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Entitlement reform: Why Obama faces tough sell to supporters

A new poll signals a narrow margin for maneuver for a grand bargain on entitlements: Republicans want reforms that cut deficits, but Democrats are wary of any changes not mainly targeted to sustain Medicare and Social Security.

Monitor correspondent Liz Marlantes discusses why Democrats have the upper hand over the GOP when it comes to 'fiscal cliff' negotiations.
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President Obama is going to have to maneuver carefully on entitlement programs cherished by Democrats to cut the the grand debt deal he seeks.

First, he’s going to have to accede to changes to entitlement programs (chiefly, Medicare) that reduce the government’s long-term debt in order to get congressional Republicans on board for such a plan at all.

But then, he’s going to have to sell the plan to his own supporters as having little to do with debt and deficits at all, if he’s going to avoid a massive backlash.  Polling shows severe resistance to the kinds of entitlement changes that Republicans want.

That’s the upshot of polling from center-left group Third Way released on Tuesday and a response from the more liberal National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare.

Obama voters “don’t like that these are being discussed in the context of deficits,” says Jim Kessler, a co-founder of Third Way. “They want it in the discussion about solvency. So the challenge will be that should there be a major agreement that deals with these programs, that they are talked about in the context of fixing these programs, not reaching some magic number on the budget. And that’s a challenge.”

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