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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.

By Staff writer / February 23, 2013

President Barack Obama speaks about the sequester as he stands with emergency responders, a group of workers the White House says could be affected if state and local governments lose federal money as a result of budget cuts.

Charles Dharapak/AP

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A batch of recent headlines gives an indication of where things stand in the Obama-Republican face-off over sequestration and the automatic government spending cuts that could kick in next Friday.

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Correspondent Liz Marlantes with insights into the politics behind the impending spending cuts.

“GOP losing sequester blame game”

Democrats' Economic Narrative Still Trumps GOP's”

“Poll: President Obama approval highest since '09”

“President Obama’s popularity surges to three-year high”

“Congress Approval Holding Steady at 15 percent.”

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

Polls and pundits aren’t everything, of course. Most Americans this weekend likely are far more interested in Sunday night’s Oscar extravaganza.

And most would likely agree with Atlantic associate editor Matthew O'Brien when he writes – with as much truth as irony – on the magazine’s web site: “There is nothing more tedious in the world today than the sequester. The word itself sounds like a prescription sleeping aid.” There is, after all the gnashing of teeth over the “fiscal cliff” last month, a bit of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” here for most people.

Still, if the sequester kicks in, thousands of federal workers could be furloughed, some national park programs could be curtailed, and things could be “very painful for the flying public,” as Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood warned Friday.

The sequester no doubt will dominate the Sunday morning TV news shows as Republicans and Democrats angle for rhetorical advantage over the sequester’s $85 billion in budget cuts this fiscal year, split evenly between defense and non-defense programs.

At the moment, that advantage seems to be with President Obama and the White House. Just to flesh out those headlines cited above….

Bloomberg News put it starkly this week: “President Barack Obama enters the latest budget showdown with Congress with his highest job-approval rating in three years and public support for his economic message, while his Republican opponents’ popularity stands at a record low.”

Specifically, 55 percent of those polled by Bloomberg last week approve of Obama’s performance in office, his strongest level of support since September 2009. But only 35 percent have a favorable view of the Republican Party, the lowest rating over the same period. The GOP’s brand slipped six percentage points in the last six months, the poll shows.

Asked who is more to blame for “what’s gone wrong” in Washington, those surveyed picked Republicans over Obama 43-34 percent.

Similarly, Gallup finds public approval of Congress – just 15 percent – is “at the low end of the historical spectrum.” It’s not great news for either party, but Democrats have a slight edge in public approval – 19 percent to 12 percent for the GOP.

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