Who is to blame for sequestration?

At midnight, $85 billion in federal spending cuts take effect if there is no action to avert them. And, despite meetings taking place this morning, no action is expected today.

So who is to blame for this mess?

According to the latest Elon University Poll, North Carolina residents point to Congress first. Fifty-four percent of those surveyed blame Congress, 22 percent blame the president and 17 percent say both.

Breaking it down by party, 34 percent blamed Republicans, and 28 percent blamed Democrats. But there was plenty of blame to go around; 32 percent said that neither or both parties deserve the blame.

Those results put North Carolina in the mainstream of American opinion. A Gallup Poll released two days ago tracked opinion on the handling of sequestration this way: “Obama does best, with a 45% approval rating, compared with 37% for Democrats in Congress and 25% for Republicans in Congress.” A Washington Post-Pew Research poll finds similar results.

What’s going on? For one thing, people tend to rate specific people higher than institutions. Still, it is worth nothing that the Obama administration has done a good job in putting Republicans on the defensive.

Assistant Poll Director Jason Husser adds that the White House’s news campaign has helped. “The president’s massive release of reporters about the sequester’s consequences seems to have persuaded some Democrats as they were more likely to be ‘very worried’ than Republicans.”

 But if the stalemate continues for long, expect to see the numbers for Obama to sink. North Carolinians — and Americans — seem to have little patience for Washington gridlock these days, particularly if it means a reduction in services they’ve come to depend on. North Carolina has a large military presence, and about half of the $85 billion in cuts will come from the Pentagon. If those trickle down, you can expect little support for either Congress or the president in places like Fayetteville, Jacksonville, Goldsboro and Havelock.

Gov. Pat McCrory does has a suggestion for his own party: “I think sometimes we come across as too negative,” he said. “I think sometimes we come across as too strident.”

— John Robinson

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