Boehner on Budget: Obama is Not Leading

Add to Briefcase
See more stories about...
April 6, 2011, 12:05 p.m.

Con­duc­ted 10/5-7; sur­veyed 1,008 adults; mar­gin of er­ror +/- 3.1% (re­lease, 10/13).

M. Obama As First Lady

Ap­prove 65% Dis­ap­prove 25

Demo­crats have been re­dis­cov­er­ing their in­ner pop­u­list lately. Pres­id­ent Obama is call­ing on the wealth­i­est Amer­ic­ans to pay their “fair share” in taxes. Eliza­beth War­ren, cam­paign­ing for the Sen­ate in Mas­sachu­setts, has be­come a rising star by bluntly cri­ti­ciz­ing the busi­ness class. And the Demo­crat­ic Con­gres­sion­al Cam­paign Com­mit­tee sent out a pe­ti­tion last month aimed at lever­aging the Oc­cupy Wall Street move­ment against the Re­pub­lic­an Party.

But the clearest test for wheth­er Demo­crats can sell a mes­sage centered on in­come in­equal­ity won’t be in the pres­id­en­tial race, where Obama’s chances of vic­tory de­pend heav­ily on the mood of up­scale, white-col­lar pro­fes­sion­als. Rather, the battle for the hearts and minds of the work­ing-class will take place in the House race bat­tle­fields, where Demo­crats can’t af­ford to write off blue-col­lar voters if they hope to win the 25 seats they need to re­cap­ture the ma­jor­ity.

It wasn’t long ago that Demo­crats were highly com­pet­it­ive with that demo­graph­ic. In 2006 and 2008, their greatest gains came in heav­ily white dis­tricts with re­l­at­ively small con­cen­tra­tions of col­lege gradu­ates. Former DCCC Chair­man Rahm Emanuel ag­gress­ively re­cruited cul­tur­ally con­ser­vat­ive can­did­ates, re­cog­niz­ing that the party couldn’t han­di­cap it­self by ced­ing Middle Amer­ica to Re­pub­lic­ans. The abil­ity to com­pete across the coun­try is what al­lowed the party to forge a con­gres­sion­al gov­ern­ing ma­jor­ity for four years.

Demo­crats suffered their biggest losses last year in blue-col­lar ter­rit­ory, as Obama’s ap­prov­al rat­ings with blue-col­lar white voters plummeted. White voters without a col­lege edu­ca­tion voted for Re­pub­lic­an House can­did­ates nearly 2 to 1, ac­cord­ing to last year’s Edis­on Re­search exit poll. The party’s bul­wark of Blue Dog Demo­crats, many of whom had held onto seats in deeply con­ser­vat­ive dis­tricts no mat­ter the polit­ic­al cli­mate, col­lapsed.

While Demo­crats aren’t go­ing to win back many of those seats giv­en the dis­tricts’ con­ser­vat­ive ori­ent­a­tion, they’re bet­ting that a mes­sage de­cry­ing in­come in­equal­ity can put some of them in play.

Re­pub­lic­ans still hold a healthy edge in sup­port among white voters without a col­lege edu­ca­tion — 47 per­cent to 34 per­cent, ac­cord­ing to the latest United Tech­no­lo­gies/Na­tion­al Journ­al Con­gres­sion­al Con­nec­tion Poll. But their ad­vant­age has nar­rowed sig­ni­fic­antly since 2010, when they led 63 per­cent to 33 per­cent in exit polling. The GOP agenda of spend­ing cuts and en­ti­tle­ment re­forms isn’t a nat­ur­al sell with this con­stitu­ency, which has been hard-hit by the re­ces­sion.

The Demo­crats’ abil­ity to win back a House ma­jor­ity may well lie with can­did­ates like Brendan Mul­len, an Ir­aq vet­er­an who’s run­ning in a work­ing-class, solidly Cath­ol­ic battle­ground dis­trict in north­ern In­di­ana. He’s pro-gun and anti-abor­tion rights, but iden­ti­fies with the Demo­crat­ic Party’s tra­di­tion­al con­nec­tion to the work­ing class.

Mul­len is a con­vin­cing rep­res­ent­at­ive of the pub­lic mood be­cause his bio­graphy is au­then­t­ic to the mes­sage he’s preach­ing. He grew up in South Bend and worked for his fath­er’s uni­on­ized lumber­yard, mov­ing Sheet­rock and hand­ling de­liv­er­ies. He at­ten­ded West Point, went to Army Air­borne School and Ranger School, and served in Ir­aq dur­ing the war. He’s run­ning for of­fice for the first time.

Mul­len is run­ning for the seat be­ing va­cated by Rep. Joe Don­nelly, D-Ind., one of the few tar­geted Demo­crats to sur­vive the 2010 wave. Re­pub­lic­ans re­drew the lines this year to make the dis­trict more fa­vor­able for them, but Obama still would have nar­rowly car­ried it. Mul­len is ex­pec­ted to face Don­nelly’s 2010 Re­pub­lic­an chal­lenger, former state rep­res­ent­at­ive Jack­ie Wal­or­ski, an out­spoken tea party sup­port­er. If the tide has changed in the Demo­crats’ fa­vor, Mul­len should have more than a fight­ing chance.

Even more than the Mas­sachu­setts Sen­ate race, the In­di­ana con­test is shap­ing up to be a ref­er­en­dum of wheth­er work­ing-class voters identi­fy more with the Oc­cupy Wall Street move­ment or the tea party. Mul­len has close ties to labor and said he feels a con­nec­tion with the protests tak­ing place across the coun­try.

“The middle class are the ones get­ting left empty-handed as Wall Street and cor­por­a­tions are get­ting shored up,” Mul­len said in an in­ter­view, echo­ing Demo­crat­ic talk­ing points.

Mul­len isn’t the only Demo­crat­ic re­cruit pre­par­ing an un­abashedly pop­u­list cam­paign. Party of­fi­cials are op­tim­ist­ic about win­ning a rur­al, north­east­ern Arkan­sas dis­trict that Re­pub­lic­ans hadn’t car­ried since Re­con­struc­tion — un­til 2010, when now-Rep. Rick Craw­ford won the open seat. The dis­trict is one of the poorest in the coun­try, and it has one of the low­est con­cen­tra­tions of col­lege-edu­cated whites in the coun­try.

Craw­ford faces a ser­i­ous chal­lenge from state Rep. Clark Hall, who Arkan­sas polit­ic­al colum­nist John Brummett de­scribed as a “good ol’ boy farm­er with a coun­try style and com­mon wis­dom, at home on a tract­or and feast­ing on bar­be­cue and cat­fish.”

A third ma­jor test of the Demo­crats’ fo­cus on in­come in­equal­ity will be in Wis­con­sin, which has already been a bat­tle­field between labor and con­ser­vat­ive Re­pub­lic­ans. Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wis., who rep­res­ents the rur­al north­ern part of the state, has been a sup­port­er of the GOP’s eco­nom­ic agenda. He backed Gov. Scott Walk­er’s budget plan and voted for House Budget Com­mit­tee Chair­man Paul Ry­an‘s Medi­care-re­form pro­pos­al. His op­pon­ent, former Demo­crat­ic state Sen. Pat Kreit­low, has ac­cused him of de­clar­ing war on the middle class.

In an­oth­er sign that Demo­crats think a class-war­fare mes­sage will res­on­ate in 2012, the Demo­crat­ic su­per PAC, House Ma­jor­ity PAC, aired an ad last month point­ing to Duffy’s en­joy­ment of sushi and steak as tell­tale evid­ence that he’s out of touch with the dis­trict’s val­ues. The cul­ture-war jibe is straight out of the tra­di­tion­al Re­pub­lic­an play­book.

Pres­id­ent Obama can’t help these Demo­crat­ic re­cruits next year, but his party’s new­found mes­sage could give them a life­line. If work­ing-class voters have an ap­pet­ite for a more act­iv­ist gov­ern­ment, these are the types of can­did­ates who should be able to cap­it­al­ize on it against Re­pub­lic­ans. If they don’t, ex­pect Thomas Frank to au­thor a se­quel to What’s the Mat­ter with Kan­sas?

What We're Following See More »
24% GOOD ENOUGH FOR FIRST PLACE
Macron, Le Pen Lead French Elections
1 hours ago
THE LATEST

"Centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right politician Marine Le Pen led the first round of voting in France’s presidential election, according to early projections, as voters redrew the political map, placing the European Union at the center of a new political divide. Projections by the Kantar-Sofres polling firm showed Mr. Macron on track to win the first round with about 24% of the vote, ahead of Ms. Le Pen with nearly 22%." The vote marks the end of the country's dominance by conservative and socialist parties. The top vote-getters head to a runoff on May 7.

Source:
MENDING FENCES?
Trump to Deliver Keynote for Holocaust Memorial Event
1 hours ago
THE DETAILS

President Trump will deliver the keynote address for at the National Holocaust Museum's National Day of Remembrance ceremony on Tuesday. He'll speak from the Capitol Rotunda. The move is likely an effort to try to mend fences with Jewish groups. In January, "the White House ignited controversy when it didn't mention Jews or anti-Semitism in a statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day." And certain members of his inner circle are still suspected of harboring white supremacist or anti-Semitic views."

Source:
MAY NOT SIGN BUDGET BILL WITHOUT IT
Trump Issues Threat on Border Wall Funding
1 hours ago
THE LATEST

"President Trump and his top aides applied new pressure Sunday on lawmakers to include money for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border in a must-pass government funding bill, raising the possibility of a federal government shutdown this week. In a pair of tweets, Trump attacked Democrats for opposing the wall and insisted that Mexico would pay for it “at a later date,” despite his repeated campaign promises not including that qualifier. And top administration officials appeared on Sunday morning news shows to press for wall funding, including White House budget director Mick Mulvaney, who said Trump might refuse to sign a spending bill that does not include any."

Source:
DOCUMENTS OBTAINED BY U.S. INTEL
Putin-Linked Think Tank Developed Plan to Influence U.S. Election
4 days ago
THE LATEST

A Russian government think tank run by Putin loyalists "developed a plan to swing the 2016 U.S. presidential election to Donald Trump and undermine voters’ faith in the American electoral system." Two confidential documents from the Putin-backed Institute for Strategic Studies, obtained by U.S. intelligence, provide "the framework and rationale for what U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded was an intensive effort by Russia to interfere with the Nov. 8 election."

Source:
HELPED WIN FISA APPROVAL
FBI Relied on Dossier Allegations to Monitor Page
5 days ago
THE LATEST

"The FBI last year used a dossier of allegations of Russian ties to Donald Trump's campaign as part of the justification" to monitor Carter Page, who was then a defense adviser to the Trump campaign. "The dossier has also been cited by FBI Director James Comey in some of his briefings to members of Congress in recent weeks."

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login