Q: What issue was uppermost in your constituents' minds during the recent congressional recess?
DEMOCRATS (40 votes)
Budget deficit 3 percent Health care reform 3 percent Immigration 5 percent Jobs and the economy 73 percent Oil spill 18 percent
"By far, I got more questions about immigration than anything else. The Arizona law issue was at the center of the discussions."
"Arizona's new law has spurred frustration and renewed the call for comprehensive immigration reform."
Jobs and the economy
"It is always about jobs and the economy. If the administration does not soon comprehend that, their re-election will look like dead fish floating in the Gulf."
"Companies starting to hire. Voters want to know: Can they have hope?"
"Regardless of how people have weathered the recession, everyone is rattled by uncertainty. And nobody feels secure."
"The number of jobs created by November will directly correlate to the number of Democrats who keep their seats."
"Without a doubt, but deficit is a close second."
"Overwhelmingly. This is the easiest question you've asked in months."
"Did 10 events over the recess, and the spill came up during every single one."
"People are concerned about what this will do to the economy. They don't want the government to be on the hook financially."
REPUBLICANS (39 votes)
Budget deficit 26 percent Health care reform 3 percent Immigration 8 percent Jobs and the economy 54 percent Oil spill 8 percent Volunteered, both budget deficit and jobs/economy, 3 percent.
"There is a palpable fear that this country is heading in the wrong direction economically and that Washington -- controlled by Democrats -- isn't capable of cutting, only spending."
"People have realized the enormity and long-term impact of this, and they are focused."
"My constituents are most concerned about the deficit. They fired Republicans for a $167 billion deficit in 2006. What do you think they think about a $1.5 trillion deficit in 2010? Obama has led the Democrats into the political valley of death."
"Followed by budget, second, and the oil spill as a distant third."
Jobs and the economy
"The Democrats' job-killing agenda. Whether it's the spending, the debt, health care, or the impact of the oil spill, Americans get it."
"Deficit spending is linked to it, as people resent spending the billions on stimulus and bailouts that have only created government jobs."
"My constituents care about all of the issues, but they really don't have a sense that the policies this administration is pursuing will create an environment where small businesses can flourish."
"No one believes Democrats' happy-talk on the economy."
"There's a morbid fascination. Folks are just depressed about this terrible environmental catastrophe."
"I held a town hall where residents were very concerned about a national energy policy that forced us into deepwater drilling."
Q: Will your party be helped or hurt in November by the Obama administration's handling of the offshore oil spill?
DEMOCRATS (40 votes)
Helped 15 percent Hurt 30 percent No impact 53 percent Volunteered: Not yet clear, 3 percent.
"The Democrat Party can be helped if the president uses this tragic accident as a call to arms to end our dependence on fossil fuels in general and on petroleum in particular while cutting air pollution and launching a new era of innovation and green-energy technology."
"The blowout is the Sputnik moment for the ocean. The president has failed to launch policies to enhance ocean governance and has failed to commit resources to get there."
"This disaster happened on our watch. And we will be held responsible until it is fixed."
"Although the opposition will blame Obama for all the ills in our nation, this is a very visible one that will get replay after replay."
"Hurt, despite the fact that blame should not be laid on Congress or the administration."
"No impact because he was doing his best to deal with a situation over which he had little control."
"The oil spill was caused by British Petroleum. And despite the Republican effort to conflate BP with the U.S, distress over the spill will not impact this election. Old news by November."
"America's addiction to oil is the ultimate 'handler' in this Gulf offshore oily offense. The only good that can come from 500,000 to 800,000 gallons of oil daily devastating the Gulf's ecosystem is for America to finally 'get it' and to radically transform the way we use energy."
"The administration hasn't convinced the public that they have control of the situation, but Republican chants of 'drill, baby, drill' still linger in the public's mind. They cancel each other out."
"While Democrats will have losses, those losses will likely be caused by voters still struggling and not experiencing any economic turnaround."
"Most people do not think this situation affects them."
"As long as it's stopped by the end of the summer, this will be a non-issue in November. Everyone knows that the administration did not cause this. And reasonable people know that they're doing everything they can to fix it."
"The only bad guy here is BP."
REPUBLICANS (39 votes)
Helped 79 percent Hurt 3 percent No impact 18 percent
"Slow response, inadequate response. Democrats are going to look like the oil-covered pelicans. Can't flap their wings."
"What a gift to Republicans. Obama and the Democrats flailed Bush over Katrina. Now they have a disaster, and they have flopped. What is the difference? Forty days after Katrina, things were better. Forty days after the BP disaster, things are worse. Obama has been pathetic."
"Obama promised competence above all else; he has delivered incompetence."
"The administration's response has been woefully slow and inadequate."
"There's a sense by voters that the administration is more interested in finding a political angle to promote their 'energy' bill than figuring out how to manage the oil spill."
"It shows how ineffective the Obama team is and how his energy policy is just a patchwork response to interest groups and polling. The president has no true convictions, only politics, when it comes to energy. BP has showered him with donations."
"The underlying issue of the competence of this administration has been called into question for the first time."
"The president's handling of the oil spill and congressional Democrats' handling of taxpayer dollars are about the same: a disaster."
"Forcing BP to lawyer-up before the leak is capped does not stop the leak. The administration should not force BP to channel any resources away from stopping the leak."
"Helped, if the White House and Congress try to use the issue for political gain through higher taxes and more restrictions that kill energy jobs."
"Heckuva job, Mr. President."
"BP: Barack's Problem."
"You can tell it's a problem for Democrats because they still have not figured out how to argue: A) President Obama does not own this disaster but, B) he has been in charge since day one which is why, C) he just got around to talking to the CEO of BP this week while, D) his vice president and senior staff spent the weekend having a Super Soaker fight at the Naval Observatory."
"Yet. Until someone stops the spill, it will be difficult to determine the long-term political consequences."
National Journal Insiders
Democratic Congressional Insiders Sens. Sherrod Brown, Ben Cardin, Thomas Carper, Christopher Dodd, Frank Lautenberg, Barbara Mikulski, Mark Pryor, Jon Tester, Tom Udall, Mark Warner; Reps. Jason Altmire, Robert Andrews, Michael Arcuri, Tammy Baldwin, Melissa Bean, Xavier Becerra, Howard Berman, Marion Berry, Rick Boucher, Lois Capps, Michael Capuano, Dennis Cardoza, Chris Carney, James Clyburn, Gerry Connolly , Jim Cooper, Joseph Crowley, Elijah Cummings, Artur Davis, Diana DeGette, Rosa DeLauro, Eliot Engel, Anna Eshoo, Sam Farr, Chaka Fattah, Bob Filner, Phil Hare, Alcee Hastings, Rush Holt, Mike Honda, Steve Israel, Frank Kratovil, Jim Langevin, John Lewis, Zoe Lofgren, Nita Lowey, Carolyn Maloney, Ed Markey, Jim McDermott, Jim McGovern, Mike McMahon, Kendrick Meek, Jim Moran, David Price, Silvestre Reyes, Linda Sanchez, Jan Schakowsky, Mark Schauer, Jose Serrano, Adam Smith, John Spratt, Pete Stark, Bart Stupak, John Tanner, Ellen Tauscher, Bennie Thompson, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Henry Waxman, and Peter Welch.
GOP Congressional Insiders Sens. Lamar Alexander, Jim Bunning, John Cornyn, Jim DeMint, John Ensign, Lindsey Graham, Kay Bailey Hutchison, Johnny Isakson, George LeMieux, Richard Lugar, Lisa Murkowski, Jeff Sessions, Olympia Snowe, John Thune, David Vitter; Reps. Michele Bachmann, Brian Bilbray, Marsha Blackburn, Roy Blunt, John Boehner, Charles Boustany, Kevin Brady, John Campbell, Eric Cantor, John Carter, Michael Castle, Tom Cole, Mike Conaway, David Dreier, Jeff Flake, Scott Garrett, Bob Goodlatte, Kay Granger, Doc Hastings, Pete Hoekstra, Darrell Issa, Peter King, Jack Kingston, Mark Kirk, John Kline, Christopher Lee, Dan Lungren, Kenny Marchant, Kevin McCarthy, Patrick McHenry, John Mica, Candice Miller, Sue Myrick, Devin Nunes, Mike Pence, Tom Price, Adam Putnam, Dave Reichert, Mike Rogers of Michigan, Peter Roskam, Paul Ryan, Pete Sessions, John Shadegg, Adrian Smith, Pat Tiberi, Fred Upton, and Joe Wilson.
This article appears in the June 12, 2010, edition of National Journal.