Back on March 15th, I wrote a post pointing out what happens when Republicans get milquetoast — their polling goes down.If you will go back to March 15th, there was a poll out that said the GOP hadn't been compromising enough. In fact, the poll said that "71% say the GOP is not willing enough to compromise with Obama on the deficit."I noted at the time that the GOP had been muddying the waters with Barack Obama and the Democrats. I said that "House Republicans have been muddying the water so much since November and painting their policy positions in pale pastels. The public voted in November with bright colors — mostly in red."I also said, perhaps counterintuitively, that the GOP needed to stop being so compromising, even though the poll suggested otherwise, and start leading. "As long as the Republicans are being milquetoast on spending and the budget, the Democrats will see the polling benefits," I wrote.In the debt ceiling fight, it appears I was right. As the GOP has held a firm and consistent line insisting on massive spending cuts and entitlement reform, their poll numbers have gone up — exactly opposite what the chattering class of compromising good government types insisted would happen.In a new Washington Post/ABC poll of adult Americans, the headline drawing the big buzz is that Mitt Romney is head of Obama among registered voters. That's huge and good news for Romney. It's even better than the poll suggests because that data comes from the registered voters. Obama and Romney are tied among all adults. But registered voters, unlike likely voters, also skews to the Democrats by a few points, though not as badly as among all adults.So if Romney is ahead of Obama by 3 points among registered voters, he's probably ahead 5 or more points among likely voters. That headline, however, overshadows a more important finding.
In another indicator of rapidly shifting views on economic issues, 45 percent trust congressional Republicans over the president when it comes to dealing with the economy, an 11-point improvement for the GOP since March. Still, nearly as many, 42 percent, side with Obama on this issue.
This is among all adults surveyed. So in a pool of respondents that favors the Democrats, the GOP is ahead 3 points. With registered voters, I'd suspect the GOP is ahead more and even more with likely voters.For the GOP to be ahead on this issue is significant. And what has the GOP message been for the past month and half? Significant cuts in spending and reforming entitlement programs. The GOP has had a consistent message and drawn a firm line in the sand. It has been portrayed as terrible, heartless, nasty, and impractical. But the public is responding to it. The public recognizes the need for it.I am plugged in enough to the goings on in Washington and talk to enough congressmen and senators to sense a disturbance in the force. I suspect Republican leaders feel like they have dialed up the rhetoric and positioning too much and are going to find a way to weasel out of their statements and scale back.That is what they do.But they shouldn't. They have the public with them. The polling reflects that. The public wants the GOP to win on this issue. We cannot rely on polls and a clearly fickle public on this issue. The polling will go up and down.But the lesson we can take away is the one I pointed out in March — the public wants leadership. Leadership always wins in the face of milquetoast statements and compromise. As I said then and repeat now, saying the sky is falling, but then not doing anything about it really is not what any reasonable person could call a winning strategy.The GOP has the winning strategy right now. They better not blow it or it will blow up the GOP. I hope the Presidential candidates are paying attention to this.