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Gift to the GOP: Obama much less popular than his policies

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Jan. 31, 2014: President Obama gestures as he speaks in the East Room of the White House.AP

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Sex, journalism and Ukraine

Gift to the GOP: Obama much less popular than his policies

Let’s say I told you that a majority of the country disagrees with Republicans on a whole bunch of major issues heading into the 2014 midterms.

And that younger voters are increasingly moving toward Democratic positions on social issues.

And that I could back it up by pointing to the latest CBS/New York Times poll.

Would you think that the GOP was in trouble this fall?

Actually, just the opposite is true. The Republicans have a good shot at capturing the Senate while holding the House. So why is that?

Let’s start with the poll:

“Republican lawmakers appear out of step with the public on a range of issues, according to the survey. On immigration, same-sex marriage, marijuana legalization and gun control, Republican lawmakers hold to the minority position…Half of people under age 45 who lean Republican support legalizing marijuana, and a majority of the same cohort of Republicans also backs same-sex marriage.” That’s a long-term warning sign for the GOP. Overall, “in the fall of 2012, just 24 percent of Republicans backed legalizing the unions; now 40 percent of Republicans do so.”

But we also see the trend on economic issues: “Nearly two-thirds of Americans believe that the distribution of wealth should be more equitable, and most, regardless of party affiliation, think that any plan to reduce the federal budget deficit should include both tax increases and spending cuts. Two-thirds of the public favors raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour from $7.25, an issue Democrats are seizing on.” 

So if this survey is accurate, President Obama is more in tune with the public on a range of issues. Yet his popularity (41 percent in the poll) is such that many Democratic candidates want him to stay out of their states and districts.

The main reason: ObamaCare. Whatever the law’s merits, it has been so damaged as a brand that many Republicans are making it a central feature of their campaigns--with conservative groups pouring in $50 million so far, according to the Washington Post. 

The CBS/NYT poll delivers a mixed public verdict: “Half of Americans think that there are some good things in the law, but that some changes are needed to make it work better, while 42 percent say it needs to be repealed.” But it’s hard to argue for changes in a complicated law when you’re being battered by 30-second ads.

There are, of course, other reasons why the media are touting this as a Republican year. The party that holds the White House almost always loses seats in the sixth year of a presidency. The lower turnout in non-presidential years, as we saw in 2010, favors the GOP. And here’s another one:

Washington is paralyzed right now. The first-in-a-year meeting between Obama and Boehner just highlighted that nothing is getting done. And when the capital is that dysfunctional, I believe more people blame the president for failing to lead.

So the fact that Obama’s issues have more public support than the president himself turns out to be academic. If you can’t translate that into concrete action, it doesn’t mean much.

 Sex, journalism and Ukraine

National Journal has called out a senior editor at the Economist for sexism.

Edward Lucas wrote a piece for the Daily Mail about Ukrainian opposition politician Yulia Tymoshenko, and, well, he sure dwells on her physical attributes and style:

“Mrs Tymoshenko’s immaculate blonde tresses and sometimes kittenish ways have led many macho politicians in the Ukraine — and abroad — to underestimate her. The truth is that her determination is terrifying. Nobody and nothing gets in her way.

“When she needs to, she is prepared to use her undeniable sexual magnetism. An ambassador once told me that a two-hour journey he spent in her sound-proofed, tinted-window limousine was the most sexually threatening experience of his life.

“I have interviewed her many times. Her body language, eyes, coquettish tosses of the head and cooing tones are almost hypnotic. But she is also capable of explosive anger. I have seen her shriek and curse in terrifying eruptions of rage: the kitten turns into a tigress.”

As Mediaite noted, Lucas defended himself by ripping the paper he was writing for:

“I would note in my defence that the Daily Mail is a paper where femaile journalists are not allowed to wear trousers in the office because it offends the editor, and where a large chunk of each issue is taken up with sneering picture stories about women who have ‘let themselves go’ (ie aged) or have had ‘work done’ (ie tried to disguise its effects). You might ask why I would write for a paper with values like that. The answer is that it is a good way to reach a huge slice of middle England which does not read the Economist (let alone the National Journal).”

So it was fine to write a piece that reeked of sexism for a place that looks down on women? 

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Howard Kurtz is a Fox News analyst and the host of "MediaBuzz" (Sundays 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET). He is the author of five books and is based in Washington. Follow him at @HowardKurtz. Click here for more information on Howard Kurtz.