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First Thoughts: Can Boehner sell the emerging deal in the House?

Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) arrives at the Capitol to continue negotiations on how to end the government shut down on October 12, 2013 in Washington, DC.
Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) arrives at the Capitol to continue negotiations on how to end the government shut down on October 12, 2013 in Washington, DC.Andrew Burton / Getty Images

Can Boehner sell the emerging deal in the GOP-controlled House?... So far, House conservatives aren’t reacting too kindly to it (then again, many of these folks would be against ANY deal)… Mitch McConnell: A profile in courage?… Stuck in the middle with you: NBC/Esquire survey shows that the American center is much bigger than you think… And it also makes clear what this middle wants -- fairness… And take our short quiz to see which group you belong to.

*** Can Boehner sell the emerging deal in the House? Here’s the good news if you’re rooting for an end to the government shutdown and for the debt ceiling to be raised before the Treasury Department’s Oct. 17 deadline: Senate Democrats and Senate Republicans are on the verge of a deal. But here’s the bad news: No one -- right now -- is certain it will get through the GOP-controlled House. Per NBC’s Kasie Hunt, the outline of the Senate deal includes funding the government through Jan. 15, raising the debt ceiling through Feb. 7, and requiring a conference committee to hammer out a larger budget compromise by Dec. 13. In addition, it provides additional measures to verify income subsidies under the health-care law (which Republicans wanted), and it delays a reinsurance fee under the health law (which was a union priority). So the question becomes -- can House Speaker John Boehner sell this to his Republican members? One thing that COULD help him is if Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell delivers 25 GOP votes in the Senate (so more than half of his conference). Remember, during the New Year’s fiscal-cliff deal, 40 Republicans voted for that compromise, though five of them are no longer in the Senate. The more Republicans who vote for the deal, the more cover Boehner has.

Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) arrives at the Capitol to continue negotiations on how to end the government shut down on October 12, 2013 in Washington, DC.
Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) arrives at the Capitol to continue negotiations on how to end the government shut down on October 12, 2013 in Washington, DC.Andrew Burton / Getty Images

*** House conservatives aren’t reacting too kindly: But so far, the emerging deal IS NOT receiving a strong reception among House conservatives. “We’ve got a name for it in the House: it’s called the Senate surrender caucus,” Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) told the New York Times. “Anybody who would vote for that in the House as Republican would virtually guarantee a primary challenger.” Of course, Huelskamp and many of the most conservative House Republicans wouldn’t vote for ANY kind of deal. And here is the situation that Boehner and House Republicans face: If they don’t pass the deal -- or simply allow the Democrats plus a minority of House Republicans to pass it -- they will get blamed for not resolving the fiscal standoff. In other words, House Republicans are jammed. By the way, NBC’s Frank Thorp reports that the House GOP conference will meet at 9:00 am ET. But also don’t miss this meeting from last night: “Sen. Ted Cruz met with roughly 15 to 20 House Republicans for around two hours late Monday night at the Capitol Hill watering hole Tortilla Coast,” Roll Call reports. “The group appeared to be talking strategy about how they should respond to a tentative Senate deal to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling without addressing Obamacare in a substantive way, according to sources who witnessed the gathering.”

*** Mitch McConnell -- a profile in courage? We have one final point to make on the emerging Senate Democrat-Senate Republican deal: Mitch McConnell striking this deal comes with some real risks. After all, he has plenty on the line (a Tea Party primary challenger, a potentially formidable general-election opponent waiting in the wings), but he’s working with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to cut a deal. In fact, you could argue that McConnell has lots more riding on this (given he’s facing re-election) than Boehner does (given the speaker’s very safe seat). As McConnell said on the Senate floor yesterday, “I echo the remarks of the majority leader. We've had a good day,” he said. “I think it's safe to say we've made substantial progress and we look forward to making more progress in the near future.” Of course, McConnell is reflecting the will of his caucus (which wants a deal), while Boehner is reflecting his (which wants to fight).

*** Stuck in the middle with you: The contentious fiscal standoff has reminded us that Washington remains politically divided -- maybe more so than it’s ever been before. It's Democrat vs. Republican. Liberal vs. conservative. Blue vs. red. (It's also Tea Party Republican vs. non-Tea Party Republican.) But that's not necessarily true OUTSIDE of the nation's capital. According to a new NBC News/Esquire survey that breaks voters into eight distinct groups, America's political center is much larger than you might think: More than half of the country belongs in the middle, compared with less than half who find themselves clearly on the partisan right or partisan left. And looking ahead to future elections, here's everything you need to know about our new survey: President Barack Obama in 2012 won or tied with all four groups associated with the center. As the truism holds, if you win the center, you win the national election.

*** Eight is Enough: Per the NBC/Esquire survey, here are the eight different groupings (going from left to center to right):

The Bleeding Hearts (the left – representing about 10% of the survey): These folks are mostly white, highly educated, and very liberal. They believe in a strong government and are supportive of gay marriage and abortion rights. Think of Lisa Simpson from “The Simpsons.” They voted for Obama, 96%-1% in 2012.

The Gospel Left (the left – 11%): These people tend to be African Americans, females, and older. Like the Bleeding Hearts, they support government, but are more conservative on social issues like gay marriage and abortion. Think of Tyler Perry’s Madea. They voted for Obama, 99%-1%.

Minivan Moderates (the center – 14%): Two-thirds of these people are women and white, and they tend to live in the suburbs in the South and Midwest. They support abortion rights, gay marriage, and gun control, but they have concerns about government regulation. Think of Claire Dunphy from “Modern Family.” They voted for Obama, 66%-33%, and the reason he blew the doors off of this group was due to his campaign’s messaging on abortion and contraception.

The MBA Middle (the center – 13%): Mostly white and highly education, these folks are more liberal on social issues, more conservative on economic ones -- but they do support some government regulation. Think of Don Draper from “Mad Men” or Michael Scott from “The Office.” They split evenly between Obama and Romney in 2012.

The Pickup Populists (the center – 12%): These people tend to be white, lower income, and living in the South, Midwest, or rural areas. They strongly support the government doing more and taxing millionaires, but they also support gun rights and a constitutional amendment to balance the budget. Think of Phil from “Duck Dynasty.” Obama got 56% of the vote from this group.

The #Whateverman (the center – 13%): These are the least politically engaged in the survey. They’re also the youngest of the eight groups. They back abortion rights and gay marriage, and they’re divided on government involvement. Think Turtle from “Entourage.” Obama got 53% from this group, but another 11% didn’t vote.

The Righteous Right (the right – 14%): These folks are socially conservative and extremely devout. They oppose abortion and gay marriage, but are more supportive of some government regulation. Think Ned Flanders from “The Simpsons.” They broke for Romney in 2012, 87%-11%.

The Talk Radio Heads (the right – 14%): These people – mostly men – are your red-meat conservatives. They strongly oppose government regulation and spending; they are against abortion and gay marriage; and they want to end affirmative action. Think Jack Donaghy from “30 Rock.” They went for Romney, 94%-3%.

*** What the center wants: So who is this COMBINED center, and want does it want? Well, if there’s one common thread, they want fairness and meritocracy. According to the survey, 36% of this middle are Democrats, 36% are independents, and 28% are Republicans, and they voted for Obama by an overall 56%-43% margin. (Once again, if you win the center, you’ll win national elections.) In addition, 82% are white, 11% are Latino, and 6% are African American. They’re pessimistic about the state of the economy and the state of American politics. They support increasing the minimum wage and maintaining government programs like food stamps and welfare. And a whopping 73% agree that government should guarantee equal pay for equal work, regardless of gender or race. But this center is also a bit wary about government: 54% agree that the government shouldn’t legislate how Americans behave when it comes to abortion, marriage, and marijuana, while a combined 79% think government spending is either “wasteful and efficient” or “should never exceed what it takes in.” What’s more, a majority backs gay marriage, but they oppose affirmative action. And 76% agree with the statement that America should no longer be the world’s policeman.

*** So which group do you belong to? Are you a Bleeding Heart? Or a Talk Radio Head? Or are you a Minivan Moderate? What about a Pickup Populist? Take our quiz -- the link is here -- and see if you’re a member of the majority middle or if you’re on the partisan right or left. Enjoy.

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