With President Obama set to deliver the State of the Union speech tonight, a consensus appears to have formed among the punditocracy that he is enjoying something of a recovery in the polls. Yesterday’s WaPo/ABC poll put his approval at 50 percent — up seven points since October. Today’s NBC/WSJ poll puts it at 46 percent — his highest rating since the 2013 government shutdown — with 49 percent approving of his handling of the economy.
It’s too early to say whether Obama is really in the midst of a sustained recovery. But one thing that will be worth watching is whether positive feelings about the economy — and about Obama — boost support for his individual initiatives, particularly those which Republicans are criticizing most bitterly, and whether they scramble the political landscape more generally.
For example: the new WaPo poll finds Americans support Obama’s proposal to subsidize community college by 53-44.
And the new NBC/WSJ poll finds:
— Americans support the effort to normalize relations with Cuba by 60-30.
— Americans support Obama’s executive action on deportations by 52-44. (In fairness, the WaPo poll is mixed on this, with 50 percent saying some executive actions are justified but 56 percent saying Congress should block this one.)
— A majority of Americans, 55 percent, say Republicans in Congress have been “too stubborn” in dealing with Obama, while only 39 percent say they have gotten the balance right or been too compromising. By contrast, the public is split on how Obama has dealt with Republicans.
You’d think that such findings would complicate the ongoing GOP argument that Obama’s executive actions — and his offering of proposals that Republicans won’t support (such as the community college plan) — supposedly show that he is not heeding the will of the electorate, as expressed in the 2014 elections (the only recent elections that matter). But they won’t complicate that argument in the least. That’s because, even if Obama’s recovery does continue — and even if the overall public supports some of his individual initiatives — what will probably matter most to Republicans in Congress is that rank-and-file GOP voters will continue to demand minimum compromise and maximum resistance.
After all, the WaPo poll finds that 74 percent of Republicans oppose Obama’s community college proposal. And the good folks at NBC tell me their poll also shows that:
— Though a majority of Americans see Republicans as “too stubborn,” a plurality of Republicans, 42 percent, think Congressional Republicans have been too willing to compromise with Obama.
— Though a majority of Americans support it, a huge majority of Republicans, 76 percent, oppose Obama’s executive action on deportations.
— Though a majority of Americans support it, a plurality of Republicans, 48 percent, oppose the normalization of relations with Cuba.
So it’s hard to imagine that Obama’s recovery — if it continues — will alter the basic dynamic here all that much.
UPDATE: I noted above that a plurality of Republicans — 42 percent — think the Congressional GOP is too compromising with Obama. Here’s another key number shared by the good people at NBC: A plurality of Democrats say Obama has got the balance towards the GOP just right, while only 27 percent of them say he is too compromising.
In other words, GOP voters appear far less inclined to see their leaders compromise than do Democratic voters.
* OBAMA TO TURN PAGE AWAY FROM AUSTERITY: Peter Baker reports on the White House’s thinking about tonight’s speech: With the recovery gaining momentum and Obama’s numbers improving, the economic and deficit crisis is behind us, and it is now time to turn attention to ensuring that the recovery’s gains are broadly shared. White House adviser Dan Pfeiffer:
“The improving economy is the backdrop for the speech and context for the economic debate over the next two years. We have proof that President Obama’s strategy is working, and the Republicans now have a Chicken Little problem — all the doom and gloom they predicted did not come to pass.”
The question is whether (if the economy and Obama’s numbers continue recovering) Republicans will feel any pressure to respond with ideas of their own to address wage stagnation. It’s perfectly possible the falling deficit and improving economy will not alter their agenda and reading of reality in the slightest.
* REPUBLICANS TO DENOUNCE ‘CLASS WARFARE’: Also in the above story, this response to Obama’s proposals to boost taxes on the very wealthy to pay for cutting them on the middle class, from GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger, will be representative:
“I see this as the president returning to the theme of class warfare. It may have been effective in 2012, but I don’t find it to be effective anymore. I think, frankly, he’s out of ideas if he is unwilling to work with Republicans, and I think he is unwilling to work with Republicans.”
As always, the 2012 outcomes have zero significance in terms of public preferences, while the 2014 contests delivered The Last Word on What America Wants, which means Obama must now “work with Republicans” by refraining from proposing anything that might make them the least bit politically uncomfortable.
* REPUBLICANS TO CRITICIZE EVERYTHING IN SPEECH: Politico has a fun look at all of the various criticisms Republicans are already throwing at Obama’s coming speech: There’s the claim he has not reached out to them; the suggestion he needs to be more like Bill Clinton; and the assertion that he needs to utter the words “radical Islam” more. And:
“He seems to be doubling down on his policies,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham…“I expect a laundry list that extends further than he’s ever done in a speech that lasts longer than the last,” said Sen. Richard Burr.
In his speech, the President is going to propose policies! What impudence!
* INSIDE TEAM HILLARY’S DELIBERATION: Ann Gearan has a useful peek inside the deliberations underway among Hillary Clinton and her top advisers as she mulls how to avoid the mistakes that doomed her 2008 bid. This is key:
Backers say this time Clinton is developing a smarter, more relevant campaign message focused on economic opportunity and her lifelong work to better women’s lives…She is also holding policy discussions focused on the economic setbacks facing the middle class and working women and on how to shape solutions that are digestible in a campaign speech.
Early indications are that Clinton will seek to assemble a coalition comprised of Obama voter groups — millennials, minorities, socially liberal upscale whites — and white working class women.
* A LEFT-RIGHT ALLIANCE AGAINST TRADE DEALS? Politico raises an interesting prospect: Tea Partyers might be joining with liberals to block the trade deals that the White House is negotiating, with both sides opposing a grant of “fast track” negotiating authority to Obama that could diminish Congress’ role in overseeing the details of the deals before voting on them. This may well split the Democratic Party in a far higher profile way before long.
This year, the fact that Republicans tapped Sen. Joni Ernst for the party’s official response seemingly negated the need for competing conservative voices – Ernst is, after all, one of the most frighteningly right-wing senators in a generation. Why bother with a Tea Party response if the Republican address will be delivered by arguably the most radical voice in the Senate?
I’ll be interesting to see just how different the Tea Party and “mainstream” Republican responses are.