Is compromise overrated?

at 07:33 AM ET, 08/04/2011

In the days leading up to debt deal signed into law by President Obama earlier this week, “compromise” was the watchword.

Americans are “fed up with a town where compromise has become a dirty word,” Obama said in a speech in late July. When the deal was (finally) done, the president said that “leaders of both parties have found their way toward compromise.”

The thinking in the White House — and among most political strategists — was/is that independents, the critical swing voting bloc coveted by both parties heading into 2012, crave compromise, and the best way to win them over was to cut a deal.

Or not.

New polling from USA Today/Gallup and CNN suggests that a majority of independents disapprove of the deal, raising questions about whether compromise is really such a worthy political goal.

In the USA Today/Gallup survey, 50 percent of self-identified independents disapproved of the debt ceiling compromise, while 33 percent approved — numbers worse than the 46 percent disapprove/39 percent approve figure for the compromise among all Americans.

The numbers in the CNN poll were even more tilted against the deal. Sixty-two percent of independents said they disapproved of the compromise legislation, while just 35 percent offered their approval.

The question for political pros is whether we (and they) have been overestimating the general desire for deal-making from independents or whether the protracted fight over the debt ceiling represented a unique set of circumstances that soured independents on compromise in this isolated instance.

Geoff Garin, a longtime Democratic pollster, said that “attitudes about the substance of the deal are totally conflated with peoples’ attitudes about the process for reaching the deal, and independents were completely turned off by the process.”

He added: “Independents want politicians to put political infighting aside and solve problems. They did not perceive this to be occurring on either count in this instance.”

Curt Anderson, a Republican media consultant, called compromise a “media fascination” and dismissed polling conducted in the run-up to the deal that suggested people wanted a deal done; “That will always test well, and it is a complete misread and not at all instructive of anything,” said Anderson.

Anderson, like Garin, insisted that independents (and voters more generally) “want results more than they want compromise.”

All compromises, then, are not created equal. When independents express a desire for politicians to cut deals, what they are really saying is that they want solutions-oriented compromises that they believe are a good thing generally for the country. Compromise for compromise’s sake won’t do.

Compromise, in other words, is overrated. At least at the moment.

The drama at Huntsman HQ: Politico’s Jonathan Martin is out with a must-read look at the drama that led to the departure of presidential candidate Jon Huntsman’s campaign manager last month and the dueling factions in the campaign.

Huntsman family friend David Fischer, who was was recently asked to leave the campaign, dishes to Martin about a staff that is disorganized and carries around lots of tension. Martin points to a “blistering internal feud” that centers around Huntsman’s chief strategist, John Weaver.

“The strategy went wrong. The strategy didn’t work. At least to this day it hasn’t worked,” Fischer said, adding that he wants the blame for a failed campaign to be pinned on the campaign rather than the candidate.

Huntsman’s spokesman, Tim Miller, accused Fischer of blackmailing the campaign and said he was a disgruntled former staffer.

It’s a long read, but a very good one.

Meanwhile, some Huntsmanstrategy memos have leaked.

Wu resigns, special set: Rep. David Wu (D-Ore.) has filed his resignation, paving the way for a special election to replace him.

The special election primary will take place on Nov. 8, with the general election following on Jan. 31 — nearly six months away.

Wu’s resignation was set to take effect at 11:59 p.m. eastern time on Wednesday night. He had previously announced he would resign but stick around to see the debt limit debate to a close.

In the race to replace him, state Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian, state Sen. Suzanne Bonamici and state Rep. Brad Witt are among the top contenders. On the GOP side, 2010 nominee Rob Cornilles announced Wednesday that he will run again.

More trouble for Beshear: A third government employee has come forward alleging pressure to contribute to Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear’s (D) campaign in a story the continues to threaten his previously safe reelection campaign this year.

The new allegation comes from Dennis Gardner, who alleges that his superior at the Office of Highway Safety was fired after refusing twice to contribute to Beshear’s campaign. As with previous allegations, Gardner points the finger squarely at Chuck Geveden, who was then executive director of the Highway Saftey Office and is now a deputy secretary in the Justice Cabinet.

Previously, another government employee issued a list of 13 employees who had been pressured. One of them has verified that account, while others have not.

In Kentucky, it is illegal to target government employees for political contributions unless its part of a broader fundraising strategy.

Fixbits:

Florida Senate candidate Adam Hasner (R) lines up big-name support with state Senate President Mike Haridopolos (R) out of the race.

Obama’s disapproval rises over 50 percent in the Sunshine State, while the Senate GOP field remains very jumbled in a new Quinnipiac poll.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) meets with former ambassador to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad.

Perry last month underwent experimental back surgery involving adult stem cells.

Perry has also reversed his previous position on same-sex marriage, saying he supports a constitutional amendment outlawing it. Previously, he had suggested it was a state’s rights issue.

Huntsman won’t rule out impeachment of Obama over his use of force in Libya.

A new anti-Sarah Palin film will debut in Toronto in September.

Rep. Michele Bachmann’s (R-Minn.) oldest son speaks out on his mother’s campaign.

Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R) gets a conservative primary opponent in the Michigan Senate race.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) joins his dad for a swing across Iowa.

Missouri Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder (R), the state GOP’s likely nominee for governor, takes heat over his tweets.

The tea party group Freedomworks launches a super PAC.

It looks like Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner will stick it out for while.

Must-reads:

Huntsman steps up critiques of rivals” — Sheryl Gay Stolberg, New York Times

Paul over Pawlenty in Ames?” — Reid Wilson, National Journal

Obama fundraising targets very large, very small donors” — T.W. Farnam, Washington Post

Read more on PostPolitics.com

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