Obama’s Latest Poll Numbers Force a Change in GOP Rhetoric

In light of Obama’s rise in the polls, the GOP is suddenly taking a more populist line, Kirsten Powers writes.

Ethan Miller / Getty Images

There are two things we should be able to count on in this world: Republican lawmakers supporting cutting taxes and GOP leaders defending rich people.

No more. First came the GOP opposition to a tax cut for the middle class–the payroll tax cut. Now we have Republican presidential candidates arguing that greed is actually not good.

Tuesday, Gov. Rick Perry told ABC’s Terry Moran that “part of the problem—and that’s my point–is that Mitt’s a part of Wall Street. His address may not have been on Wall Street, but Bain Capital is a Wall Street type of a business. Those individuals have been at the epicenter of this meltdown of America’s economy.”

When Democrats have pointed out the obvious truth in Perry’s comment, they’ve been accused of engaging in “class warfare” against the helpless Wall Streeters for whom the recession has meant “I can’t buy a bigger house in the Hamptons.”

A few weeks ago, when Newt Gingrich was asked if he agreed with Mitt Romney’s contention that he should return money made lobbying for Freddie Mac to get more government greenbacks to fund its incompetence, Newt retorted, “I would just say that if Governor Romney would like to give back all the money he’s earned from bankrupting companies and laying off employees over his years at Bain Capital that I would be glad to listen to him.”

Who’s the socialist now?

Perhaps the GOP presidential candidates have realized what two new polls are showing: Americans are tired of Washington coddling the richest among us while the middle class continues to suffer.

A new CNN poll found that by a 50 percent to 31 percent margin, people say they have more confidence in President Obama than in congressional Republicans–who have been holding the payroll tax cut hostage–to handle the major issues facing the country. That’s a 5-point jump from last month. In his analysis of the poll, CNN’s polling director attributed this increase to “dramatic gains among middle-income Americans” for President Obama and surmised that the payroll-tax-cut debate had given Obama the boost.

This is the second poll in a few days to report Obama on the upswing. A Washington Post/ABC News poll found Obama’s approval rating ticking up to 49 percent, its highest since March 2011.

The stain of congressional Republicans seems to be rubbing off on the GOP presidential candidates as well. In a matchup with Romney, who previously has been the only candidate to consistently offer a real challenge to Obama in the polls, the president leads in the WAPO/ABC poll by seven points. Last month, Romney was beating Obama 51 percent to 47 percent.

It seems the GOP “class warfare” argument has been a dud. True, most Americans don’t begrudge rich people their largesse, nor should they, if it is lawfully earned. What is unseemly is the GOP’s insistence in treating the well off as though they matter more than the middle class. Most Americans just want a fair shake, and there is nothing fair about insisting that tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires are necessary and don’t need to be paid for, and then turn around and try to block a middle-class tax cut and complain that it’s not paid for.

Furthermore, it doesn’t take a genius to see that the Bush tax cuts have been in effect for 10 years and the middle class is still waiting to be “trickled down” upon by the wealthy.

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Even millionaire Republican presidential candidates like Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich seem to sense something is amiss in the American economic structure, as evidenced by their recent Kinsley gaffes, which acknowledged that the super rich aren’t always the magnificent benefactors or “job creators” the GOP tries to pawn them off as. Yeah, I’m talking about you, Mitt Romney.

Too bad for them that embracing reality counts as being “off message” in the Republican Party.