Most See Republican Party as Out of Touch and Extreme

A new Pew Research survey finds that 62% of Americans says the Republican party is out of touch with the American people, 56% think it is not open to change and 52% say the party is too extreme.

Opinions about the Democratic Party are mixed, but the party is viewed more positively than the GOP in every dimension tested except one. Somewhat more say the Republican Party than the Democratic Party has strong principles (63% vs. 57%).

A Bitterly Divided GOP

Mark Halperin: “In the internal divisions over how to handle the end of the endgame on the sequester PR fight, the GOP is oh-so divided on what kind of legislation to offer. Lindsey Graham and a few others are suddenly born-again tax raisers. John McCain is affronted by the notion of turning spending decisions fully over to the President. And there remains a deep, subterranean fear that the White House would win the hearts-and-mind battle (big) if the current cuts kick in.”

Who Will Voters Blame?

Charlie Cook: “Now that budget sequestration seems inevitable, the remaining question is, who gets hurt? The White House and Democrats seem supremely confident that the public will cast blame on congressional Republicans. To be sure, the GOP, in its weakened condition, is blamed for virtually everything short of the weather and the flu…”

“Having said that, assuming that sequestration kicks in, with $85 billion in mandatory budget cuts pretty much across the board–exempting only Social Security, Medicaid, and, to a lesser extent, Medicare, and disproportionately hitting defense–many Americans will begin to feel some inconvenience after a few days, and a few will feel real pain. It’s only when, or if, it persists for a week or more and affects more people that impatience and annoyance will turn into anger, then rage. At that point, it becomes difficult to know whether voters will still vent these emotions exclusively at Republicans.”

No Sequester Talks Scheduled

First Read: “By the way, there are NO talks scheduled before Friday’s sequester kicks in. Just a lot of media events designed to lay the groundwork for the negotiations in March. That said, don’t be surprised, if simply for appearances sake, there is a last minute meeting at the White House before Friday — simply because both sides need to be seen as pretending to try to stop the sequester, even if there aren’t any serious proposals right now to do so.”

Boehner’s Big Bet

If the “let-the-cuts-happen” approach on the sequester seems risky, Politico notes the alternative for Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) is worse.

“Jump-start negotiations with Obama, and he would be slammed for engaging in out-of-sight, secret talks with a president his party doesn’t trust. Raise taxes, and Boehner’s courting trouble in his conference and endangering his speakership. Both are simply nonstarters.”

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) told Fox News that Boehner would lose his speakership if he agreed to a deal with the president that included new tax revenues.

Christie Will Accept Medicaid Expansion

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) will expand the state’s Medicaid program to cover 300,000 uninsured residents, the Newark Star-Ledger reports.

Christie joins Republican governors from Ohio, Arizona, Michigan, Nevada, North Dakota, Florida and New Mexico as well as Gov. Lincoln Chaffee of Rhode Island, an Independent, in embracing the larger Medicaid program.

Politico notes Christie’s “status as a potential 2016 presidential contender adds political intrigue. He’s already taken flak from fellow Republicans for heaping praise on Obama after Hurricane Sandy at a critical time in the 2012 presidential campaign.”

Christie Not Invited to CPAC

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) is not one of almost 40 featured speakers at next month’s Conservative Political Action Conference because he is “not being invited,” ABC News reports.

“The source would not answer why Christie, who is widely thought to be interested in the 2016 presidential race, would not be invited to the confab of conservative activists.”

Can Obama Put the House in Play in 2014?

Stu Rothenberg: “It’s far too early to know whether Democrats will have some, or even any, chance to win back the House next year; candidate recruitment has just begun, the number of retirements (and open seats) is uncertain and the president’s popularity more than 20 months from now is an open question. But we do know that history, as The New York Times‘ Nate Silver pointed out in a column last November, suggests that Democrats will have a very tough road to 218 seats.”

“Going back to the election of 1862, the only time the president’s party gained as many as 10 seats was, well, never. Even in 1934, the best showing by the president’s party in House elections since the Civil War, the president’s party gained only nine seats.”

Man Arrested for Threatening Lawmakers Pushing Gun Control

Police have arrested a Colorado man for sending racially and sexually offensive e-mails to state Rep. Rhonda Fields (D), “including one that said he hoped she would meet the same fate as a congresswoman who was shot in the head,” the Denver Post reports.

One of the e-mails called Fields “pathetic” and also mentioned state Rep. Beth McCann (D). It said, “Hopefully somebody Giffords both of your asses with a gun…”

The man told police he was “just voicing some frustrations” about efforts to tighten state gun laws.

GOP Lawmaker Says Cheney Will Go to Hell

Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) told a Libertarian conference over the weekend that former Vice President Dick Cheney would probably end up in hell for the Iraq War, the Huffington Postreports.

Said Jones: “Congress will not hold anyone to blame. Lyndon Johnson’s probably rotting in hell right now because of the Vietnam War, and he probably needs to move over for Dick Cheney.”

Prominent Republicans Back Gay Marriage

“Dozens of prominent Republicans — including top advisers to former President George W. Bush, four former governors and two members of Congress — have signed a legal brief arguing that gay people have a constitutional right to marry, a position that amounts to a direct challenge to Speaker John A. Boehner and reflects the civil war in the party since the November election,” the New York Times reports.

The Supreme Court next month will hear back-to-back arguments in a suit seeking to strike down Proposition 8, a California ballot initiative barring same-sex marriage, and another case that challenges the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act.”

“Legal analysts said the brief had the potential to sway conservative justices as much for the prominent names attached to it as for its legal arguments.”

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