House Republicans are on the verge of "caving" to the Senate and White House in a bruising fight over extending the popular payroll tax holiday, which expires Jan. 1, says ABC News' Jonathan Karl. At this point, House Republicans are just scrambling "for a face-saving way to give up" and accept the two-month extension agreed to overwhelmingly in the Senate. Whatever the House does, though, it will likely be too late to erase the damage Republicans have inflicted on themselves. Here, five theories on how the payroll tax fight will affect the GOP:
1. The GOP is handing the 2012 election to Obama
"GOP Senate leader Mitch McConnell famously said a year ago that his main task in the 112th Congress was to make sure that President Obama would not be re-elected," says The Wall Street Journal in an editorial. But given the hash he and House Speaker John Boehner made of this tax fight, "they might end up re-electing the president before the 2012 campaign even begins in earnest." The standoff has already given Obama a poll boost, and it's also hurting his potential 2012 rivals, says Joshua Green in The Boston Globe. "They are all scrambling to win over the conservative base," so some are siding with the unpopular House payroll tax revolters — a stance that could haunt them next year.
2. And control of Congress to the Democrats
It's not just Obama "in a stronger re-election position" because of the GOP's bungling, says The Wall Street Journal editorial. This "payroll tax fiasco" is also making the already-unpopular GOP-controlled House even more loathed, and "the chances of Mr. McConnell becoming Majority Leader in 2013 are declining." If this chaotic and sloppy House-Senate GOP communication breakdown continues next year, we're headed for "the return of all-Democratic rule."
3. Republicans have lost their key advantage on taxes
Maybe the worst casualty for Republicans is the loss of their "strongest and only remaining brand advantage: Tax cuts," says Martin Longman at the Booman Tribune. What's shocking about how this has played out, says Derek Thomson at The Atlantic, is that Obama actually conceded a lot to Republican in the Senate bill, and he's still "somehow put the party of tax cuts in the position of walking out over a broad tax cut." This debate is as much about winning as it is taxes, and Republicans aren't just losing this round, "they are losing their own debate."
4. And they're losing the middle class
It's certainly "a reversal of the customary positions" for Democrats to be united and Republicans divided over a tax cut, says Green in The Boston Globe. So it looks especially bad for the GOP that its "sudden reluctance involves a tax cut that broadly benefits the middle class rather than the rich." Voters are noticing. Obama's recent five-point approval bump in a CNN poll was from big gains in the middle class, and a new ABC poll has Obama not only beating Republicans on taxes, 46-41 percent, but also killing them on who voters trust to protect the middle class, 50-35 percent.
5. Hold on. Republicans will win this in the end
"None of the obvious storylines to come out of this latest congressional skirmish look all that good for Republicans," says David Weigel at Slate. But the GOP is very good at getting the "policy sweeteners" it wants, even if it takes a short-term political hit. "The cynic's bet is that the story of GOP dysfunction won't matter" in the end. All the House Republicans have to do is wait for the Democratic side to blink, "and it always does," especially when their president is up for re-election.