Spin Cycle

Obama Whipping Boehner in Fiscal Cliff Showdown

New poll shows public siding with president by huge margin

12.12.12 2:20 PM ET

President Obama is crushing John Boehner in the fiscal cliff battle—at least in the polls.

An ABC/Washington Post survey out this morning finds 49 percent of those questioned approving of Obama’s handling of the budget negotiations, compared with 42 percent who disapprove.

WASHINGTON - NOVEMBER 16:  Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) (L) listens as U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during a meeting with bipartisan group of congressional leaders in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on November 16, 2012 in Washington, DC. Obama and congressional leaders of both parties are meeting to reportedly discuss deficit reduction before the tax increases and automatic spending cuts go into affect in the new year.  (Photo by Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images)

Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images

Now look at the House speaker’s numbers: Some 49 percent disapprove of his performance, with only 25 percent giving a thumbs up.

So Obama is winning the public relations battle over the effort to avert automatic tax hikes and spending cuts by a whopping 2-1 margin.

Even among Republicans, according to the poll, Boehner barely breaks even: 39 percent approval, 37 percent disapproval.

Separately, a Bloomberg poll says Americans believe by a 2-to-1 majority that the election results were an endorsement of Obama’s promise to protect Medicare and Social Security benefits—and nearly half the Republicans surveyed say he has a mandate to raise taxes on the wealthy.

Since a central issue in the rhetorical war between the two men, who spoke again by phone on Tuesday, is the president’s push to raise taxes on families earning more than $250,000, the obvious conclusion is that Obama has the public on his side.

But what does that mean? In a campaign, those kinds of numbers would herald a big victory at the ballot box. But the only voters that count this time are 535 members of Congress.

Obviously, Obama can ratchet up pressure on the Republicans, who are already at a tactical disadvantage because the automatic nature of the tax hikes if nothing is done by Dec. 31, by rallying public opinion to his side. But most of Boehner's troops were elected in safe GOP districts that voted for Mitt Romney. The president is still likely to prevail, but whether that happens before or after the country slides over the much-ballyhooed cliff is anyone's guess at this point.