"It's eerie -- I read the news from the Beltway, and there's this disconnect with the polls from the Midwest that I see all around me."
That's from Ann Seltzer, the Iowa pollster who's an expert on public opinion throughout the midwest, as quoted by Ben Smith.
It really is the big story of the first weeks of the Obama administration. In Washington, it was a battle royale between the new president and an emboldened Republican minority. At times they seemed to have him on the ropes. And yet in the country at large, Obama remains super popular. And the GOP is wildly unpopular.
But there's a very big problem with this strategy above and beyond the absurdity of the argument. "Congress" may be really unpopular. And the Democrats now control Congress. But politics is a zero sum game. At the end of the day, in almost every case, you've got to pick a Republican or a Democrat when you vote. And if you look at the numbers, congressional Democrats are pretty popular. And congressional Republicans are extremely unpopular. If you look at the number, the Dems are at about 50% or higher in most recent polls, while the GOP is down in the 30s.
The city remains wired for the GOP. Not that it's done them a great deal of good of late. But it remains a key part of understanding every part of what is happening today.
More from TPM:
So John McCain says that Obama needs to work on bipartisanship, which is about par for the course from McCain and for other Republicans these days. I just heard a reporter on MSNBC say that the Republicans have emerged from this battle with their reputation for fiscal discipline strengthened while Obama has had his reputation for bipartisanship tarnished.And I do love that, "I just heard a reporter on MSNBC say that the Republicans have emerged from this battle with their reputation for fiscal discipline strengthened while Obama has had his reputation for bipartisanship tarnished." Really? I love the one sided read. Global warming and evolution, they want to have both sides heard. But on the president's endeavors, they just need the talking points. Why is that?
As annoying as it is to hear this stuff, I can't say I'm losing a lot of sleep over it. Because in addition to being nonsensical on its face, I really don't think most people around the country are seeing any of this that way. The primary aim of this is to work the refs, the refs being DC political reporters, who are usually pretty easy to work. And they seem to be so in this case. But I don't think this is what most people see. I think the number of people who are into bipartisanship is greatly overstated. However, the number of people who are into it are heavily correlated with those who are politically gettable. So it's not nothing. But Obama has made repeated overtures to Republicans and included probably more of their goodies than I'd like in his bill. And he's been greeted by a phalanx of opposition, nonsense and trash talk.
It's true that many voters without strong partisan attachments want to see politicians 'get some things done' and not just get into political fights. I think what most people see here is one side of equation trying to put together a bill with big majorities, which means necessarily ones that wouldn't be his own parties wish list. The other party has used the overture exclusively as a vehicle for scoring political points and, more poetically put, being dicks.
For my part, I don't think there's any problem with having party line votes where both parties really fundamentally disagree on the policy question at hand. But to the extent that there's a question of who's making an effort to operate in a bipartisan manner, this one is really not even close. Reporters' idea that the entire 'bipartisan' enterprise is Obama's responsibility, as though Republicans, in their depleted state, actually get to dictate the content of bills -- I don't think people buy that. Which is probably why Obama's still really popular and congressional Republicans are extremely unpopular.