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For Obama, Public Opinion on Sequester May Not Be Enough

A new poll shows public support of President Obama’s approach on several issues. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.

The Morning Line

Two polls out Thursday show record support for President Obama over congressional Republicans on the sequester battle that is consuming political debate this week.

A Pew Research Center/USA Today poll released Thursday found Americans mostly in favor of Mr. Obama’s approach to four issues: immigration, the federal budget deficit, guns and climate change. Pew found that budget issues and the sequester are most pressing for the public, with 70 percent of those polled wanting a resolution this year.

The $85 billion in spending cuts Congress hastily agreed to last year as part of a broader deal are scheduled to take effect one week from Friday. Nearly half of the poll’s respondents (49 percent) would blame congressional Republicans, while 31 percent would blame Mr. Obama. That’s one reason the GOP has dubbed it the “Obamaquester,” and lawmakers are using the same talking points to remind Mr. Obama that he supported the compromise and signed it into law. (The president also predicted during his re-election campaign that the sequester “would not happen.”)

A Bloomberg National poll released Wednesday found Mr. Obama holding momentum as well. He hit his highest approval rating in this poll since his first year in office, at 55 percent. The Republican Party is at its lowest point since late 2009, with 35 percent approval.

But national public opinion results may have little sway over budget and spending policy made by lawmakers with only their districts in mind.

Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times reported Wednesday that House Republicans’ refusal to allow tax increases to slice the pending sequester cuts is “all but ensuring the cuts will go into force March 1 and probably remain in place for months, if not longer.”

He wrote:

House Republicans say they are feeling invulnerable in the current clash. Not only can they point to last year’s bills to replace the cuts, but redistricting has made most of them immune to political threats and entreaties. For many representing conservative districts where the president holds little sway, an attack by Mr. Obama is a badge of honor, senior Republican House aides say.

It’s a phenomenon we could dub the “gerrymander gap.” Republicans are sticking more firmly against tax hikes now in part because they fractured over ending the George W. Bush-era tax breaks to avoid going over the fiscal cliff.

That showdown over the New Year holiday pitted House Speaker John Boehner against some conservative congressional Republicans who nearly killed a compromise despite public pressure and an agreement with Democrats.

It’s not that Republicans agree with the cuts scheduled for March 1 — even Boehner called them “ugly and dangerous” in a Wall Street Journal op-ed piece Wednesday. They’d just prefer a different — or even more extensive — set of spending cuts to Mr. Obama’s proposal to raise taxes on millionaires, end oil and agriculture subsidies, eliminate some tax loopholes and stop tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas.

The NewsHour examined the sequestration issue Wednesday night with a report and Judy Woodruff’s interview with Pentagon official Ashton Carter. Watch that here or below.


Gwen Ifill sat down with Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor on Wednesday to discuss her new book “My Beloved World” and how she is “growing into” life as a justice. Sotomayor was candid about her own anxiety, advice she got from Justice John Paul Stevens and her evolution on cameras in the courtroom.

Watch here or below:

We also posted extended excerpts of their discussion, along with Sotomayor’s childhood photos. She opened up about her family and feelings. Watch that here or below:


PBS on Monday began a weeklong series exploring every facet of the societal debate over guns in the wake of the tragic shooting massacre in Newtown, Conn. The package features broadcast pieces on signature programs. On Wednesday’s NewsHour and for NOVA, Miles O’Brien explored the brains of killers.

Watch Miles’ report here or below:

PBS’ FRONTLINE hosted a live chat with the producer of its most recent documentary “Raising Adam Lanza.”

We also posted extended interviews with parents speaking from the heart about their troubled children. They aren’t easy to watch.

Watch here or below.

Politics desk assistant Simone Pathe examined the rhetoric used in the heated debate overs guns, talking with professors, political hands and experts about why some words, like “gun safety,” are taking on new heft.

Tom LeGro collected images of guns in art.

“After Newton” includes robust online offerings you can check out here, and find all the details about which pieces are airing and when here.


Jim Messina, who served as Mr. Obama’s 2012 campaign manager, shared his overarching philosophy in Washington on Wednesday night. NewsHour online politics production assistant Meena Ganesan was there.

When Mr. Obama asked Messina to run his re-election effort, the longtime political operative asked the president to make one promise to him: “We can’t run the same campaign we ran in 2008.”

In a candid conversation at George Washington University, Messina told a group of college students how he felt it was imperative that the campaign change its game on technology to again win the voting bloc sitting in front of him: young people.

In 2008, the iPhone had just been released and Facebook had barely 100 million users compared to the 1 billion it has today. “In ’08, we had sent 1 tweet on Election Day because we thought it was stupid technology that would never go anywhere,” Messina said.

To say the least, it was a different world. They needed to win on the small things, like Facebook’s targeted sharing technology in which supporters suggest to their “friends” online that they get out the vote. “The single most influential person in this country isn’t a politician,” Messina said, “It’s your friends and your family.”


  • Julie Pace of the Associated Press reports that the Obama administration “is considering urging the Supreme Court to overturn California’s ban on gay marriage — a move that could have a far-reaching impact on same-sex couples across the country.” She writes that the administration has one week left to file a friend-of-the-court brief before justices consider the matter next month.

  • New York Daily News’ Dan Friedman [explains](http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/friends-hamas-rumor-started-article-1.1268284
    ) how he inadvertently created “Friends of Hamas” when questioning a Republican aide about conservative opposition to secretary of defense nominee Chuck Hagel and how conservative bloggers took the myth too far. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said at an event in New York that Hagel “almost had tears” when talking about the whole confirmation process.

  • Prosecutors have recommended a sentence of 46 to 57 months in prison after former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill., pleaded guilty Wednesday to one count of conspiracy to commit false statements, wire and mail fraud in connection with using $750,000 in campaign funds for personal use and filing fraudulent campaign and tax reports. His wife, former Chicago alderman Sandi Jackson pleaded guilty to one charge of tax fraud related to the same misuse of funds. Sentencing for Jackson Jr. is set for June 28.

  • Mitt Romney will speak at CPAC next month, his first public appearance since losing the election.

  • The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee raised $4.2 million in January.

  • The Republican National Committee says it has more available spending money than the debt-addled Democratic National Committee. Politico reports the RNC sits with $7.1 million cash on hand, while the DNC has $4.6 million cash on hand. “Our donor base is now larger this year than it was in 2011,” said RNC chairman Reince Priebus in a statement Wednesday.

  • Politico reports that actress Ashley Judd met privately with the DSCC earlier this week, underscoring suspicions she’s mounting a challenge to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

  • The Washington Post’s Jason Horowitz profiles the latest version of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

  • In a fundraising email for Planned Parenthood, Sandra Fluke marks one year since she wasn’t allowed to testify on Capitol Hill.

  • First lady Michelle Obama and late night show host Jimmy Fallon will have a fitness rematch Friday as she does a tour to celebrate the third anniversary of “Let’s Move!” (See last year’s video here.)

  • Florida GOP Gov. Rick Scott changed his mind and will accept the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act after all.

  • Former Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., admits he had a son out of wedlock three decades ago. Roll Call’s Warren Rojas has the best headline: “Eight Wasn’t Enough …”

  • Roll Call’s Joshua Miller asks if a Republican primary in Louisiana could spoil the party’s chances at ousting Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu.

  • Hillary Clinton’s lecture fee will be $200,000 per speech.

  • Behold, the new official portraits of the president and first lady.

  • Yeah, we guess we have to link to this.

  • A fascinating look inside Kurt Cobain’s journals.

  • Today’s tidbit from NewsHour partner Face the Facts USA is sobering: The number of children living in poverty is on the rise.


  • Secretary of State John Kerry gave his first major address Wednesday.

  • We talked with NIH’s Francis Collins about the Obama administration’s efforts to map the brain.

  • Jeff Brown continues our look at Oscar-nominated documentaries with “The Gatekeepers.”

  • Next week, the Supreme Court will examine a constitutional challenge to the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The landmark case asks whether the act is still necessary and whether voters still risk disenfranchisement in certain parts of the country. The NewsHour will examine in depth the questions this case raises, and we’d like your help as we go even deeper. Get details about our Oral History project here. You can record your memory now using the button below, or call (703) 594-6PBS to share your story.


Cassie M. Chew and politics desk assistant Simone Pathe contributed to this report.

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Questions or comments? Email Christina Bellantoni at cbellantoni-at-newshour-dot-org.

Follow the politics team on Twitter: @cbellantoni, @burlij, @elizsummers, @kpolantz, @indiefilmfan, @tiffanymullon, @dePeystah and @meenaganesan.

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