At some point, Republicans will have to leave the cozy confines of the Tea Party rallies, Lincoln Day dinners, right wing blogs, and conservative talk radio echo chambers. At some point, they have to listen to independent voters. After all, rare is the candidate who can win a general election without earning a sizeable proportion of the 51% of Minnesotans who call themselves “independents.”

When Republicans do start listening to the indies, they’re not going to like what they hear.

Do I hear an "amen?"
“Cuts only” is what the GOP is prosletyzing these days. In Minnesota, their insistence on filling a budget shortfall without new revenue led to a government shutdown and another Republican borrowing binge. So Republicans mostly won the policy fight, but will they win the 2012 electoral fight?

A MinnPost poll published yesterday found that very few Minnesota independents are shouting “amen” to the “cuts only” sermons that conservatives have been so vigorously preaching. While 22% of independents support the cuts only Republican approach, more than three times as many (72%) support using a combination of spending cuts and tax increases, the approach DFL Governor Dayton advocated. That’s a 50-point spread, and other recent polls have had similar findings.

(By the way, even a plurality of Republicans (50% support) supported Dayton’s balanced approach over the cuts only approach (42% support)).

Likewise, 46% of Minnesotans unaffiliated with either major party blame Republicans for the government shutdown, while only 18% blame Dayton, and 25% blame both.

Still, you get the sense that Republicans aren’t believing they have a problem, because it’s not what they hear at the places they hang out. Instead, they quibble about poll methodology, congratulate each other on their courage and integrity, and seek out comfy places where their position is reinforced.

Yes, the election is a long time away, and voters memories will fade. But it’s likely that the 2012 campaign debates will continue to center on the “balanced versus cuts only” debate, because budget shortfalls remain on Minnesota’s horizon as far as the eye can see. And it’s not a debate that looks to be going well for Republicans.

– Loveland