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Nine in 10 Americans Agree: D.C. Looks Out For Its Own Political Interest

Eighty-nine percent believe that the president and Congress want to stick to their partisan positions instead of work together.
Tea party supporters demonstrate before the arrival of President Barack Obama at the Renaissance Grand Hotel, Wednesday, March 10, 2010, in St. Louis. Obama was attending a event with Senator Claire McCaskill. (AP Photo/Jeff Curry)Jeff Curry / AP

It’s not every day when nearly 90% of Americans agree on something, so this got our attention in the most recent NBC/WSJ poll: 89% believe that the president and Congress want to stick to their partisan positions instead of work together. That includes 90% of Republican respondents, 89% of Democrats, and 85% of independents -- so about as unanimous as you’ll get on any political question. Now, those who believe Washington figures act in their own political interest diagnose the problem differently: 26% blame Republicans more for this, 15% point the finger at President Obama, and 47% blame both sides equally. But if you wanted a theme to tie together the news of the past week -- Hillary’s emails, the GOP reaction to them, that Senate Republican letter to Iran’s leaders, and the Democrats’ furious response back -- it’s this story. Americans believe politicians are looking out for their own political interest than the common interest. And they’re not wrong.

Two wrongs don’t make a right

The two big political stories over the past week -- Hillary’s emails and that Iran letter -- have led to partisans saying, “Well, the other side does it, too!!!” as one of us recently noted in a Facebook post. Case in point: Hillary Clinton’s defenders have argued that Jeb Bush has his own private server, and that Scott Walker had his own email system in Wisconsin. But do those practices mean that Clinton’s personal email use is OK? The other example: Republicans contend that the GOP’s letter to Iran’s leaders is justified because Nancy Pelosi went to Syria in 2007, and because ex-Rep. David Bonior went to Baghdad in 2002 to protest in the impending Iraq war. But when did two wrongs make a right? If you criticized said behavior in the past, you can’t turn around and use it to justify your current behavior. It’s no wonder that 90% of the country thinks Washington is looking out for its own partisan interest.

Was Clinton’s ’08 campaign doomed to fail? Or was she beaten by a once-in-a-lifetime figure?

Inevitably, the Clinton email story has produced plenty of Democratic handwringing. Here’s the Washington Post: “Some top Democrats are alarmed about Clinton’s readiness for a campaign.” Here’s the New York Times: “Mrs. Clinton, many Democrats say, is simply too big to fail.” And the handwringing over this email story is really about one thing -- many Democrats don’t believe that Clinton has learned from her 2007-2008 mistakes. But here’s a question we should all be asking ourselves: Were the mistakes from eight years ago fundamental flaws that could doom her against any well-funded, well-supported opponent? Or was Barack Obama the only person on the planet who could have beaten her? In other words, could Hillary Clinton have done everything the same she did in 2008 -- tough relationship with the press, no central narrative/message around her candidacy, not correcting the image that everyone always assumes the worst when it comes to the Clintons -- and still won the White House had it not been for Barack Obama? The answer to that question helps determine if Democrats should be really worried, or if this whole episode is a bump in the road.

A Tale of Two Electorates

Our most recent NBC/WSJ poll demographically breaks down Democratic and GOP primary voters. The results reveal a tale of two VERY different electorates:

Democrats: 58% female, 42% male

Republicans: 54% male, 46% female

Democrats: 46% liberal, 40% moderate, 12% conservative

Republicans: 66% conservative, 28% moderate, 5% liberal

Democrats: 62% white, 25% African American, 12% Latino

Republicans: 95% white, 6% Latino, 1% black

Democrats: 25% 18-34, 26% 35-49, 29% 50-64, 20% 65+

Republicans: 19% 18-34, 25% 35-39, 34% 50-64, 21% 65+

Democrats: 22% high-school degree or less, 25% some college, 24% 4-year degree, 29% post-grad

Republicans: 24% high-school degree or less, 31% some college, 28% 4-year degree, 17% post-grad

Who better represents middle-class values?

Both political parties have identified the “middle-class squeeze” as the top economic issue in American politics. But our NBC/WSJ poll shows that neither is really viewed as the solution. But one party is definitely in worse shape here than the other. Per the poll, just 36% of Americans say that President Obama represents middle-class values, 33% say that of Hillary Clinton, and 30% say that of the Democratic Party. By comparison, only 19% of Americans say the Republican Party represents middle-class values, and just 15% say that of Jeb Bush.

Is Cummings also eyeing MD SEN seat?

In Maryland’s open Senate race, Politico reports that it’s more than possible that Rep. Elijah Cummings becomes the third Democrat (after Chris Van Hollen and Donna Edwards) to jump into the contest. “‘It does appear as though he probably has a strong proclivity to running,’ said a source with deep ties in Maryland politics. ‘This is an opportunity that — who knows when it will come around again for a minority, much less an African-American? It’s a momentous opportunity for someone with his story.’” But the same source wonders if Cummings wants to give up his perch as the Democrats’ top defender at the House Oversight Committee and Benghazi Committee.

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