REPUBLICAN Party chairman Haley Barbour says bad economic policies, not expensive haircuts, are dragging down President Clinton's popularity with voters.
"I don't think P.T. Barnum can sell this program," says Mr. Barbour, referring to Mr. Clinton's $1.5 billion economic package now before Congress.
The president's budget includes sharply higher taxes on people who earn over $100,000 a year, and increased energy taxes which will cost a typical family about $400 a year.
Mr. Barbour, a lawyer/lobbyist who took over the GOP in January, says the proposed $71.5 billion rise in energy taxes is particularly irritating for the country's middle class, which was promised a tax cut during the presidential campaign.
Barbour, who spoke with reporters at a Monitor breakfast yesterday, says he opposes all tax increases - a position shared by most GOP members of Congress.
The chairman says Clinton's slumping popularity could help Republicans this weekend, when Texans vote on their next US senator.
The Republican candidate, state treasurer Kay Bailey Hutchison, is heavily favored over interim Sen. Bob Krueger, a Democrat.
Barbour says the president's "tax and spend" budget is acting like a "ball and chain" on Senator Krueger's campaign.
With the next election cycle about to begin, Barbour says Democrats are growing anxious about Clinton's repeated calls for new taxes.
That's why Congress will delay action on the president's health care plan, which could include taxes increases of as much as $150 billion to $200 billion, he says.