Dems reading the tea leaves?

The Democrats’ sudden push to wrest control of the budget process away from the GOP may be a case of a battered party making a desperate attempt to regain its footing.

But recent poll numbers show at least somebody in the caucus is reading the tea leaves.

A Quinnipiac poll released Tuesday shows the public is none too happy with the way the Democrats have handled the budget process to date, with just 20 percent of those polled agreeing with the party’s tactics.  Granted, those numbers are skewed by an abysmal 9 percent approval rate from Republican respondents, but only about a third of Democrats polled showed any love for the beleaguered party.

To date, the Democrats’ handling of the budget meant sitting back while Gov. Chris Christie brought the pain – crafting the budget while bludgeoning the majority party with charges that the caucus is full of out-of-touch do-nothings, pandering to their union handlers.

This week, party leaders took charge, announcing Democrats would step up and craft their own spending plan while in the process making a statement on the party’s core beliefs. How well the tactic will play with taxpayers remains to be seen but it seems likely their numbers can’t go down as a result.

The poll also looked at the millionaire’s tax, which promises to be a flashpoint again this year as Democrats seek to paint the GOP as the party that favors the rich at the expense of the middle class.

Poll numbers show 56 percent of those polled believe the state should spend more tax dollars to improve schools in the poorest districts and 62 percent believe the state should pony up more money for all schools in the state.

Now look at the question on the millionaire’s tax.  Respondents were asked if they would support the millionaire’s tax if the money went directly to funding public schools – reportedly a component of the budget the Democrats are crafting.  Two thirds of respondents said they would support it under those circumstances versus 29 percent who said no way, a number the Democrats will be sure to notice as they drop the bill to increase the tax on million-dollar earners.

But not all of the polling numbers favor the Democrats’ new tactics.

Nearly three out of four respondents said cutting spending  – not raising taxes – is the better way to increase funding for schools, a number that plays directly into the governor’s hands and one that shows in general, people favor raising taxes to pay for schools when the taxes raised are not their own.  

Let the games begin.

Dems reading the tea leaves?