POLITICAL WIRE’S HEADLINES – 12/21

Majority Say Republican Policies Too Extreme

A new CNN/ORC poll finds a slight majority of Americans sees the Republican party’s policies and views as too extreme, 53% to 37%, a first for the GOP.

Key finding: “It probably doesn’t help that House Speaker John Boehner, who’s leading GOP fiscal cliff negotiations with the president, is held in fairly low regard, particularly in comparison to Obama. According to the poll, 34% of the public approves of how the top Republican in the House handling his job. By contrast, the president’s approval rating stands at 52%.”

Obama Approval Hits Highest Since 2009

A new Gallup poll shows President Obama’s approval rating at 56%, his highest mark on that question since October 2009, with just 37% disapproving of his job performance.

“The timing of the increase in Obama’s ratings could reflect a broad-based public reaction to the Newtown shootings, similar to the ‘rally around the flag’ effect often seen at the start of wars and other threats to national security, in which Americans rally behind their leader. It could also reflect the impact of the president’s specific actions after the tragedy, including his attendance and speech at a Newtown prayer service Sunday night, and his appointment on Wednesday of a national task force to recommend steps that can be taken to reduce gun violence in the future.”

Modest Change in Support for Gun Control

A new Pew Research survey finds the public’s attitudes toward gun control have shown only modest change in the wake of last week’s deadly shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. Currently, 49% say it is more important to control gun ownership, while 42% say it is more important to protect the right of Americans to own guns.

Opinion was evenly divided in July, following a shooting at a Colorado movie theater. At that time, 47% said it was more important to control gun ownership, while 46% said it was more important to protect gun rights.

Majority of Lawmakers Received NRA Donations

The Sunlight Foundation notes that 51% of the members of the new Congress that convenes next month have received funding from the National Rifle Association’s political action committee at some point in their political careers. And 47% received money from the NRA in the most recent race in which they ran.

Bloomberg: NRA protections racket in Congress.

Arizona Republican Insists He’s Not a Birther

Arizona Republican Party chairman Tom Morrissey insists he’s not a “birther” but still says he does not believe the President Obama’s birth certificate is authentic, the Phoenix New Times reports.

Said Morrissey: “In my opinion, what I have seen from the president, produced as a birth certificate, does not convince me that it is a real document.”

Study Finds Voters Can’t Accurately Assess Politicians

A new study in the American Political Science Review suggests the average voter doesn’t have the ability “to make an accurate judgement of the performance of their politicians, showing that voter biases appear to be deep-seated and broad.”

The researchers found that voters “are susceptible to these biases even when given financial incentives to behave otherwise and when the information necessary to avoid these biases was readily available.”

As a result, the findings suggest “that incumbents who associate themselves with good news for which they bear no responsibility, implement policies that generate good news close to elections at the expense of overall voter welfare, and use rhetoric that encourages people to focus on how they feel in the here and now, ignoring the long-term, could benefit at the ballot box.”

Obama and Boehner are Still Strangers

Bloomberg: “In the Obama-Boehner relationship, there’s been a golf summit (they played as a team), a birthday gift of Tuscan red wine (Obama’s to Boehner), congratulatory post-election telephone calls (Boehner to Obama) and sporadic one-on-one meetings at the White House.”

“Still, at a personal level, where trust resides, they remain largely strangers. The two men who hold the keys to delivering a deficit-reduction compromise to avert more than $600 billion in tax and spending increases in January are more familiar with each other as partisan foils than policy-making partners, according to people close to both who declined to be named because they aren’t authorized to speak publicly about the interactions between the two leaders.”

Gingrich Says He Would Have Done Better

Newt Gingrich told the Huffington Post that Mitt Romney was a bad presidential candidate and he blamed the Republican party “for fostering a corrosive culture that produced Romney as its candidate.”

Said Gingrich: “I think either Rick Perry or I would have probably done better.”

He said the Obama campaign was “begging for Romney,” growing more and more confident of their chances against the former Massachusetts governor as the Republican primary progressed.

But he said Romney “was mainly the byproduct of a consultant-dominated GOP culture whose risk-averse mindset shielded candidates and stunted their ability to respond dynamically to different points of view.”

Booker Will Run for Senate

Newark Mayor Cory Booker (D) will not challenge New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (D) in next year’s gubernatorial race and will instead run for U.S. Senate in 2014, NBC 4 New York reports.

Two sources tell BuzzFeed the Obama administration “convinced him to run for Senate” instead of governor.

Economy Grew at 3.1% Rate

Wall Street Journal: “The U.S. economy expanded at an even faster pace than previously estimated in the third quarter, but the gains could be an outlier for the year as fiscal cliff worries and superstorm Sandy will likely slow growth in the final months of 2012.”

DeWine Suggests Schools Look at Armed Staff

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine (R) said schools should consider arming “someone” in their building to defend students against a gunman, the Columbus Dispatch reports.

Stressing that it is a decision to be made by local school districts, DeWine said that “if I was on a school board … I would seriously consider having someone in that school, who may be an ex-police officer, someone who has significant training, someone who had access to a gun in school.”

Brown Would Be Heavy Favorite in Special Election

A new WBUR poll in Massachusetts finds defeated Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) is in a strong position should there be a special election to fill Sen. John Kerry’s (D-MA) seat next year with a favorability rate of 58% to 28%.

Said pollster Steve Koczela: “We matched him up theoretically against (U.S. Reps.) Ed Markey, Mike Capuano, Steve Lynch and (former U.S. Rep.) Marty Meehan, and in each one of those cases, he led by between 17 and 19 points.”

Romney’s Transition Effort was Unprecedented

According to documents acquired by Time, the cost of Mitt Romney’s transition effort — the planning that took place in case he became president — cost around $8.9 million with roughly 500 staffers. The entire operation was shut down the Friday after the election.

Man Behind 47% Video Opens Oppo Firm

James Carter IV, the freelance researcher and grandson of former President Jimmy Carter “who became a minor campaign celebrity after unearthing the now-infamous video of Mitt Romney railing against 47 percent of Americans at a private fundraiser has used his political fame to start his own opposition research firm,” BuzzFeed reports.

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