Americans to Washington: Don’t tread on me

February 1, 2013

Americans have a very special message for the federal government: Don't tread on me.


That's the takeaway from a new poll from the Pew Research Center in which, for the first time in at least the last two decades, a majority of Americans say Washington actually poses a threat to their "personal rights and freedoms."

And it's not just tea party supporters, Republicans and gun owners.

Nearly two-fifths of Democrats (38 percent) say the government is a threat to them personally, as do 45 percent of non-gun owners.

Overall, the percentage of Americans who view the federal government as a threat has increased from 36 percent in May 1995 to 53 percent today. It rose late in the 1990s and then dropped again after 9/11, down to 30 percent.


Today, most Americans now feel at least somewhat scared of what the government could  do to them, and 31 percent see Washington as a "major threat."

This is an important piece of data to keep in mind as Congress debates new gun legislation. While polls show broad support for expanding background checks and limiting the manufacture and sale of certain types of so-called assault weapons, the flip side of that is that many Americans are wary of their government going too far in restricting their constitutional rights -- be it on guns or anything else.

And if gun rights supporters can convince the public (and members of Congress) that the legislation creates a too-powerful federal government that impinges on people's rights and freedoms, they may help reverse their early deficit in the polls.

The American public is very receptive to such a message.

DNC has huge debt; RNC has none: Thursday was the deadline for political candidates and committees to file their year-end financial reports. So now we've got a good sense for what kind of financial shape the parties find themselves in as the 2014 election cycle officially began.

A few highlights:

* President Obama's campaign committee, which is becoming a nonprofit group, had $3.3 million in cash and $5.9 million in debt.

* The Democratic National Committee had $4.3 million in cash and $21.4 million in debt after struggling to raise funds down the stretch in 2012. The RNC, meanwhile, had $4.7 million cash on hand and no debt.

* In the House, the picture is more even. The National Republican Congressional Committee (House Republicans) had $1.5 million cash on hand and $12 million in debt -- very similar to its Democratic counterpart's $1.5 million in cash and $13.5 million in debt.

* Newt Gingrich still has $4.7 million in debt, including $650,000 owed to himself. He paid off about $250,000 worth of debt in the fourth quarter of 2012.

* The pro-Romney super PAC Restore Our Future has $1.3 million in cash left over.

* Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) starts her Senate campaign with $1.6 million cash on hand.

GOP poll show Begich leading: Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska), who will undoubtedly be one of the GOP's top targets in 2014, leads all comers in a new poll from GOP automated pollster Harper Polling -- except one.

The only Republican who leads Begich is Gov. Sean Parnell, a popular incumbent who isn't expected to run for Senate. He leads Begich 46 percent to 40 percent.

In other matchups, Begich starts with an edge. He leads former governor Sarah Palin 47-40, Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell 44-34, and 52-29 against 2010 GOP nominee Joe Miller.

Palin and Miller, notably, suffer from very poor favorable ratings. Despite the state's red lean, Palin is viewed favorably by just 34 percent of voters and unfavorably by 60 percent. Miller's split is even worse, at 21 percent favorable and 56 percent favorable. Miller is considered a potential Senate candidate.

Treadwell is the only candidate among the four who has actually moved toward a campaign, though. His deficit against Begich is owed at least in part to his low name ID; nearly half of voters don't know him well enough to rate his favorability.

In a GOP primary field including all four Republicans, Parnell leads at 32 percent, followed by Palin at 27, Treadwell at 14 and Miller at 12.

Begich has a 48-39 favorable-unfavorable split.

Fixbits:

A new poll of the Massachusetts special election shows former senator Scott Brown (R-Mass.) starts out with a big 53-31 lead on Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.).

The Senate has joined the House in temporarily suspending the debt limit.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) says Republican party leaders shouldn't have lengthened the presidential primary process, calling it "the stupidest thing the Republican Party ever did.”

Geraldo Rivera says he's serious about running for Sen. Frank Lautenberg's (D-N.J.) Senate seat as a Republican.

Must-reads:

"Senator Has Long Ties to Donor Under Scrutiny" -- Raymond Hernandez and Frances Robles, New York Times

"The 5 most memorable moments of the Chuck Hagel hearing (VIDEO)" -- Rachel Weiner, Washington Post

"Chris Christie, volcanic politics and Election 2016" -- George F. Will, Washington Post

"Citizenship question roils both parties as immigration debate gets underway" -- Peter Wallsten and Rosalind S. Helderman, Washington Post

"Study Puts ‘Cost’ to Landing Embassy Post" -- Nicholas Confessore, New York Times

Correction: This post initially misstated Capito's cash on hand.

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix.
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Sean Sullivan · January 31, 2013