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More conservatives plead with GOP to abandon debt-ceiling ultimatum

Congressional Republicans are still threatening to refuse to raise the debt ceiling – but the stance is causing growing anxiety for many within the GOP.

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Likewise, Tuesday, The Financial Times's Stephanie Kirchgaessner reported that the conservative activist group Americans for Prosperity – backed by the billionaire Koch brothers – also came out in favor of raising the debt ceiling, with a sharp warning that Republicans were losing the messaging battle. Tim Phillips, president of AFP told the paper: "We're saying calibrate your message. Focus on overspending instead of long-term debt."

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Correspondent

Liz Marlantes covers politics for the Monitor and is a regular contributor to the Monitor's political blog, DC Decoder.

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And the conservative New Hampshire Union Leader editorial page called the debt ceiling the "right fight [at the] wrong time," writing: "The trouble with forcing that standoff is that Republicans cannot win it. Obama will stand firm, and they will have to flinch or shut down the government. Either way, Obama wins and Republicans lose more credibility, which makes it harder to force a showdown on spending on more favorable ground in the future."

The rapidly multiplying calls from conservative groups for the GOP to back down and pick a different fight may have been influenced in part by comments Tuesday from the head of a top credit-rating firm that a repeat of 2011's standoff would lead to the US rating being placed under review, with a "material risk" of being downgraded. 

Politically, there are clear indications Republicans are already losing the PR war, with polls showing that the public is broadly siding with the president's position. According to a new ABC News/Washington Post poll, 58 percent of Americans believe that the debt ceiling should be handled separately from the debate over spending cuts, while only 36 percent favor linking the two, as House Speaker John Boehner has demanded. (Mr. Boehner has called for a dollar in spending cuts for every dollar in increased borrowing authority.) And only 22 percent said they'd be willing to let the government default on its debt or have the government partially shut down if an agreement can't be reached.

If party leaders haven't already figured out an escape hatch from this mess, we'd imagine they're looking for one now. 

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