GOP Surges in Latest Poll Despite Internal Rifts
Policy + Politics

GOP Surges in Latest Poll Despite Internal Rifts

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Republicans clearly have much to cheer about in the latest New York Times/CBS News poll a little more than eight months out from a critical mid-term election:

  • Some 42 percent of Americans say they will back Republicans in the November election while only 39 percent say they will support the Democrats.
  • The all-important independent vote continues to sour on President Obama and lean heavily in the GOP direction.
  • Obama’s approval rating remains at an historic low, with only 41 percent of Americans approving of his performance and 51 percent disapproving.
  • And a troubling 63 percent of Americans think the government is on the wrong track with Obama at the helm.

Related: Bill Clinton: Dems’ Best Hope to Keep the Senate

Historically, mid-term elections have been cruel affairs for the party in control of the White House, and the 2014 congressional election is likely to play out in similar fashion. Political analyst Charlie Cook told a group of economists this week that the Republicans appear on course to easily retain control of the House and to narrowly win back control of the Senate for the first time since 2007.

Moreover, Republicans are doing a much better job this time of recruiting strong candidates to challenge Democratic Senate incumbents than they did during the past two election campaigns. Just yesterday, Republicans greatly enhanced their prospects for toppling Democratic freshman Sen. Mark Udall of Colorado when Republican Rep. Cory Gardner entered the race and Ken Buck, the current frontrunner, decided to step aside.

Republican activists say that Garner will make a much stronger challenger than Buck would have been.  The switch constitutes a major coup for the national GOP, expanding the map of competitive races into a winnable purple state, Politico reported yesterday.

Related: Get Ready for the ‘Do-Next-to-Nothing’ Congress

Yet Republicans showed a knack during the past two elections in finding ways to blow golden opportunities to win critical seats. Some of the findings in the New York Times/CBS News poll should give their leaders and strategists pause.

Mustering party unity will be essential throughout the primary and general election seasons, yet the poll highlights a vast schism within the GOP over whether the party is too moderate or too conservative.

An alarming 42 percent of Republicans surveyed said they were “mostly discouraged” about the future of the GOP, and among Tea Party supporters that number was 51 percent. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), the face of the House Republicans, has an approval rating in the poll of only 26 percent among all Americans – and only 33 percent among Republicans.

Arguably the most troubling sign for Republican lawmakers and their leaders is that they appear to be out of step with the rest of the country on a raft of cutting edge issues – ranging from immigration reform, same-sex marriage and marijuana legalization to gun control, minimum wage, and a more equitable distribution of income.

Related: Big Labor’s Mounting Feud with Barack Obama

For instance, nearly two thirds of Americans believe that wealth should be more equitably distributed, and most, regardless of party affiliation, think that any plan to reduce the federal budget deficit should include both tax increases and spending cuts. Those views are anathema to Republicans.

Moreover, two-thirds of the public favors raising the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour, as Obama called for in his State of the Union address last month.  Republicans and their business allies strongly oppose that measure.

Despite relentless attacks by Republicans on Obamacare, half of Americans think that there are some good things in the law, but that some changes are needed to make it work better, while 42 percent say it needs to be repealed.

Related: Obamacare Mess Defines GOP 2014 Campaign Strategy

Many Republicans are confident they can ride to victory this fall on the crest of public outrage over Obamacare, its impact on consumer choice and consumer costs, and its disastrous rollout last fall. Yet some prominent leaders are beginning to worry that the GOP may be counting too heavily on that, according to The Washington Post.

Nearly every advertising dollar being spent against Democratic congressional candidates is going toward pounding the Democrats on the new health care law. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who is vice chairman of the Republican Governors Association and a possible contender for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination, told The Post that the strategy could miss the mark.

“If we want to earn the majority, we have to be offering detailed policy solutions, detailed ideas of what we would do differently, “Jindal said. “I don’t think it is enough to say, ‘Just repeal Obamacare.’”

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