* Hopelessly trapped in a Beltway Deficit Feedback Loop: Last night, President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner gave dueling speeches about the debt ceiling standoff and the deficit, and the papers are widely portraying the oratorical standoff between the two men as a moment of high Beltway drama. Mano a mano! Toe to toe! An epic clash of visions!
But what if the public is tuning out this debate and doesn’t care about any of it, and is mainly concerned with the economy and jobs?
It’s become a cliche to say it, but new polling released by the Post seems to show — again — that Washington’s obsession with the deficit, at the expense of job creation, is doing nothing to help Obama’s standing on the all-important issue of the economy, where the President continues to slip.
The poll finds that the number who say Obama made the economy worse is up to 37 percent since October, a period during which the Beltway conversation has focused almost entirely on debt and “grand bargains” and voters have not heard lawmakers talking enough about jobs. Only 29 percent say Obama has made the economy better. Economic pessimism is soaring, with 90 percent saying the economy is not doing well, and a near record number say jobs are hard to find in their area.
Has the President been meaningfully rewarded for the focus on the deficit? Unclear. Approval of his handling of the deficit is up five points, but it remains mired at 38 percent, and disapproval of Obama on the deficit is running at the same heights it was a month ago, at 60 percent. (The numbers on the deficit were previously released, but are newly relevant.)
Yes, voters tell pollsters they care about the deficit. But tellingly, Obama’s disapproval numbers on the economy and deficit are almost identical — suggesting yet again that disapproval on the deficit may merely be a proxy for economic dissatisfaction.
* Obama’s numbers are still better than GOP’s: Still, the White House can take comfort from the fact that Obama outperforms the GOP on jobs (65 percent disapprove of the GOP, versus only 52 percent who disapprove of Obama) and even on the deficit (68 percent disapprove of the GOP).
* And public still blames Bush: No matter how many times the right tries to wish this one away, an astonishing 57 percent continue to say Bush’s policies made the economy worse — 20 points higher than the number who say the same about Obama.
* Economy hurting Obama with his base? Another striking number: The number of liberal Dems who strongly support Obama’s perormance on jobs has dropped a precipitous 22 points, from 53 percent to 31 percent. This supports the argument that any problems Obama has with his base — real or imagined — are likely the result of the economy rather than anything else.
* Obama’s speech hammers Bush, appeals to the center: E.J. Dionne generally liked the President’s speech last night, particularly the fact that Obama placed the blame for deficits squarely on Bush, but he also notes that new revenues have now receded into the background and the speech was fundamentally coming from the center, another sign of how far to the right the debate has shifted.
While Obama’s speech may be more appealing to middle-of-the-road voters, Boehner’s speech, by contrast, seemed designed to appeal to the far right.
* Obama struck “populist” tone, but also echoed Hoover: An interesting, if counterintuitive, take on the speech from John Judis, who hears echoes of both populism and Herbert Hover in the President’s remarks.
* Boehner’s speech laced with distortions: As Steve Stromberg notes, one of Boehner’s signature lines in last night’s speech — Obama is asking for “a blank check” — has nothing whatsoever in common with what the President has actually proposed.
* How do you combat an adversary who won’t stop lying? Joan Walsh on Obama’s primary challenge: Going up against a foe who is perfectly willing to lie and move the goal posts at will, in service of the all important goal of keeping the Tea Party happy.
* Will Senate Dems agree to pass Boehner plan? The latest on the debt ceiling impasse: Despite all the public noise of opposition to Boehner’s proposal, which would cut spending and raise the debt ceiling in two stages, Dem aides confide that they are quietly working with Mitch McConnell to modify the Boehner proposal, in order to make it possible to pass it in the Senate, if necessary.
* The Senate Dems’ plan is better than the GOP plan: The Post editorial board boils down the difference: One would hold a gun to the head of the economy in the future, and the other wouldn’t.
* Elite opinion turns on GOP: The New York Times editorial board flatly accuses the GOP of actively trying to promote government dysfunction for political reasons, the consequences be damned.
* Obama holds edge over GOP: To the degree that the public cares about the debt ceiling and the deficit, a new National Journal poll finds that a plurality of Americans trusts Obama more than Republicans to handle both those issues.
* And yes, one party is more to blame than the other: Dana Milbank puts it very politely, but he gets there: The problem isn’t “Washington.” It’s Tea Party Republicans in the House.
What else is happening?