Unlike the overall polling sample, a majority of the poll’s Republicans do not support raising taxes on the wealthy. But they don’t support any of the spending cuts mentioned in the poll either. Not to Medicare or Medicaid, and not to the tax loopholes surveyed either. Republicans, in other words, don't support much of anything except leaving things the way they are now. Which is exactly what we can’t do.
Waldman unpacks the GOP strategy:
[I]f you're a Republican and you want to rail against spending, the safest way to get specific is to talk about programs that almost no one knows or cares about. If you can make them sound a little silly, all the better. That way you can convince the ideologically conservative public that you're fighting for the "small government" they support, while not hinting to that same operationally liberal public that you'll take away the programs they also support.
Chait goes further:
When the only cuts on the table would inflict real harm on people with modest incomes and save small amounts of money, that is a sign that there’s just not much money to save. It’s not just that Republicans disagree with this; they don’t seem to understand it. The absence of a Republican spending proposal is not just a negotiating tactic but a howling void where a specific grasp of the role of government ought to be. And negotiating around that void is extremely hard to do. The spending cuts aren’t there because they can’t be found.
The Republicans' main problem in this negotiation is that they know President Barack Obama will not agree to cut in the area they want to cut: aid to the poor. The signal Obama has sent is that he is willing to make a deal that cuts old-age entitlements, meaning Medicare and Social Security, and Republicans are internally conflicted over those programs.