Should Democrats Should Welcome Debate Over Bush Tax Cuts?

Strategy/polling firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner finds, in a poll-based policy memo drafted for the Democratic strategy group Democracy Corps, that Democrats should welcome a debate over the Bush tax cuts, as more of the public supports their position (extend tax cuts for those who make less than $250,000) than the Republican position (extend all the tax cuts).

With Democrats down by 7 points in the congressional test ballot, they have reason to welcome this potential shift in the dynamic. Democrats hold the high ground on these issues -- and this one noticeably moves the congressional vote to the Democrats after a debate. Democrats should embrace a tax debate. Frankly, they do not have many issues where: 

  • There is a 17-point margin in favor of the Democratic position, 55 to 38 percent.
  • The strong messages give a disproportionate lift to the Democratic candidates -- scored 13 points better than named Democratic candidates while Republican messages performed half as well.
  • There is an opportunity to show seriousness on the deficit, while undermining Republicans on the issue.
  • The choice re-enforces Democrats' core values and strongest framework for the election (for the middle class versus Wall Street).
Results are based on an August 30 - September 2 poll of 845 likely 2010 voters nationwide, with a +/- 3.2 percent margin of error, conducted for Democracy Corps.

CBS polling concurs: 53 percent want the high-income taxes to expire. As does the latest National Journal poll: 29 percent wanted the high-income tax cuts repealed, while 28 percent wanted all of them repealed, yielding 57 percent who fell even with Obama or even further away from the GOP's stance

One disparity in the tax cut debate, however, is undeniable: enthusiasm.

At Tea Party rallies, conservative activists talk about, and hold up signs referencing, Obama's tax increases. There seems to be a palpable sense among the most energized of Obama's opponents that he wants to raise taxes on everyone. They cite taxes along with deficit spending as a chief complaint, referring to the expiration of the high-income-bracket Bush tax cuts as the "largest tax hike in American history"--and they are angry about it.

There does't seem to be much enthusiasm on the Democratic side for letting the high-income tax cuts expire. Democrats support Obama's, but you don't hear them yelling about it.

The tax cut debate also requires a strenuous framing effort, as Obama's critics talk about Obama "letting the Bush tax cuts expire" or "raising taxes." It's up to the president and his allies to frame the extension of some tax cuts as a pro-middle/working-class move.