With a political war brewing over the effort by Obama and Dems to harnass public anger over gas prices to end subsidies for the oil industry, you’d think these new CNN poll numbers would be somewhat encouraging for Dems.
The CNN poll finds that a sizable majority, 61 percent, think that oil companies deserve a “great deal of blame” for rising gas prices. Twenty seven percent say oil companies deserve “some blame.”
Meanwhile, only 25 percent say Obama’s policies deserve a great deal of blame, and 36 percent say Obama’s policies deserve some blame.
That’s far from a slam dunk for Obama: A majority says Obama deserves a great deal or some blame. But the public seems far more inclined to blame the oil industry.
That seems like favorable terrain for the Dems’ latest move: This week, Senate Dems are likely to hold a vote on ending tax breaks for the oil industry and diverting the resultant savings to deficit reduction. The high levels of public blame directed at the oil industry would seem to make it a ripe target for the Dems’ latest initiative, making it hard for Republicans to oppose it.
But Republicans don’t appear worried by this attack line, and they’re already out denouncing the Dem proposal to end tax breaks for oil companies as a tax hike. Which highlight an underappreciated fact about our politics: Republicans just don’t take this type of polling seriously. Just as in the debate over the Bush tax cuts for the rich — which majorities oppose — Republicans proceed from the assumption that any debate that allows them to accuse Dems of hiking taxes is a likely winner for them. It hands them a simple, concise message and feeds the larger narrative they’re perpetually telling about tax-and-spend Democrats — one that transcends the intricacies of the political skirmish of the moment.
This isn’t to say that Dems shouldn’t pursue this latest attack. I’m just taking a stab at explaining why Republicans are unlikely to shrink before it. If a debate contains the word “tax” in any way, shape or form, Republicans are pretty much always willing to engage.