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U.S. downgrade feeds political blame game: analysts

(Xinhua)

10:05, August 11, 2011

WASHINGTON, Aug. 10 (Xinhua) -- The first-ever U.S. credit downgrade is a likely addition to the political arsenals of both Democratic and Republican Parties in the lead up to the 2012 elections, U.S. experts said Wednesday.

"Democrats will use it to blame the Tea Party, and Republicans will use it to blame the president (Barack Obama)," said Dan Mahaffee, an analyst with the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress.

Last week's downgrade by the ratings agency Standard and Poor's (S&P) came on the heels of much drama in Congress, as lawmakers from the two parties engaged in what many viewed as a game of brinkmanship in the run up to an Aug. 2 deadline to raise the country's debt ceiling. A deal was reached at the eleventh hour to raise the debt limit by 2.4 trillion U.S. dollars in a bid to avoid a U.S. default.

The move, however, was too little and too late for S&P, one of the nation's three major ratings agencies, which on Friday downgraded the U.S. sovereign credit to reflect its opinion that the Congress' plan falls short of what the country needs to do to get its fiscal house in order.

Darrell M. West, vice president and director of Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution, said the debt issue will continue to reverberate throughout the 2012 election period because the two parties have such different visions regarding the role of government. "It will take a decisive election to break that logjam," he said.

While the public blames the White House and both Congressional parties to a certain degree, polls indicate that the public faults the Republican Party slightly more for what some believe has been the party's recent intransigence during the debt ceiling negotiations, noted Steven Kull, political psychologist with the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland.

So far the public has not taken a definitive side, and the downgrade remains low on the list of concerns of a public primarily concerned with the weak economy and few jobs prospects.

That means that for the downgrade to be used effectively, it must be framed in terms of the sluggish economy and lackadaisical jobs growth, Mahaffee said.

Some U.S. conservatives could also point to the issue as an indication of what they view as the country's decline under the stewardship of Obama.

In recent days, both Obama and House Speaker John Boehner avoided pointing fingers and seemed to strike a conciliatory note.

"But whether those feelings in the beltway can translate into the 2012 campaign, I doubt that," Mahaffee said.

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