Republican House and Senate Members are receiving strong messages on how the "Cut, Cap, Balance" pledge and the passage of the accompanying act is going to play out in their 2012 re-election bids.
It's a "cut and run" deal: If you don't cut, don't bother to run.
In June, before the push to cut current spending, cap future spending and balance the budget debate reached its current crescendo, a poll released by the free-market organization Let Freedom Ring by On Message Inc., provided a clear indicator of voter preference on these issues.
Sixty-nine percent of respondents supported cutting next year's projected $1.2 trillion deficit in half. Another 66 percent embraced significant caps on federal spending and 81 percent of all voters, including an astounding 74 percent of Democrats, wanted the federal government to balance its budget every year, just as they must.
These numbers are consistent among diverse polls. A recent Mason-Dixon Poll found that 65 percent of voters support federal requirements to balance the budget, while a July 14 Gallup poll showed independent voters - a critical "get" for Republicans in 2012 - favor spending cuts over tax increases by a margin of 66 percent to 25 percent.
Continuously nipping at Republican heels are those who self-identify as Tea Party activists or supporters, whose dynamic inclusion in the public-policy process can be ignored only at the peril of GOP members who hope to remain in office in 2012.
A July 11 Washington Post/Pew Research Center poll demonstrates that those supportive of or active in the Tea Party are against raising the debt limit by a margin of almost eight to one. But this isn't just a straight ideological issue: Even those who said they don't approve of Tea Partyers oppose a debt increase by 57 percent to 34 percent.
In the past month, more than 160 state and national organizations - including 40 with "tea" in their titles - signed the Cut, Cap, Balance pledge (including Independent Women's Voice) that made the official act on Capitol Hill possible.
Accordingly, even Republican presidential hopefuls have fallen in line to support Cut, Cap, Balance. Tim Pawlenty was the first Republican to sign the pledge, and Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Gary Johnson, Ron Paul, Thad McCotter and Rick Santorum have since signed. Even Mitt Romney - at first a bit wobbly on a debt ceiling increase per se - has signed and now says he is firmly behind such a proposal.
In an effort to highlight the enormous cost of Obamacare and its impact on the debt, Rep. Michele Bachmann, Minnesota Republican, had not signed the pledge as of last weekend. However, under new pressure from Tea Party groups, conservative House members and Sen. Jim DeMint, South Carolina Republican, Mrs. Bachmann became the ninth presidential candidate to sign the Pledge on Monday in Columbia, S.C. - Mr. DeMint's backyard. It is expected she will also vote in favor of the Cut, Cap, Balance Act on the House floor this week.
What do these numbers mean for Republican incumbents and presidential hopefuls? Their voter bloc knows what it wants, what it expects and what it will do if those needs are not met. Voters know exactly whose money is being overspent - and by whom - at the federal level. Grass-roots activists are no longer just on the sidelines cheering - they are on the field, in the game, talking among themselves and more than willing to boo a bad player off the field.
When a vote on the Cut, Cap, Balance Act comes up in the House and Senate, Republicans aspiring to federal office would be wise to remember that voters will take their long, clear memories right along with them to the voting booth. If the GOP doesn't walk the cuts today, running and winning in the future may be impossible.
Kerri Toloczko is a senior fellow with the Independent Women's Voice.
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