All the available information suggests that the current payroll tax debate is hurting Republicans badly and buoying the President. You can see it in the body language of Boehner, Cantor and the rest of the leadership. The fact that Senate Republicans voted overwhelmingly for the compromise speaks volumes.
But the real tell is elsewhere.A short time ago Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) said, “It angers me that House Republicans would rather continue playing politics than find solutions.” Yesterday newly-appointed Republican Senator Dean Heller (NV) similarly lambasted his former House colleagues: “There is no reason to hold up the short-term extension while a more comprehensive deal is being worked out. What is playing out in Washington, D.C., this week is about political leverage, not about what’s good for the American people.” (Heller was actually in the House until earlier this year.)
Wipe away all the personal details. Brown and Heller are running for re/election next year. Most of the Republicans in the House are in safe Republican districts. (Paradoxically, a good number of them in swing districts are some of the most extreme because they’re the ones who got washed in on the 2010 tide.) The key here is that if you have significant political exposure to swing voters (or just loosely affiliated voters), you can see that being on the wrong side of this payroll tax debate is toxic.