Saying Newt Gingrich is the best debater in the GOP primary race is like saying an elephant does a better cannonball than a mouse – sure, it’s true, but that really isn’t the point. The same can be said about what Newt keeps saying about President Obama: sure, more people are using food stamps than when he took office, but is that really the point?
No, it isnt’t, but it sure does get headlines. Newt’s newest attack ad glibly claims:
“The fact is that more people have been put on food stamps by Barack Obama than any president in American history ... I believe every American of every background has been endowed by their creator with the right to pursue happiness. And if that makes liberals unhappy, I’m going to continue to find ways to help poor people learn how to get a job, learn how to get a better job and learn some day to own the job.”
Aside from the fact that the president didn’t “put” anyone on food stamps, this might not be the winning argument Newt thinks it is. According to a new poll , 72% of Americans believe food stamps are an important public service. The support for the food stamp program is strong across all ideologies, as Democrats (86%), independents (73%), and Republicans (54%) all see it as important to the country.
Officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (or SNAP for short), the foodstamps program is available to those with low incomes and is designed to provide the very basics of nutritional sustenance for poorer families. As a government program, it is generally considered to be the one of the most effective anti-poverty programs enacted since the Great Depression. Apparently, that distinction has resonated with the general population.
More than three in four voters say cutting food stamp funding is the wrong way to reduce government spending. When voters are told that Congress is considering cutting billions of dollars to reduce government spending, by 77% to 15% they say cutting food assistance programs like the food stamp program is the wrong way to reduce government spending, with fully 64% of voters saying that they feel this way strongly. Democrats (92%), independents (74%), and Republicans (63%) all strongly oppose cutting funding to the food stamp program as a way to reduce government spending. When asked in November 2010, voters opposed cutting food stamps by a substantial but narrower margin of 71% to 19%.
But perhaps the worst part of this poll data for Mr. Ginrich is this: Voters are less likely to vote for a candidate who favors cutting funds for the food stamp program, and more likely to vote for a candidate who makes it a top priority to reduce hunger in the United States.
Candidates who want to cut funding to the food stamp program are not supported in that position, as half (50%) of voters say they are less likely to vote for that kind of candidate (just 9% more likely). On the other hand, voters are attracted to candidates who put reducing hunger at the top of their priorities. Nearly half (49%) say they are more likely to vote for a candidate focused on reducing hunger in this country, while just 8% are less likely. Focusing on reducing hunger in America makes 43% of independents say they are more likely to vote for a candidate.
All of this is to say that calling Obama the Foodstamp President may not be getting Newt the groundswell of support he was hoping for. But then again, no one is used to not getting support like Newt.