This morning, top Romney surrogate John Sununu defended Mitt Romney’s declaration that we don’t need more cops, firefighters or teachers, arguing Romney had it right on the substance and the politics.
“If there's fewer kids in the classroom, the taxpayers really do want to hear that there’s fewer teachers — absolutely,” Sununu said, adding that there is “wisdom” in Romney’s comments.
It’s unclear how to evaluate Sununu’s claim, given the caveat about having “fewer kids in the classroom.” But Romney himself, in delivering his now-infamous comments, suggested that the American people didn’t support hiring more cops, firefighters or teachers.
So now that this has become a central issue in the campaign, what do Americans think of the idea of sending aid to states to protect the jobs of teachers and first responders?
Turns out we have polling on this question — and the idea is popular.
Way back in the mists of ancient history, when Obama proposed the American Jobs Act, pollsters took the judicious step of polling its individual provisions. The relevant findings:
* A CNN poll in October of 2011 found that 75 percent of Americans supported “providing federal money to state governments to allow them to hire teachers and first responders,” including 72 percent of independents.
* A New York Times/CBS poll in September of 2011 found that 52 percent, and 51 percent of independents, think it’s a “good idea” to “provide money to state governments to avoid layoffs.”
* A National Journal poll at around the same time found that 70 percent thought “providing funds to state and local governments to prevent layoffs of teachers, police officers, and other first responders” would be “very effective” or “somewhat effective” in creating more jobs.
By the way, this needn’t be just about political positioning. On a conference call just now, Obama adviser Stephanie Cutter called for another Senate vote on this provision of the American Jobs Act. “We absolutely want a vote,” she said. The next question: Whether Senate Dems will hold that vote and whether they’ll look for a new way to pay for it, other than the surtax on income over $1 million that Republicans refuse to support. This could get even more interesting now.
Republicans have been claiming today that Obama’s call for more federal aid to protect these jobs proves that he’s doubling down on more “government,” as opposed to government jobs, to fix the economy. If that’s the case, the above polling suggests majorities support more “government” to fix the economy, too.
One of the public opinion dynamics that has bedeviled Obama throughout his first term is that Americans have been skeptical of his overall proposals — such as Obamacare and the American Jobs Act — even as they support many of the individual provisions in these proposals. Another way to look at Romney’s comments about cops, firefighters and teachers is that they are reframing the argument as one over a specific job creation idea the public clearly supports, which is why the Obama campaign is so eager for this debate to continue.