Pundits watching the current political campaigns note many advantages that Republicans have going into November: the President’s party usually loses seats in its first mid-term, the Democrat’s majority is so larger that there are many vulnerable members, and Obama voters who were so enthusiastic in 2008 are almost inevitably disappointed and less likely to mobilize to vote.
Yet the biggest advantage of all is with the issues. As National Review’s Ramesh Ponnuru highlights, a new survey shows that voters, including a majority of Independent voters, lean toward the conservative position on key issues. He writes:
By a five-point margin, they [voters surveyed] think that the government is trying to do too many things. They are extremely concerned about federal spending. Asked whether the government should spend more to boost the economy or less to reduce the deficit, voters break 59–34 for less spending. By a slightly smaller margin, they think that the stimulus was a waste of money. In both cases, Democratic voters are out of step with a Republican-and-independent consensus.
Fifty-three percent of independents join 89 percent of Republicans in opposing “the health care reform plan that Congress passed recently.” Much of that opposition is intense: 42 percent of independents and 81 percent of Republicans called themselves “strongly opposed.” Voters expect the legislation to raise taxes, premiums, and the deficit; a plurality also expects it to reduce the quality of care. Given three options — leave the legislation in place, amend and modify it, or replace and repeal it — voters split 22–37–35.
On some emerging economic issues, however, a conservative consensus includes a plurality of Democrats. Asked whether they think it is good or bad that federal pay exceeds private-sector pay, 62 percent of voters said it was a bad thing and only 19 percent a good one. A new value-added tax was unpopular across the board: Voters panned it by a 67–21 percent margin, with only 31 percent of Democrats approving.
Another poll, highlighted in this post on Bankrupting America, found that while Americans are concerned about rising government debt, they don’t believe that tax hikes are the answer. As Bankrupting America writes:
According to the survey, less than one in five voters is willing to pay more taxes to lower the federal budget deficit. That’s probably because two-thirds of Americans believe that the country is already over-taxed, and more than eight in ten believe that the federal deficit is the result of politicians overspending, not a lack of tax revenue.
Americans are also skeptical that politicians will really pay down the debt if they get additional tax revenue. Rasmussen reports that 58 percent of voters think that even if the president and Congress raise taxes to reduce the deficit, Washington is more likely to spend the money on new government programs than to actual pay down the debt.
This is the real asset Republicans have going into November. Democrats will be trying to refashion their record so that they can plausibly claim to be fiscally responsible or even conservative. Few voters will buy it. Republicans on the other hand can stick to core conservative principles and know that good policy will also be good politics.