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Poll: 60% Support Tax Hikes on the Wealthy

More bad fiscal cliff news for Republicans, from the Politico/GWU Battleground Poll today:

A new POLITICO/George Washington University Battleground Poll finds that 60 percent of respondents support raising taxes on households that earn more than $250,000 a year and 64 percent want to raise taxes on large corporations.

Even 39 percent of Republicans support raising taxes on households making more than $250,000. Independents favor such a move by 21 percentage points, 59 to 38 percent.

Only 38 percent buy the GOP argument that raising taxes on households earning over $250,000 per year will have a negative impact on the economy. Fifty-eight percent do not.

As much as I’ve held out hope that the Wall Street Journal and others are right that sticking to principles is the correct move, what do you do if the public disagrees? Maybe the GOP needs to come to terms with that. This doesn’t mean conservatives are wrong on the tax issue, it just means there may not be a way to win this political battle at the moment.

At the Weekly Standard, Bill Kristol makes a very persuasive case for that:

The Journal editors believe that after January 1, when taxes will have gone up for everyone, House Republicans will block Democratic legislation that would cut taxes—that would restore the lower 2012 rates for the vast majority of taxpayers, fix the Alternative Minimum Tax, and for that matter would probably offer a compromise on dividends and the death tax better than what will be the new dividend rate of 39 percent and death tax of 55 percent with a $1 million exemption.

Will Republicans really oppose such legislation? President Obama will be beating the drums for this tax cut. Senate Democrats will pass this tax cut. If Senate Republicans vote against it, it won’t be “Senate Democrats running for re-election in 2014” who will have a tax hike on their resumes. It will be Senate Republicans who will have voted against cutting taxes. And if House Republicans block such legislation, it will be they, and they alone, insisting on higher taxes.

Of course they won’t. Republicans will fold with lightning speed after we go over the tax cliff on January 1. Which is why the third of the Journal editorial’s three key paragraphs is moot. If we go over the cliff, there won’t be damage to Obama’s chances of second-term success. Quite the contrary. What Republicans will have done is to make Democrats the party of tax cuts and Obama a president fighting for economic growth.

As I say, it won’t happen. Most Republicans will go along soon after January 1 with what will now be the Democrats’ tax cutting agenda. If the House Republicans now follow the Wall Street Journal editors over the cliff, the only effect, I’m afraid, will be to turn a manageable tactical retreat in December into a panicked strategic rout in January.

The WSJ board is right that GOP infighting isn’t helpful for negotiations. But two facts remain: 1.) Americans largely agree with Obama on tax hikes; and 2.) Republicans will be blamed if the country goes over the cliff.

Because of that, Obama shows no sign of backing down, nor does he need to. Even if Republicans stop fighting amongst themselves, Obama is not stupid. He knows the impossible position they’re in — heads he wins, tails they lose. The question is, which loss is the least damaging for the GOP? As the Israelis say, “don’t be right, be smart.” Republicans might want to keep that one in mind.

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