I've just been reading the wealth of material Democracy Corps and Women's Voice. Women Vote just released on a new poll they did. The numbers are pretty incredible on the extent of damage the Ryan-Romney budget is doing to the Republican Party.
When you read the shortest description of that budget, one that just describes it as a budget that cuts spending, it still loses 41-42. That is a stunning number, because voters have always supported budget cutting in general -- it is only when you get specific that people have qualms. All you have to do is say Ryan's name and one of the most popular generic phrases in American history loses. Wow. But as the questions keep rolling, the terrible numbers keep building. Read a neutral paragraph-long description of the budget's most important provisions, using some of Ryan's own language to describe the main provisions, it loses 34-56. That, too, is astonishing given that the Republican base vote is in the mid-40s. Start making specific arguments both for and against the budget, people move even more against it, and after hearing the full pro and con debate, they swing a dramatic 9 points against Republican candidates in general.
There are many caveats and reasons to stay cautious about the election results. With the economy as bad as it has been the last four years, voters aren't exactly jumping up and down to support the incumbent president's party. The Republicans tend to be a lot better than Democrats at both framing their arguments, repeating their poll tested lines over and over, and distracting people from thinking about things that hurt the GOP. Some of their lines, like the absurd notion they keep repeating that they are making these changes in Medicare and Medicaid only to save them, are factually ridiculous but capable of appealing to many voters. But even keeping all these cautionary notes in mind, the Ryan budget gives Democrats a huge advantage going into the election battle. It is the gift that keeps on giving, and their right-wing extremist base won't let them take it back. Democrats need to spend the next six months taking their gift and hammering them with it.
The thing I love the most about it, is that it makes this election about a fundamental moral choice. When Ayn Rand, Gordon Gekko, and Rush Limbaugh are your side's philosophers, it makes it very easy to tell a morality tale and have it hit home. When the other side wants to cut health care for Grandma, along with school lunches, Head Start and classroom teachers for your kids, in order to give even more tax cuts for millionaires, it is pretty easy to make the case that the other side is morally bankrupt. You don't have to go to your Bible, as I sometimes like to do, for quotes about right and wrong to know how deeply wrong the Ryan budget is.
I am hoping against hope that Romney remains so freaked out about needing to suck up to his base that he picks Ryan as his Veep. How sweet that would be. But I don't think it will happen, because the Republican pollsters have to be absolutely sweating bullets about the numbers on this turkey. I am guessing that the Romney strategy team is spending a lot of time thinking about how they can distract the media -- and Democrats, who have fallen into their traps before -- from talking about the Ryan plan at all.
One of the things the polling was also pretty clear about was how difficult it will be to motivate segments of the electorate like unmarried women and young people, demographics that Obama won big in 2008, to get out and vote. He also has some persuading to do, especially among young people, as these groups have generally been slammed hard by the economy in recent years. The Ryan budget, if people understand it, will be a great persuader and motivator for these voters -- when they learn more about the details of it in the poll, they are horrified.
In spite of the intense challenges because of the economy, this has the potential to be a great election for Democrats, and for progressives. In hammering home the arguments as to why the Ryan-Romney budget is morally wrong, mean-spirited, and written for the 1 percent, we have the potential to change the dynamics in American politics on economic issues for a long time.
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