By Mark Halperin
June 14, 2012
At some point over the next few months, both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are going to have to address the question of how they might deal with the opposition party starting in January 2013.
It isn’t an academic or patty cake issue. Whether the next president turns out to be a re-elected Obama or a first-term Romney, neither man will be able to address the fiscal cliff issues of expiring tax cuts and automatic spending cuts without at least some cooperation from the other side of the aisle, no matter how the two parties divvy up control of Congress.
You don’t hear either candidate call for unified party control of Washington for a variety of reasons. In the President’s case in particular, the promise of a return to an Obama-Pelosi-Reid triumvirate is probably not the strongest card he could play.
But neither do Romney or Obama talk much about the virtues of divided government and their own credentials to bring both parties together in January to keep the country from going over that cliff.
Still, as November gets closer, some voters will perceive that Washington’s ability at the beginning of the new year to deal with taxes and spending could set the course for the U.S. economy and the presidency for the foreseeable future. And the media will press the candidates to explain why they will be qualified, after months of multi-million dollar political warfare, to change the course of Freak Show history. At least part of the electorate will evaluate the candidates on that basis.
A new poll conducted for the group No Labels looks at these so-called “Problem Solving Voters.” With a national sample of just over 1,000 registered voters, the survey, done by Mark Penn’s Penn Schoen Berland firm, attempts to gauge the pubic interest in finding someone who can lead the country away from the cliff and smash through the Beltway gridlock.
No Labels was started at the end of 2010 to encourage post-partisan decision making in federal policy. Its founders include long-time Democratic fundraiser Nancy Jacobson, political strategist and Bush and McCain adviser Mark McKinnon, and David Walker, the former U.S. Comptroller General.
The poll found that 54% of voters are “Problem Solving Voters,” defined as those who, when “voting for national office, chooses candidates who are focused on solving problems rather than the candidates who align most closely with their party affiliation.”
The survey also suggests that a full 94% of independents put themselves in that group, compared to 30% of Democrats and 33% of Republicans. More of them think the country is on the wrong track than do other voters.
Although this group overwhelming says it is looking for new leadership, Romney only holds a 51-49 lead among them.
According to the poll write up, “Problem Solving Voters feel that it is very important for problem solving candidates to work with members of the opposing party to find solutions (84%)…They also want problem solving candidates to be inventive in coming up with new ideas (71%) and to not feel bound by pledges (67%).”