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Posted at 8:07 AM ET, 12/16/2010

America the pessimistic

By Chris Cillizza

1. Americans are deeply pessimistic about the state of the country and its future, according to a series of new national polls, a negativity that puts politicians in a difficult place as they try to woo voters and keep hold on office.

In the new NBC-Wall Street Journal poll, 63 percent said the country was headed in the wrong direction, the highest number in President Obama's term to date. A similar 67 percent said the country was headed off on the wrong track in a Washington Post/ABC News survey released earlier this week.

New Pew data paints an even darker picture of Americans' views about our current standing -- particularly in regards the economy. Nearly nine in ten Americans say the current economic conditions are either "fair" or "poor" and there is an overwhelming sense that we as a country are losing ground.

Fully 67 percent of the sample said the country was "losing ground" on the budget deficit -- today's expected House vote on the tax cut compromise won't help there -- while 64 percent say ground is being lost on "cost of living". Two thirds (63 percent) said the country is losing ground on the "availability of good-paying jobs" and 58 percent said the same about the "rich-poor gap".

The numbers are startling and make clear the challenge before President Obama -- or any politician -- hoping to convince people that better days are indeed ahead.

Republican pollster Bill McInturff said that the overall pessimism is intertwined with the state of the economy, noting that more people in the NBC/WSJ poll said that the economic recession was the issue that has impacted them most this decade -- more so than even the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. "The only things that would significantly change the right direction number is a substantially better economy or an event like 9/11 that rallied the country," added McInturff.

Barring that, what's a politician to do?

Fred Yang, a Democratic pollster, said consistency is the key to surviving the country's bout with pessimism. "Once [politicians] decide upon the best policy/solutions, they need to spend more time than ever before in making sure the public is invested and are continually kept informed," said Yang. "Leadership is about good government, but it is also about communicating good government effectively."

That sort of constant education effort takes time -- and money out of campaign coffers. But, with Americans seemingly ready to believe the worst about just about everything, it may be an elected official's only path back to office in the coming months and years.

2. Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman (I) is slated to sit down with the new Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chair, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), to discuss his re-election bid.

A source close to Murray said that the incoming DSCC chair is asking all of the members who are up for re-election in 2012 to sit down with her and have a preliminary conversation about their upcoming races.

Lieberman's 2012 plans have been the subject of much speculation given that the he won reelection as an independent after losing a Democratic primary to wealthy businessman Ned Lamont. If Lieberman attempts to run for the Democratic nod this time around, he is almost certain to face a serious challenge.

Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.) has signaled that he's weighing a bid and will make a decision in early 2011. "I certainly think it's worth taking a look at," Courtney told the New London Day. "The 2nd District obviously has a history of being a credible platform for past occupants of the Senate."

Other Democrats eyeing bids against Lieberman include state Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz and Rep. Chris Murphy.

Lieberman has said that all options are on the table when it comes to 2012, including running as a Republican, Democrat or an independent -- or even retiring.

3. Ohio Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown faces an uncertain 2012 reelection bid, according to a new poll from Democratic-leaning automated pollster Public Policy Polling.

The poll shows Brown running even or ahead of all potential Republican opponents, but in no head-to-head matchup does he earn more than 43 percent of the vote - dangerous territory for an incumbent.

Against the man he beat four years ago, former Sen. Mike DeWine, Brown is tied 43 percent to 43 percent. DeWine was elected as the state's attorney general last month.

Against a more likely opponent, Rep. Jim Jordan, Brown leads 43 percent to 35 percent. Much of that has to do, of course, with the fact that nearly three-fourths of voters don't know much about Jordan.

Another rising GOP star, state Auditor and Lt. Gov.-elect Mary Taylor, is in a virtual tie with Brown.

Brown, more so than other Democrats elected in swing states in 2006, has been willing to embrace a series of liberal positions. But on Wednesday, he broke with liberals by voting for President Obama's tax cut compromise - after previously voting against a measure to bring the bill to the floor for a vote.

The Fix last week rated Brown as the fifth most vulnerable senator who is up in 2012.

4. Three more debates were added to the 2012 GOP presidential nominating calendar on Wednesday.

ABC News announced that it will host a New Hampshire debate, with the date still yet to be determined. It joins CNN, which announced Tuesday that it will be holding a debate in the Granite State on June 7. Both of the debates are co-sponsored by WMUR-TV and will be held in Manchester.

Meanwhile, Fox News Channel announced Wednesday that it will host two debates in South Carolina -- one May 5 and one in 2012 before the state's primary.

The Fox debates will be co-hosted by the South Carolina Republican Party. The May debate will be at the Peace Center in Greenville. The location and date for the second debate are yet to be determined.

NBC News previously announced plans to hold a primary debate this spring at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif.

5. Former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel (D) leads the field of Chicago mayoral contenders, although a large swath of voters remains undecided, according to a Chicago Tribune/WGN poll released this week.

Emanuel takes 32 percent in the poll, which surveyed 721 likely voters and had a 3.6-percentage-point margin of error. Thirty percent of those polled said they are undecided.

The rest of the field trails far behind, with no contender other than Emanuel breaking the single digits. Former Chicago Schools Board President Gery Chico (D) and Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.) each take 9 percent, state Sen. James Meeks (D) takes 7 percent, former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun (D) takes 6 percent, Chicago City Clerk Miguel del Valle (D) takes 3 percent and former Sen. Roland Burris (D) takes 2 percent.

The poll is good news for Emanuel ahead of the Feb. 22 contest, although it shows him falling well below the 50-percent-plus-one mark he would need to avoid a runoff.

Emanuel is facing ongoing challenges from several Chicagoans over his residency. He and his wife testified before the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners this week, with the candidate fielding questions for nearly 12 hours on Tuesday.

With Aaron Blake and Felicia Sonmez

By Chris Cillizza  | December 16, 2010; 8:07 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Fix  
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Next: Party-switchers beware: it ain't easy

 
 
 
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