In addition, 72 percent of Democrats approve of Obama’s handling of the economy, compared to just 33 percent of independents and 8 percent of Republicans. (Obama’s overall approval rating on the economy is 38 percent.)
Numbers like that reflect a mindset among Democrats that could have a significant effect this November. If Democrats have talked themselves into believing the economy is better than it is, they are less likely to demand candidates who will concentrate relentlessly on the economy. And that will produce candidates who focus less, or at least less effectively, on the voting public’s No. 1 concern.
Such a mindset could affect press coverage, too, in a world in which most reporters, opinion writers and editors at large media outlets are Democrats.
If many journalists see a better economy than most other Americans see, it’s not surprising they might devote a disproportionate amount of coverage to, say, gay wedding cakes or the Chris Christie bridge scandal.
Of course, it’s possible most Democrats do, deep inside, believe the economy is still bad, and their poll answers reflect partisanship more than anything. That’s a danger for Republicans, too, who could overstate the economy’s problems.
But in the bigger picture, there is a huge opportunity for the GOP this November. Large majorities in the Times poll said both parties should do more to address the needs and concerns of the middle class. Seventy-six percent of independents said the GOP should do more, while 72 percent of the same independents said Democrats should do more.
The middle class is where the votes are, and the party that does the better job of addressing “middle-class squeeze” (a term House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has taken to using frequently) will win in November.
Some Republican officeholders and conservative thinkers are devoting a lot of time and energy to coming up with policy proposals for middle-class relief, and the GOP candidates who are most open to those ideas will have a big advantage in attracting votes outside the Republican base.
By keeping their focus on the economy and embracing new ideas to extend their appeal, Republicans can build on the advantages they have now, 10 months before Election Day, while Democrats and some of their allies in the press distract themselves with side issues.
The payoff for Republicans could be huge, not only this November but as they prepare for 2016, too.
(Byron York is chief political correspondent for The Washington Examiner.)