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Sequester and public opinion? Advantage Obama. (+video)

With just days until the 'sequester' and its automatic spending cuts kicks in, President Obama seems to have the advantage with high poll ratings and a message seen as more compelling.

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Obama, meanwhile, enjoys “his highest favorability ratings since his first year in office,” according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

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“Fully 60 percent of Americans have a favorable impression of Obama in the new poll, up slightly from October but a clear shift in opinion from an election year in which his ratings hovered in the mid-to-low 50s,” the Washington Post reported. “And by 39 percent to 26 percent, the president now has more ‘strongly’ positive ratings than strongly negative reviews, breaking a two-year stretch in which intense opposition was on par with (or higher than) intense support.”

As a result, “Obama holds the upper hand politically over congressional Republicans,” regarding deficit reduction and the sequester, the Pew Research Center and USA Today reported this week. “If there is no deficit deal by March 1, 49 percent say congressional Republicans would be more to blame while just 31 percent would mostly blame President Obama.”

Much of this no doubt has to do with how the message is portrayed.

“One of the reasons Republicans are faring so badly these days is that the Democratic narrative, presented most persuasively and effectively by the White House, plays more easily into the national media’s preference for dramatic stories that evoke emotional responses,” writes Stuart Rothenberg in Roll Call.

Thus, does Obama make his pitch in front of a group of first responders, asking if they – or teachers, or Border Patrol agents, or air traffic controllers – should be laid off “to protect a special interest loophole.”

“Television covers this narrative better than it covers the Republican message, which is that the nation’s deficit and debt are at unsustainable levels and cannot go on increasing without profound economic consequences that will hurt all Americans eventually,” Mr. Rothenberg writes.

“We raised taxes last time, and we aren’t going to do it again” is not a compelling message, he writes. “Until Republicans figure out a way to re-fashion the political debate and present their vision in a more compelling way – which means telling stories that evoke strong emotions in average people – the White House and Democrats in Congress will continue to have the advantage.”

On PBS’s The Newshour Friday evening, conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks agreed.

“I personally think the likely loser in this is the Republicans,” he said. “Unfortunately, when they embrace [the sequester], they are embracing a piece of legislation that makes no distinction between good government and bad government. It just cuts randomly across the board, and, worse, doesn't even cut the things that actually create the debt problem, which is the entitlement programs. So, to me, this is both a substantive and political serious problem for Republicans.”  

RECOMMENDED: Sequester 101: What happens if $85 billion in cuts hit on March 1


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