Are Republicans Doing Better Than You Think?

At The Hill, John Feehery makes a provocative claim: John Boehner and Mitch McConnell are eating Barack Obama’s lunch:

Don’t tell the Tea Party, but the tag team of John Boehner and Mitch McConnell are currently mopping the floor with Barack Obama.
The president convincingly won a second term in November, but since that time, the congressional Republican leadership has outfoxed, outmaneuvered and plain out-strategized him on just about every issue.

On taxes, McConnell (R-Ky.) just flat-out beat Joe Biden. He preserved 98 percent of the Bush tax cuts in perpetuity, which from a policy perspective is huge. He also made sure that the payroll tax holiday came to a conclusion, thereby making sure that every American would feel the tax increase that President Obama has long been fighting for.

By agreeing on a smaller tax increase, McConnell also inoculated Republicans from Obama’s demands for higher taxes later on. Hey, Mr. President, we just raised taxes, and you want to raise taxes again? That dog simply doesn’t hunt with most voters, and Obama has taken to the less politically explosive position of closing tax loopholes. Boring.

On spending, the Republicans haven’t gotten everything they wanted. But they did get the rebranding opportunity that they so desperately needed. They are once again champions of spending cuts, and the American people now believe them.

I think this is both correct, and vitally important. The sequester drama played out well for Republicans, in that voters now believe that Republicans are serious about cutting spending, and, equally important, effective at making such cuts happen. Most people think Obama overplayed his hand on sequester, and wound up looking silly, as this Michael Ramirez cartoon illustrates:

I think Feehery is too optimistic about immigration, but he has a point with regard to guns:

Even on guns, Republicans have outmaneuvered the president by insisting on a Senate-first strategy. The White House, not knowing how to legislate, immediately decided to launch a new outside-the-Beltway campaign presumably aimed at GOP members, when just about everybody knows that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) was the real immovable force against more gun control. How do you campaign against your own majority leader? Good question.

The Hill notes that Feehery “spent 15 years working in the House Republican leadership.” It probably shows. Still, I think that Feehery is correct when he says that so far in Obama’s second term, Washington Republicans have fought him much more successfully than most observers realize.

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