POLITICS
08/04/2011 02:18 pm ET Updated Oct 04, 2011

DNC Memo: Political Pundits Got Debt Ceiling Scorecard Wrong

WASHINGTON -- The rush to frame the winners and losers in the debt ceiling deal stands in stark contrast to the protracted negotiations over the debt ceiling themselves. On Thursday afternoon, the Democratic National Committee engaged once again, issuing a memo arguing that political pundits got their analyses wrong when they deemed the final result a win for the Republicans.

"The fact is, since President Obama reached a debt and deficit compromise with Republicans over the weekend, CNN and Gallup polls show that a hefty majority of Democrats and Liberals support the deal while a hefty majority of Republicans, and particularly the all-important Tea Party Republicans, oppose it," says the memo, authored by DNC Executive Director Patrick Gaspard and sent to The Huffington Post. "If you’re waiting for the rush of stories, columns and blogs with the inside the beltway intelligentsia admitting they missed the mark on this – don’t hold your breath. The very folks who rush to judgment on these things are rarely in a rush to admit they were wrong."

Going through the actual polling data -- which showed that two-thirds of Republicans and conservatives opposed the deal while a majority of Democrats and liberals approved of it -- Gaspard argues that reporters were basing their assumptions on either faulty or uninformed insight.

"The numbers show that while Democrats and liberals supported the President’s commitment to reaching a fair compromise, Republicans and Conservatives overwhelmingly opposed compromise," the memo concludes. "Of course this should be of little surprise. Poll after poll during the course of this discussion showed that Democrats by large margins favored compromise while the vast majority of Republicans opposed any compromise with Democrats whatsoever."

This is, in some ways, a replay of the debate that transpired following a deal to avert a government shutdown this past spring. Republican lawmakers were able to secure cuts they sought. But when the final deal was analyzed, and those cuts proved to be smaller than advertised, the conventional wisdom changed.

In the end, it was the disappointment with that resolution that compelled Republican leadership to push for even steeper cuts in the debt ceiling deal. And it will be telling how House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) internalize their party's current disappointments in future budget negotiations. McConnell has already insisted that a new template has been created for any future debt ceiling increase. More immediate will be the consideration of a new continuing resolution to fund the government at the end of September.

Republicans may very well feel the need to throw another bone to the party's more conservative members. But House Democrats are already insisting they won't budge as they have in the past.

"You won't see a repetition of last week, taking us to the last minute," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told bloggers and online reporters during a briefing on Thursday. "A default is a much more serious consequence than a government shutdown."

Here is Gaspard's full memo:

From: Patrick Gaspard, DNC Executive Director To: The DNC Family and Interested Parties Date: August 4, 2011 Subj: Shocker: Washington Pundits Got the Debt Fight Fallout Wrong _____________________________________________________________________________________ The subject line of this memo aside, anyone who has followed Washington in recent years won’t be a bit surprised to find out that it is a town which rushes to judgment, has a pack mentality and makes declarations of winners and losers without regard to the facts. There is no better recent example of this than this past Sunday when supposed details of the debt and deficit deal reached between Congressional Democrats and Republicans and President Obama began to leak from “anonymous” sources. Then one or two supposedly wired journalists tweet their reaction and begin making declarations of which side won and which side lost and which party’s supporters will be pleased and which will be enraged. In this case – certainly, certainly the conventional wisdom was that the Republicans won and the Democrats lost and Republicans partisans would be euphoric while Democratic partisans would be in the dumps. Fortunately, we don’t have to depend only on the rush to judgment of a small cadre of Washington-based pundits and activists making their assessments off of one-sided leaks and spin – there is a thing called public opinion that we can look to for a more accurate portrayal. The fact is, since President Obama reached a debt and deficit compromise with Republicans over the weekend, CNN and Gallup polls show that a hefty majority of Democrats and Liberals support the deal while a hefty majority of Republicans, and particularly the all-important Tea Party Republicans, oppose it. If you’re waiting for the rush of stories, columns and blogs with the inside the beltway intelligentsia admitting they missed the mark on this – don’t hold your breath. The very folks who rush to judgment on these things are rarely in a rush to admit they were wrong. So, despite the conventional wisdom on Sunday about how this plan would be perceived, actual public opinion shows a very different story.
  • Gallup: Nearly Two-Thirds Of Republicans And Conservatives Oppose The Deal. “The results are reversed on the other side, with large majorities of Republicans (64 percent) and conservatives (64 percent) expressing disapproval.” [Huffington Post, 8/3/11]
  • Gallup: Majority Of Democrats And Liberals Approve Of The Deal. “According to the Gallup poll, a majority of Democrats (58 percent) and liberals (51 percent) approve of the deal, although significant minorities of both groups express disapproval (28 and 35 percent respectively).” [Huffington Post, 8/3/11]
  • CNN Poll: 58 Percent Of Republicans Disapprove Of The Deal. According to a recent CNN/ORC poll, 58 percent of Republicans disapprove of the deal compared to 35 percent who support it. [CNN, 8/2/11]
  • CNN: 63 Percent Of Democrats Approve Deal. According to a recent CNN/ORC poll, 63 percent of Democrats approve of the deal compared to 32 percent who disapprove it. [CNN, 8/2/11]
The numbers show that while Democrats and liberals supported the President’s commitment to reaching a fair compromise, Republicans and Conservatives overwhelmingly opposed compromise. Of course this should be of little surprise. Poll after poll during the course of this discussion showed that Democrats by large margins favored compromise while the vast majority of Republicans opposed any compromise with Democrats whatsoever. Of course, the post agreement reaction to the deal from Democrats isn’t just a function of their willingness to compromise, but is also a function of the agreement itself. The fact is, there is a lot about this agreement for Democrats to like. First, the agreement prevented the nation from defaulting on our debt for the first time in our nation’s history and it guarantees that Republicans cannot hold our economy hostage again over the next 18 months with the threat of a catastrophic default hanging over our heads. Importantly, the agreement also protected important investments in America’s future, including aid for college students, and it guaranteed that Social Security, Medicare benefits, and Medicaid would not be gutted to pay for deficit reduction. Finally, the agreement set out a process by which America can get its fiscal house in order – not by balancing the budget on the backs of the middle class, but by coming to a balanced agreement that includes revenue-increasing tax reforms. But even beyond what the agreement included, Democrats are undoubtedly buoyed by what it didn’t. The agreement moved the needle very far from where this debate started with the House GOP just a few short months ago – ending Medicare and slashing critical programs for education, job creation and the poor. In essence, this agreement was a stinging defeat for the Ryan/House Republican Budget approach and was also a thorough rejection of the GOP’s so called “Cut, Cap and Balance” plan which was simply the Tea Party version of the Ryan plan on steroids. This is not to suggest that this agreement was perfect or that Democrats view it that way. But in a world where GOP Presidential candidates are failing the leadership test by following the extreme wing of the GOP and the Senate Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell says our nation’s debt ceiling is, “a hostage that’s worth ransoming”, a compromise that protected Medicare and Social Security and averted a debt crisis was a win. And according to CNN and Gallup, a majority of Democrats and Liberals agree.