Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Washington Post Morning Fix: The words people use to describe Congress

The words people use to describe Congress

By Aaron Blake and Chris Cillizza

President Obama and congressional Republicans emerged triumphant from last-minute negotiations to avert a government shutdown late Friday night.

But as observers try to figure out who won and who lost in the aftermath of the deal, a new Washington Post/Pew Research Center poll suggests there are actually very few winnners.

And possibly none at all.

The poll, which was conducted Thursday through Sunday, shows the American public is steaming mad about the negotiations that led to such brinksmanship and ready to blame just about everybody involved.

Just how made are people? After the agreement was reached just before midnight Friday, the new Post/Pew poll began asking people to describe their impressions of the budget negotiations. The top 10 words they used were all negative, and they include “ridiculous” (No. 1), frustrating/frustrated (No. 4), stupid/stupidity (No. 6), bull/bulls***/bullcrap (No. 7) and childish (No. 10).

A sampling of the others mentioned by several people include idiot/idiotic, chaos/chaotic and pathetic.

In fact, of all the words mentioned by at least four people, none of them were positive, besides perhaps “fair,” which was mentioned by five people.

In addition, Americans are leveling similar amounts of blame at everyone involved.

At least 70 percent of poll respondents said Obama, Democratic leaders in Congress and Republican leaders in Congress all bore at least some responsibility for the dispute over the budget nearly leading to a shutdown.

Obama got off the easiest, with 72 percent saying he had something to do with it. At least 80 percent said both Republicans and Democrats were to blame.

Among the all-important independents, 78 percent blamed Obama, 82 percent blamed Republicans and 87 percent blamed Democrats.

In fact, the group that gets the least blame is the tea party, with 64 percent of the poll’s respondents blaming “representatives affiliated with the tea party movement.”

An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll last week showed a plurality of voters blaming Republicans (37 percent) rather than Obama (20) or Democrats (20). This poll suggests that was more because the blame placed on Democrats was split between Obama and Democrats in Congress. When blame isn’t a zero-sum game, people are only happy to blame more.

What does it all mean? It means that Congress, whose approval rating has been stuck below 30 percent for the better part of 2010 and the first part of 2011, is doing little to improve its reputation.

And with many saying the toughest budget battles are still ahead, the American public’s view of politicians is unlikely to recover unless there’s a serious course-correction on the horizon.

Without the two parties finding a little harmony on fiscal issues and Americans still unsure about the economy, members of Congress know they will have to continue to watch their backs in the next election, be it in a primary or the general election.

Simpson lays into GOP field, Santorum: Former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.) was asked Monday about the GOP presidential field, and as usual, he had something interesting to say.

A sampling:

“We’ve got homophobes in our party. That’s disgusting to me. ... If they’re going to get off on that stuff — [former senator Rick] Santorum has said some cruel, cruel things about homosexuals. Ask him about it. See if he attributes the cruelness of his remarks years ago. Foul.”

“I’m not sticking with people who are homophobic, anti-women, moral values while you’re diddling your secretary, while you’re giving a speech on moral values. Come on, get off of it.”

Alan Simpson — the gift that keeps on giving.

Wilson raises $300k: Former Rep. Heather Wilson (R-N.M.) has raised a little over $300,000 since announcing her Senate campaign a month ago.

Wilson is hoping to replace retiring Democratic Sen. Jeff Bingaman. In the primary, she’s facing Greg Sowards, a former congressional candidate who hasn’t released his numbers yet but claims he’s competitive with Wilson.

Rep. Steve Pearce (who beat Wilson in a 2008 Senate primary) and Lt. Gov. John Sanchez might also get in. Democratic Rep. Martin Heinrich announced his candidacy late last month.

First quarter fundraising update: As we approach Friday’s first-quarter filing deadline, a few other big-name Senate candidates also announced their totals.

-Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) raised a strong $1.3 million and had $2.5 million on hand for his reelection race, in which he could face state Treasurer Josh Mandel (R).

-Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) raised $877,000 and has $2 million in the bank as she looks to avert a serious primary challenge.

-Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) raised $970,000 and has $3 million in the bank for his primary against state Treasurer Richard Mourdock (R), who raised $125,000 in March and will need to pick up the pace.

-Former Texas solicitor general Ted Cruz (R) raised $1 million for the race to replace Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas).

Trump threatens indy bid: We here at The Fix try to install a little dose of reality to all this talk about Donald Trump for president. But now he’s talking about something that could have a real impact on the race.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal on Monday, Trump suggested he will run for president as an independent if he doesn’t win the Republican nomination.

While Trump would probably fade in a GOP primary and soon be forgotten, an independent with hundreds of millions of dollars in personal wealth can steal votes in the general election.

But don’t assume he would only steal votes from Republicans, either.


  • Trump marks up a Vanity Fair writer’s take on his nascent presidential campaign. Most interesting part: he doesn’t seem to know who Politico’s Ben Smith is.

  • A Mason-Dixon poll in Florida shows Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee each with a slight lead on Obama in Florida. In the GOP primary, Romney leads at 23 percent, Huckabee takes 18 percent and Trump (yes, Trump) takes 13 percent.

  • Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) says she would be a one-term president, “if that’s what it takes in order to turn things around, because this is not about a personal ambition.”

  • Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) is joining a call for state legislators to delay congressional redistricting until next year.


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