Obama’s Shrinking Sequester Advantage

It’s eroding:

More Americans trust Obama on the sequester than Republicans, but the margin between the two seems to be down. Obama held a 26pt lead over congressional Republicans in December per Pew Research, which dropped to 18pt in mid-February and 13pt by the end of the month. After the sequester took effect on 1 March, CBS, which has generally found better numbers for Obama than other pollsters, had the margin down to 5pt.

Interestingly, a lot of this movement isn’t because more people are blaming Obama alone – more people are blaming both parties equally. The percentage of Americans blaming Obama was at its lowest 27%, and now rests at 33%. The percentage blaming just the Republicans has dropped from 53% in December to just 38% in March. The percentage blaming both sides or neither equally has risen from 20% in December to 29% now.

Hence the new reach-around to Senate Republicans. The miscalculation was not that the sequester would hit immediately and provoke resistance, it was that the sequester this year is not that significant as a spending reduction. It will slow but not kill the recovery. And its automatic nature takes the whole debt issue off the poisoned political table. I made my peace with it a while back.

But the truth remains that Obama is still offering the same Medicare cuts over ten years as the original Bowles-Simpson, while the GOP is refusing to budge on revenue. Isn’t the obvious solution some serious Medicare cuts combined with tax reform that can be radical enough to reduce many rates and raise revenue? Or ending the cap on the payroll tax, as Edsall notes here?

There is a Grand Bargain here and I suspect Obama knows that this legacy will be tainted if he cannot find it. He should, in my view, have grasped this earlier and more clearly. But it’s not in any way too late.