Tales from the Trail

Bayh wonders if partisanship will encourage a new Ross Perot

Evan Bayh wants out of Washington but wonders if the partisan bickering he leaves behind will one day be swept aside by a new PEROTRoss Perot riding a third-party tidal wave of public anger.

“If (voter) frustration continues to grow and the American people say ‘a pox on both your houses,’ then there’s some prospect for a third-party type movement,” the Democratic senator from Indiana told ABC’s Good Morning America.

Bayh hastens to add that he doesn’t believe that would really happen.

Why not? “I think that ultimately we can make progress within the two-party system,” he said.

Good luck.

Polls say voters are angry about the partisan bickering that has engulfed legislative initiatives from healthcare reform and climate change to financial regulation and job creation.

FRANCE/Republicans and Democrats both catch blame. But Democrats, as the governing party, could suffer most in November’s congressional elections. Republicans did the suffering in 2006. Meanwhile, the conservative Tea Party movement has candidates from both sides rattled.

Republican “blank page” challenges Obama

OBAMA/The next U.S. presidential election is more than 2-1/2 years away. But pollsters are already asking how President Barack Obama would stack up against a Republican challenger.

The results are favorable. But for whom? No one can say.

Obama is in a statistical dead heat against an unnamed Republican candidate, leading the challenger 44 percent to 42 percent, according to a Gallup poll with a 4-percentage-point margin of error. Gallup surveyed 1,025 adults Feb. 1-3.

Media pundits are divided about what the findings mean, or don’t mean.

Some say the data are meaningless except as a gauge of 2010 voter anger toward Washington and incumbents generally.

Gingrich once again at head of Republican pack

Once, a first-term Democratic president failed to deliver on healthcare reform and found his party USA-POLITICS/swept from office by a wave of voter anger that brought Republican Newt Gingrich to the forefront of American politics. Could this history lesson from the Clinton era be repeated?

Healthcare reform is stalled, voters are angry and Gingrich — who rose to prominence as House speaker after Republicans won Congress in 1994 — is again leading the pack, this time among  potential White House hopefuls for 2012.

The Washington-based political news outlet, Politico, says Gingrich’s political action committee is raising money far faster than those of 2008 campaign veterans including Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee and former Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin.

Tea Party ‘warriors’ take aim at Florida Senate race

TEA PARTYConservative Tea Party activists had loads of fun in Boston last month helping Scott Brown chuck Teddy Kennedy’s forever-Democratic Senate seat into Republican waters.

Now the painted warriors hope to stage a reenactment of Florida’s Dade Massacre, with Republican Gov. Charlie Crist playing the ill-fated Maj. Dade.

A new Rasmussen Reports poll shows Crist 12 percentage points behind former state House Speaker and Tea Party favorite Marco Rubio in Florida’s Republican primary contest for the U.S. Senate. Rubio leads Crist 49 percent to 37 percent.

Obama plays to disaffected audience but most don’t blame him

USA-HEALTHCARE/OBAMA

When President Obama reaches the podium for tonight’s State of the Union address, he’ll turn to a TV audience fed up with Washington and its incessant partisan bickering. But guess what: most viewers won’t be blaming him.
    
More than 90 percent of the American public thinks there’s too much partisan infighting and 70 percent say the federal government isn’t working well, according to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.
    
But who’s the culprit? Only 27 percent blame the president. The biggest target of public disaffection are Republicans in Congress — at 48 percent — followed by congressional Democrats at 41 percent.  Conducted Jan. 23-25, the survey of 800 adults has a 3.5 percent margin of error.
    
If the numbers are accurate, Obama’s message may find a fair amount of audience sympathy, particularly for his much-anticipated emphasis on jobs, the economy and curbs on Wall Street’s excesses.
    
Nearly three-quarters say not enough has been done to regulate Wall Street and the banking industry, while 51 percent want more emphasis on economic matters than they’ve seen up to now.
    
In fact, poll respondents are fairly optimistic about Obama’s future, with 54 percent saying he is facing either a short-term setback or no setback at all. There are even signs that his overall job approval rating has begun to edge up.

Photo credit: Reuters/Jason Reed (Obama)

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Is Obama a party animal? U.S. political trends make it so

The folks at Gallup say Barack Obama is easily the most ‘polarized’ first-year president of the postwar era — and they’re not talking about pre-digital camera snapshots.
    
They mean that Obama, like his immediate predecessors,  is the object of growing partisanship within American public opinion.
OBAMA/
Obama finished his first year in office on Jan. 19 with an 88 percent job approval rating among Democrats but only 23 percent approval among Republicans.
    
That leaves a 65-percentage-point gap between the two partisan lines, eclipsing the previous first-year polarization record of 52 points, held by Democrat Bill Clinton.
    
If Obama’s numbers don’t change, he will exceed Republican George W. Bush as the most polarized of post-World War II presidents. (Over the course of Bush’s presidency, Republicans and Democrats were 61 points apart on average.)
    
But there’s something more afoot than the individual horse races.
    
Gallup says its findings illustrate an upswing in voter partisanship since the time of Republican Ronald Reagan. Before the 1980s, partisan approval gaps ranged from a low of 19 percent for Democrat Lyndon Johnson to a high of 34 percent for Republican Richard Nixon.
    
“Obama — like his immediate predecessor Bush — sought to bring Americans together after periods of heightened political polarization in the United States. But despite their best intentions and efforts, both men’s approval ratings have been characterized by extreme partisanship,” Gallup said.
    
“The way Americans view presidents has clearly changed in recent decades, perhaps owing to the growth in variety, sources and even politicization of news on cable television and the Internet, and the continuing popularity of politically oriented talk radio.”

Click here for more political coverage from Reuters

Photo Credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque (Obama)

Most Americans want Republican input on healthcare – poll

Most Americans want President Obama and the Democrats to jettison the healthcare bill they almost got together before USA-HEALTHCARE/WELLNESSthis week’s political earthquake in Massachusetts and instead look for something Republicans can support.

That’s according to a new USA Today/Gallup poll which says 55 percent of Americans want work stopped on a House-Senate compromise between Democrats, while 39 percent want the Democrats to press on.

In fact, a sizable minority — 46 percent of the 1,010 adults surveyed — say healthcare reform is important but should not be Obama’s top legislative priority. Nineteen percent say healthcare shouldn’t be a major priority at all.
USA-POLITICS/BROWN
The poll was conducted the day after Republican Scott Brown won Ted Kennedy’s dyed-in-the-wool-Democratic-blue Senate seat in Massachusetts. The findings have a 4 percentage point margin of error.

Poll suggests political consequences from U.S. healthcare deal

HEALTHCARE/OBAMAThink today’s U.S. Senate election in Massachusetts could be bad news for President Obama? Then consider what pollsters are saying now about the healthcare reform debate’s potential effect on the November congressional elections.

The latest ABC News/Washington Post poll shows little overall movement in public sentiment since August — only 44 percent of Americans favor healthcare reform vs. 51 percent who oppose it.

But findings also show popular support for reform losing some of its cohesion. As recently as November, 30 percent of USA/HEALTHCARE/POLITICSAmericans “strongly” backed proposed changes. But people in that category now account for only 22 percent. That compares with 39 percent who are strongly opposed.