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The GOP's focus deficit

Yes, the last two weeks haven't been kind to the Obama White House. Yes, the administration has found itself on the defensive -- regarding the IRS, Benghazi and leak-investigation controversies. And, yes, those stories aren't going way.

But it's also unclear if these controversies are political winners for the Republican Party.

In addition to new polls showing that President Obama's approval rating remains above 50 percent after these stories first surfaced, a Washington Post/ABC survey suggests that Republicans are suffering from a focus deficit.

According to the poll, just 33 percent of Americans believe congressional Republicans are mainly concentrating on matters that are personally important to them, while 60 percent say they aren’t.

By comparison, 51 percent say Obama is mainly focusing on things important to them, versus 44 percent who disagree -- matching his approval rating in the poll

And 43 percent of respondents think congressional Democrats are concentrating on matters of importance, compared with 50 percent who say they're not.

Bottom line: The public believes that Obama and the Democrats are focusing more on the issues they care about than Republicans are. 

Conservative writer Ramesh Ponnuru reaches a similar conclusion in his latest column.

[Republicans] have no real health-care agenda. Voters don’t trust them to look out for middle-class economic interests. Republicans are confused and divided about how to solve the party’s problems. What they can do is unite in opposition to the Obama administration’s scandals and mistakes. So that’s what they’re doing. They’re trying to win news cycles when they need votes.

Congressional Republicans were right to press for hearings on all of these issues. But investigations of the administration won’t supply them with ideas. They won’t make the public trust Republicans. They won’t save them from themselves.

Political observer Charlie Cook adds:

But at what point do [Republicans] decide that maybe voters might be more interested in other issues or worries than about politicians on one side pointing fingers and throwing allegations at those on the other side?

Yet a problem for Republicans -- if they decide to turn their attention to other issues -- is that Republicans really care about these controversies.

According to a separate Pew poll, 37 percent of Republicans are following the IRS story very closely (compared with 21 percent of Democrats and 25 percent of independents), while 34 percent of Republicans are following the Benghazi investigation closely (versus 18 percent of Democrats and 26 of indies).

So Republicans might find themselves trapped in this box: They really want to focus on these controversies, and their voters do, too. But others want the GOP to concentrate their attention elsewhere.