For all the anger among “the professional left,” as White House press secretary Robert Gibbs labeled it, it is not clear how negatively President Barack Obama’s supporters will view the deal the president struck with Republican leaders over extending Bush-era tax cuts, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.
At a focus group of voters in two swing districts around Philadelphia Monday night, some Democrats said they wanted the tax cuts for the rich to expire.
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Chiho Chan, a 31-year-old high-tech worker, said the compromise could drive him from the Democratic Party.
But more prevalent was the response of Teresa Malley, a 62-year-old retired sales manager from Buckingham, Pa. Before learning of the terms of the deal, she said she liked the direction the president was going on taxes, “compromise, but don’t give away the store.”
When Democratic pollster Peter Hart told her Obama had opted to extend tax cuts to even the richest Americans, she said she was let down, but she added, “I’m going to trust him.”
Robert Passantino, 67, an independent from Yardley, Pa., said it “would be catastrophic” for all the tax cuts to expire, and the White House had extracted an extension of unemployment benefits.
That sentiment is what White House officials are hoping for. White House economists are convinced that allowing all the Bush-era tax cuts to expire would have delivered a shock to the fragile economy that would have been disastrous, knocking two percent off economic growth and tacking more than a percentage point onto the unemployment rate.
Some liberals had said the economic hit would be mild, even if all the tax cuts expired. But shell-shocked voters and the White House did not appear willing to take that gamble.
The focus group showed the disappointment and frustrations that swing voters have with Obama. But there was little anger, and the president appears to be getting some credit for his efforts. Most people in the group lauded his bailout of the auto industry -- and even his efforts to prop up the banks -- as a success.
And most voters still appear willing to give him a chance. His recent gestures toward the Republican Party are getting notice, and mainly positive notice.
But when asked what he needed to do to win their votes in 2012, most had one message: Turn the economy around. Hart said the president’s re-election will depend on that and not on satisfying liberal voters.