Politics: Budget

In Deficit Debate, Why Isn’t Social Security on the Table?

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June 22, 2011, 6:46 p.m.

‘90 nom­in­ee/AG/ex-Phoenix may­or Terry God­dard (D) said 10/7 “he’d use ad­di­tion­al bor­row­ing to close most of the state’s mi­dyear budget short­fall.” He claim Gov. Jan Brew­er (R) will in­stead re­sort “to edu­ca­tion fund­ing cuts” if she wins in Nov., something he prom­ised not to do.

Want More On This Race? Check out the Hot­line Dash­board for a com­pre­hens­ive run­down of this race, in­clud­ing stor­ies, polls, ads, FEC num­bers, and more!

God­dard: “I’m in law en­force­ment, and I have to use cir­cum­stan­tial evid­ence oc­ca­sion­ally, and this is cir­cum­stan­tial evid­ence.” He said he “was forced to pro­ject Brew­ers’ budget ap­proach be­cause she won’t de­bate him again.”

Brew­er spokes­per­son Paul Sense­man said “that she also sup­ports sig­ni­fic­ant new bor­row­ing to help close the mi­dyear short­fall of up to” $825M, “but ac­know­ledged that some ad­di­tion­al spend­ing cuts will be needed.”

Sense­man said Brew­er “does want to re­vive the idea of bor­row­ing” $350M from the First Things First early child­hood de­vel­op­ment pro­gram “and shift its fund­ing to the state gen­er­al fund to help bal­ance this year’s budget and fu­ture ones.”

Sense­man ad­ded that “God­dard’s ap­proach ig­nores costly spend­ing man­dates im­posed on the state by the fed­er­al health care over­haul and that it was long over­due for God­dard to shed light on his own in­ten­tions.”

God­dard “said he would get” $700M “to close the cur­rent year’s short­fall through sev­er­al forms of bor­row­ing. An ad­di­tion­al $125M “would come from un­spe­cified budget trans­fers” (Dav­en­port, Bloomberg Busi­nes­s­week, 10/8).

Not much in the just-re­leased NBC News/Wall Street Journ­al poll con­flicts with the story line that we’re go­ing to see a lot of close races this fall. Demo­crat­ic poll­ster Peter Hart and Re­pub­lic­an poll-taker Bill McIn­turff found that 48 per­cent of the 1,000 Amer­ic­an adults in­ter­viewed (in­clud­ing a sub­sample of cell-phone users) ap­prove of the job that Pres­id­ent Obama has done. This per­cent­age is 2 points short of the 50 per­cent ap­prov­al rat­ing that would sig­nal he is a fa­vor­ite for reelec­tion. A rat­ing be­low 46 per­cent sug­gests that a pres­id­ent is toast. Obama is right in the middle — in the 47 per­cent to 49 per­cent zone — sug­gest­ing an equal chance of win­ning or los­ing.

One source of good news for Demo­crats is that Obama draws a 51 per­cent ap­prov­al rat­ing on for­eign policy; the bad news is that voters don’t seem likely to vote on for­eign-policy mat­ters this year. Con­versely, the pres­id­ent got his worst ap­prov­al rat­ing on the eco­nomy: Just 43 per­cent ap­prove of his hand­ling of eco­nom­ic mat­ters while 52 per­cent dis­ap­prove. Un­for­tu­nately for Demo­crats, the eco­nomy is the is­sue that does seem to be of para­mount im­port­ance to voters.

In­sti­tu­tion­ally, Obama and the Demo­crat­ic Party should take some solace in their (rather tep­id) fa­vor­ab­il­ity rat­ings: 49 per­cent pos­it­ive and 41 per­cent neg­at­ive for Obama; 39 per­cent pos­it­ive and 40 per­cent neg­at­ive for the party. An odd couple of Vice Pres­id­ent Joe Biden and pre­sumptive Re­pub­lic­an nom­in­ee Mitt Rom­ney were joined by al­most in­dis­tin­guish­able num­bers: 35 per­cent pos­it­ive and 37 per­cent neg­at­ive for Biden; 34 per­cent pos­it­ive and 38 per­cent neg­at­ive for Rom­ney. Bring­ing up the rear are three in­sti­tu­tions: Bain Cap­it­al, the private-equity firm that Rom­ney once led, scored 9 per­cent pos­it­ive and 19 per­cent neg­at­ive; the Re­pub­lic­an Party came in with 32 per­cent pos­it­ive and 43 per­cent neg­at­ive; and JP­Mor­gan Chase, which just dis­closed a mult­i­bil­lion-dol­lar-trad­ing loss, came in last, with 11 per­cent pos­it­ive and 49 per­cent neg­at­ive.

Only 33 per­cent of Amer­ic­ans who re­spon­ded to the sur­vey felt that the coun­try is headed in the right dir­ec­tion — un­changed from the March and April sur­veys. Fifty-eight per­cent thought the coun­try was off on the wrong track — the same as March and a point lower than April. These num­bers are pretty con­sist­ent with the down­beat res­ults that this ques­tion has eli­cited for the past four years.

The sober­ness of the Amer­ic­an spir­it is evid­ent when Hart and McIn­turff asked, “All in all, think­ing about where the United States is today, do you feel we are ex­per­i­en­cing the kind of tough times that the coun­try faces from time to time, or is this the start of longer-term de­cline where the U.S. is no longer the lead­ing coun­try in the world?” Forty five per­cent picked the tem­por­ar­ily-ex­per­i­en­cing-a-tough-time re­sponse; 48 per­cent en­dorsed the start of a long-term de­cline.

On the gen­er­ic con­gres­sion­al bal­lot test, 44 per­cent of the sub­sample of re­gistered voters pre­ferred a Demo­crat­ic-con­trolled Con­gress; 43 per­cent would rather see a Re­pub­lic­an Con­gress. (This ques­tion typ­ic­ally has about a 2-point tilt to­ward the Demo­crats.) My in­ter­pret­a­tion is that this res­ult, not far off from the 46 per­cent Demo­crat­ic, 44 per­cent Re­pub­lic­an in the April NBC/WSJ sur­vey, points to a tight­en­ing of the mar­gins in Con­gress. But it does not sig­ni­fy the level of gains that Demo­crats need to cap­ture a ma­jor­ity. In short, the gen­er­ic poll res­ults sup­port the race-by-race as­sess­ments of polit­ic­al han­di­cap­pers: Demo­crats will gain House seats but will come up short of con­trol.

In terms of the pres­id­en­tial tri­al-heat fig­ures, among re­gistered voters, Obama leads Rom­ney by 4 per­cent­age points: 47 per­cent to 43 per­cent, with 11 per­cent say­ing they are un­sure. Well-known and well-defined in­cum­bents gen­er­ally draw few­er un­de­cided voters in the end than less­er-defined chal­lengers do, so for in­cum­bents, what you see is what you get. Gen­er­ally, though, an in­cum­bent with 49 or 50 per­cent will fall over the fin­ish line first. Fi­nal polls of 47 or 48 per­cent sig­nal more trouble.

Re­pub­lic­ans should be con­cerned that 29 per­cent of re­spond­ents iden­ti­fied them­selves as Demo­crats, be­cause only 22 per­cent of them said they were Re­pub­lic­an. When in­de­pend­ents are pushed to lean one way or the oth­er, Demo­crats pick up an­oth­er 15 points and Re­pub­lic­ans gain 14 points. The res­ult is 44 per­cent identi­fy­ing them­selves or lean­ing Demo­crat com­pared with 36 per­cent identi­fy­ing as or lean­ing to­ward the GOP; 11 per­cent iden­ti­fied them­selves as pure in­de­pend­ents, not lean­ing either way; and an­oth­er 4 per­cent either re­fused to say or didn’t know, bring­ing the total in the middle to 15 per­cent.

Start­ing with 44 per­cent, Demo­crats need to win the sup­port of only about half of the 15 per­cent in the middle. Re­pub­lic­ans, com­ing from a much smal­ler share of the in­de­pend­ent and non­a­ligned slice of voters to win, need all 15 per­cent to reach a ma­jor­ity. In short, it’s a lot more im­port­ant for Re­pub­lic­ans to ex­tend bey­ond their base than it is for Demo­crats.

Con­versely, Demo­crats have to worry about get­ting out the vote among some of their strongest groups. Over­all, 81 per­cent of re­spond­ents rate them­selves as 8’s, 9’s, or 10’s in terms of in­terest in this elec­tion, mean­ing they are very likely to vote. Obama won 66 per­cent of the 18-to-29-year-olds in 2008; only 64 per­cent in­dic­ated to Hart and McIn­turff’s in­ter­view­ers that they were 8’s, 9’s, or 10’s for this Novem­ber’s elec­tion. Obama won 67 per­cent of the His­pan­ic vote last time; only 68 per­cent in the sur­vey were 8’s, 9’s, or 10’s. Among Afric­an-Amer­ic­ans, Obama won 95 per­cent of the vote; 83 per­cent were 8’s, 9’s, or 10’s, mean­ing that Afric­an-Amer­ic­ans are sig­ni­fic­antly more in­ter­ested in this elec­tion than the oth­er two groups. The poll has an enorm­ous amount of data, and very little of it pushes to­ward a strong con­clu­sion in fa­vor of either Obama or Rom­ney. More evid­ence that a tight race is in the off­ing. 

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