological stance against the federal government working to achieve universal healthcare. Republicans fundamentally believe in allowing the current system, which ensures corporate profits but does not come close to covering all Americans, to endure indefinitely -- a position that puts them starkly on the wrong side of this issue.

Although Democrats have traditionally held an advantage on the issue of healthcare, there was a time in the late 1990s when Republicans had significantly cut the Democrats' lead. According to polling from The New York Times and CBS News (.pdf), the Democrats' 59 percent to 20 percent advantage on the issue of healthcare in 1994 had dwindled to a 51 percent to 28 percent margin by 2000 but has, in years since, grown to its widest margin since in decades as the public now trusts Democrats over Republicans on the issue by a 62 percent to 19 percent margin.

Given Republicans' opposition to the federal government taking active steps to insure all Americans, it's no wonder the public has recently soured on the GOP on this issue. The most recent CBS/Times polling indicates that the vast majority of Americans -- nine in ten -- believe that America's healthcare system either needs fundamental changes or to be rebuilt entirely. Close to two thirds of Americans (64 percent) believe "the federal government should guarantee health insurance for all Americans", with a plurality of 49 percent maintaining this belief even if it means that their own health insurance costs would increase. Three in five Americans (60 percent) would support the federal government guaranteeing coverage even if it meant that they would have to pay higher taxes as a result.

On the question of expanding SCHIP, the White House and congressional Republicans find themselves in an even smaller minority. Close to four in five Americans (78 percent) say that it is a very serious problem that many American children do not have healthcare, with another 16 percent saying that it is a somewhat serious problem. To combat this, 84 percent of Americans say that SCHIP should be expanded to cover all uninsured children, not just those from low and moderate income families. Two thirds of Americans (67 percent) support such a move even if it meant that they would have to pay higher taxes, and I would assume (though CBS and The Times did not poll the question) that an even higher number would register support for a plan that would just raise tobacco taxes, not impose an additional payroll tax or increase income taxes.

The Republicans' paltry record on healthcare stands in contrast with the Democrats' strong stance on the issue. As I noted in my coverage last week from the SEIU/CAP presidential healthcare forum in Las Vegas, every Democratic candidate in attendence (seven of the eight candidates in the race) spoke out in favor of universal coverage. While no two candidates approached the effort to cover all Americans the same way, the fact that the Democratic Party stands for universal healthcare while Republicans are seen arguing against covering even every American child is extremely telling.

Some might say that Democratic strength on healthcare has not always led to Democratic victories in federal elections, a point that is worth noting. That said, polling (.pdf) released by SEIU and CAP shows that healthcare is the most important domestic issue to voters, second overall only to the Iraq War -- a finding that has been replicated in almost every recent non-partisan poll. Accordingly, the fact that the Democrats are arguing on the correct side of the issue, both both on a policy and political level, almost undoubtedly augurs well for the party's chances heading into the 2008 elections.

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Pelosi Still Fairly Popular Despite GOP's Continuing Concerted Attacks

During the run up to November's midterm elections Republicans and GOP-allied interests invested heaviliy in an effort to tie congressional candidates around the country to then Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who they believed to be unpopular and outside of the mainstream. As I noted throughout the campaign season, such a tactic was bound to fail because Pelosi was not known well enough among voters around the country to make a significant impact on races and, what's more, she was not disliked strongly enough either. Indeed, the attacks on Pelosi did not, in the end, stop the Democrats from taking control of the House of Representatives -- and by a larger margin than the Republicans have held the chamber at any point since 1955.

Even with this significant failure in the back of their minds, Republicans have continued in their attempts to malign now Speaker Pelosi and to drag down Democratic candidates perceived to be in for tough reelection battles in 2008 by tying them to her. The latest example of this effort is the NRCC's Real Democrat [SIC] Story website which, among other things, lists the percentage of of votes upon which particular members of the House voted with Pelosi. Certainly Republicans think they are being clever. But how effective is this line of attack?

A Gallup poll released this week shows that Pelosi's favorable numbers have taken a bit of a hit in recent months, with 7 percent fewer Americans viewing her positively than in early January and 11 percent more Americans viewing her negatively. Yet the poll also indicates that a 37 percent plurality of Americans view Pelosi favorably and just 33 percent of Americans view her unfavorably -- a net 15 points better than President Bush's numbers in Gallup polling. Opinion Dynamics polling (.pdf) commissioned by Fox News pegs the Speaker with similar numbers -- 37 percent favorable, 31 percent unfavorable -- which is a net 27 points better than that of the President. Perhaps more importantly, Pelosi does not draw the type of partisan ire of George W. Bush, as only a small majority of Republicans (57 percent) view her unfavorably, a figure that does not evidence the type of widespread hatred necessary to turn a particular political figure into an albatross for his or her party.

Pelosi appears to be even more popular on approval, rather than favorability questions (which is the opposite of the case with the President). According to numbers released today by The Pew Research Center, 48 percent of Americans approve of the job Pelosi is doing as speaker while just 22 percent disapprove. These numbers compare quite favorably with those of Newt Gingrich at a similar point in his speakership, when 43 percent approved of his work and a whopping 42 percent disapproved. What's more, in this Pew poll Pelosi's approval rating is 15 points higher than the President's and her disapproval rating is 36 points lower, giving her a net approval rating that is 51 points better than that of President Bush.

With such numbers, it's hard to see Pelosi being nearly as effective of a target for Republicans as they think she is. While I wouldn't discourage them from investing heavily in an effort that may in fact be futile, I'm frankly not too worried about their continual attacks on the Speaker, nor their attempts to tie supposedly endangered Democrats to her.

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