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The dust-up this week between President Barack Obama and House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), ostensibly about Wall Street regulation, revealed more about the two parties’ midterm campaign strategies than anything else.
With polls showing voters deeply concerned about the economy and government spending and souring on Democrats, Obama and his party are seizing on gaffe after GOP gaffe, intent on making the election anything but a referendum on the majority.
That means an obsessive, hour-by-hour focus on a micro-message—grasping every opportunity to shift attention away from their unpopular or tepidly-supported policies and toward anything that smacks of Republican extremism.
For Republicans, the strategy is the opposite—a macro-approach in which they brush off the excesses of individual candidates or isolated blunders by reiterating a big-picture mantra that Americans are sick of the spending and job losses that haven’t taken place on the majority party’s watch.
By an average 10 percentage-point margin since March, 45% to 35%, independent registered voters have consistently preferred the Republican to the Democrat when asked which congressional candidate they would vote for in their district. Independents' preference for Republicans has been generally consistent over this time, with the gap in favor of Republicans increasing slightly since March, from 8 to 12 points.