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According to a new poll released by Democracy Corps run by Democratic Party Strategists James Carville and Stan Greenberg one part of Obama’s political strategy is working, voters still blame President Bush for the deficit. The bad news for the President, is that those same voters do not think that the Democratic party can fix the problem, they also don’t buy the progressive’s reasons for the deficit.

Voters continue to blame former President Bush more than President Obama for the deficit (53 to 38 percent). Despite this, when asked in a more specific way about what policies or events may have caused the deficit, only 9 percent blame Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy. The biggest culprits are seen as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which 36 percent of voters blame. The economic stimulus plan and the bailouts for the banks and auto industry also receive a sizable chunk of the blame (20 and 17 percent respectively).

 A majority of Democrats (54 percent) say that the main culprits for the current deficit are the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan while 55 percent of Republicans blame the Obama-era policies of the economic stimulus and bailouts for the bank and auto industries.

… Republicans still retain a sizable 13-point advantage on which party voters trust more to handle the budget deficit (44 to 31 percent). This advantage is larger than they achieve on any other issues tested in this survey, and the largest gap they’ve held on the budget deficit since Democracy Corps started asking this question nearly two years ago.

Another weakness for the Democrats is on the related issue of government spending. By an 11-point margin, people pick Republicans over Democrats, 43 to 32 percent. Independents by well more than a 2:1 margin prefer the Republicans over the Democrats on handling the budget deficit (49 percent prefer the Republicans, 18 percent prefer Democrats). The gap for independents is not as wide on government spending, but they still prefer Republicans by 16 points.

The Democratic run survey show that “Core Voters” (voters in 2006 and 2008 who say they will defiantly vote in 2010) disapprove of Obama’s Job performance by a 51-45% margin, and prefer a Republican congressional candidate by a 45-41% margin.

They also tested some possible campaign messages that the President might use to help the  Democratic Candidates with respect to these key issues:

  • The following message that might be more expected from a Democrat made voters less likely to support a candidate by a 10-point margin, 51 to 41 percent. The federal budget deficit is so important that we have to get serious about it and create a commission for cutting spending and big tax reform. In order to raise revenue and close the deficit, we need a national sales tax. This is necessary for the economic health of the country. This message focusing on a national sales tax made both Democrats and independents slightly less likely to support such a candidate. But it was especially unpopular among Republicans who by a 58 to 31 percent margin said they would be less likely to support.
  • An alternative message focusing on spending cuts, but without tax increases, found equivocal support, 46 percent more likely to support, 45 percent less likely. The federal budget deficit is so important that we have to get serious about cutting spending in a big way, even on programs like defense, Social Security and Medicare. To lower the deficit, some tax reform will also be necessary, but we will not raise taxes. But the more surprising finding with this message was its rejection among independent voters, who by 51 to 38 percent said it would make them less rather than more likely to support. Democratic voters rejected it by a more mild 48 to 41 percent and Republicans said it would make them more likely to support by 58 to 37 percent.

How bad are these results for the Democratic Party? Stan Greenberg, and James Carville spoke to to reporters this morning, Stan Greenberg said that the signs of an electoral bloodbath exist today, though not as strongly as they did 16 years ago.

“We are on the edge of it. but we are not there,” Greenberg said, at a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor. “If the election were now, we would have a change election; we would have a 1994.”

In particular, both strategists noted that the sense of economic stagnation which is depressing voters today very much resembles the political hurdle that nearly derailed Clinton (and cost Greenberg his job) during his first term in office.…As for specific policies, Greenberg urged Democrats to offer proposals that, first and foremost, will pass and, secondarily, don’t end up pitting the party against itself. Regulatory reform, he stressed, is a smart follow-up to health care reform. As is immigration reform — which doesn’t seem to be on this year’s docket but could very well be a beneficial issue for the party.

“It divides them worse than us,” said Carville. “Politically, I think it is a good issue for Democrats to bring up. It gives them fits, real fits.”

A point that Ed Morrissey of Hot Air has been making for months.

As for energy legislation, Greenberg seemed bullish on the politics — provided that legislation has bipartisan support. The longtime pollster said he suspects Obama is trying to peel off a few Republicans by coming out in favor of nuclear energy and offshore drilling. And while that could, in the end, rile members of the Democratic base, it is a price worth paying.

Hence the announcement this morning about drilling. Greenberg went on to warn the Democrats about trashing the Tea Party movement.

Finally, the two offered some pointed pieces of wisdom on the Tea Party movement. First, Democrats should not expect to win their support. Polling data shows that self-identified Tea Party members overwhelmingly support traditionally Republican and conservative platforms. That said, Democrats shouldn’t elevate them to the role of the political opposition, either.

“I wouldn’t run against the Tea Party,” said Greenberg. “I would run against Republicans. The Tea Party has clearly made the Republican leaders… they have been muffled. They have been unwilling to talk against the extremism because of the risk that they will face their wrath. But the Tea Party’s image overall has been fairly positive in the electorate as a whole… I would not get into a game of being against the Tea Party.”

The Democratic party continues to ignore that last recommendation. 

Full poll results follow:

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