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Coal for GOP; empty stockings for the unemployed

Published: Friday, Dec. 27, 2013 12:27 a.m. CST

Congressional Republicans returned home for the holidays with empty stockings for constituents suffering through long-term unemployment, after the GOP repeatedly blocked renewal of the federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation fund. Now a new survey shows their stinginess could create a significant backlash at the polls next year – including from some Republican voters.

Public Policy Polling took a look at four Republican-occupied swing districts in the House, as well as that of House Speaker John Boehner. Bipartisan majorities of voters in each district supported extending long-term unemployment benefits.

In Rep. Gary Miller’s California district, 68 percent of voters want the benefits continued and 28 percent support ending them. Republicans support an extension, 54 percent to 41 percent.

In Rep. Mike Coffman’s Colorado district, 63 percent of voters want the benefits extended, with a narrow plurality of Republicans (48 percent) in favor.

Rep. Dan Benishek will face voters in Michigan who heavily support (66 percent) an extension, including 60 percent of Republicans.

In Rep. Rodney Davis’ district in Illinois, 66 percent favor of extending benefits, with 53 percent of Republicans in favor.

Even Boehner’s home district exhibits similar views: Sixty-three percent of voters want the fund extended and 34 percent do not, including a majority (52 percent) of Republican voters.

A common rejoinder to such polling data is that voters might not prioritize the issue when casting a ballot next fall – but PPP also asked if a failure to extend long-term unemployment benefits would make voters less likely to reelect the incumbent. In each district, the answer was yes.

The liberal group Americans United for Change commissioned the poll, which is part of a wider strategy by Democrats and progressives to push Republicans into renewing the benefits as soon as Congress returns next year.

Poll results such as these, along with increasingly brutal local media coverage, must be worrisome to Republican strategists. They reinforce several major negative perceptions about congressional Republicans: that they are pervasively obstructionist, that they have little concern for struggling Americans and that they have allowed ideology to hamper the economic recovery.

(A failure to renew the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program would cost 240,000 jobs, according to a White House report.)

That’s the message progressives will be hammering home over the holiday break, especially when benefits for the long-term unemployed stop three days after Christmas.

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