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What Backlash? Obama Birth Control Policy Looks Popular

Source: CBS/New York Times 

The big Catholic backlash against President Obama looks like a big nothing, at least for the moment. A new poll from Gallup shows that, among Catholic voters responding to survey, the president’s approval rating is 46 percent – down 3 percentage points from where it was last week, but not a statistically significant change given the size of the poll.

It’s possible Obama’s numbers among Catholics will deteriorate more next week. But given Obama’s decision Friday to tweak the policy and the support he’s now won among less conservative Catholic leaders, like Sister Carol Keehan of the Catholic Hospital Association, such deterioration seems unlikely. As Ed Kilgore says, "If [these] numbers are even remotely accurate, the effort to mobilize Catholics against Obama on this issue has simply failed."

The bigger story on contraception today is the determination of Senate Republicans to keep pressing their case, staring with a proposed amendment from Roy Blunt (Missouri) and Marco Rubio (Florida) that would allow employers to opt out of providing any benefit they find immoral. Apparently the latest idea is to attach the amendment to the highway bill, inspiring one of the all-time greatest headlines from Talking Points Memo: “When the Rubber Meets the Road.”

Puns aside, the Republicans seem to be on the wrong side of the issue politically: Even last week, before Obama tweaked the policy, polls showed that Americans overall supported the contraception requirement. The latest CBS/New York Times poll shows the same thing – and, interestingly, found virtually no difference between Catholics and non-Catholics.

One other thing to watch: Will Democrats try to use this issue as a way to reframe the debate over the Affordable Care Act, about which the public remains, at best, ambivalent. In Massachusetts, Republican Senator Scott Brown has come out in favor of eliminating the contraception requirement and Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren has attacked him for it. But, as Greg Sargent points out, she isn’t just talking about birth control. She’s also talking about economics and the power of corporations to control individual health care decisions:

Here’s what Warren said yesterday:

This election is about whose side you stand on. Here’s an example of giving power to insurance companies and corporations to undercut basic health care coverage. I’m going to fight for families to keep that coverage. The economics around health care are huge for families.

Democrats, including the president, have struggled at portraying health care reform as a populist cause. Maybe Warren can succeed where they have not.

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