Republicans are furiously trying to spin the administration’s “scandals” into political gold, but it’s unclear whether Americans are taking the bait. As Greg pointed out this morning, a new Gallup poll finds only a slim majority of Americans who are “closely following” the Benghazi and Internal Revenue Service scandals. A large plurality are either not following closely, or not paying attention at all.
There’s a predictable partisan split to the findings. When Gallup breaks the poll down by party affiliation, it finds incredibly high interest in the scandals among Republicans (67 percent say they are following the IRS situation, and 66 percent say the same for Benghazi), moderate interest among self-identified independents (55 percent and 52 percent, respectively), and relatively low interest among Democrats (40 percent and 45 percent, respectively). The numbers are similar when it comes to the percentage of Americans who think Congress should investigate the situations, 71 percent of Republicans say the IRS scandal involves “serious matters that need to be investigated,” compared 57 percent of independents and 42 percent of Democrats.
In other words, if there’s any intensity of interest in the two scandals, it’s coming from Republicans. Which, perhaps, is why President Obama’s approval rating hasn’t changed much since all three came into the news late last week. Gallup finds Obama with a 48 percent approval rating, a slight decline from his 50 percent approval rating before the scandals entered Washington’s view. Likewise, Rasmussen finds Obama with an identical approval rating, although with higher disapproval (51 percent).
As time progresses and these scandals begin to die down, the odds that Republicans will capture some advantage diminish. Moreover, there’s a chance this scandal fever will backfire and harm the GOP’s standing. Already, Republican officials are warning against scandal overreach, and conservative elites are warning that these controversies — even if they’re substantive — aren’t a substitute for an actual plan to govern. “Democratic scandal does not take the place of a Republican agenda,” writes the National Review, “a purely negative message, however justified, will not produce the governing majority Republicans should be aiming for in the next two elections.”
Republicans should heed this message, because it’s exactly correct. Odds are good Americans won’t remember this eighteen months from now, and so — instead of trying to keep it floating as long as possible — Republicans should work to offer a real, workable policy agenda alternative to the public. As evidenced by the current impasse over immigration and the budget, it’s clear that the GOP still has a lot of work to do on that front.