I see that Jonathan Cohn is upset that Republicans claim to support deficit reduction, and yet support policies that would increase the deficit while opposing policies that would lower the deficit. That's true! Indeed, I strongly agree with Matt Yglesias that movement conservatives are not, in fact, deficit hawks, and haven't been for at least thirty years.
My fairly obvious observation about all that is (and I'm too lazy to look up the polls, but they're not at all difficult to find; John Sides has explored this over at the Monkey Cage, too) that this position -- lip service to the ideal of a balanced budget, but actual policies that produce enormous budget deficits -- is exactly what the American people tell pollsters they want. Now, I'm convinced that the majority of the American people don't actually know what "deficit" means (I'll refer again to the famous Bush/Clinton/Perot debate moment in which Bush was baffled by a question about how the deficit affected him personally, eventually needing the moderator to translate it to "the recession"). But perhaps what really needs explaining is the Democrats' position, which seems to be actually caring about the deficit in practice but pointing out the complexity of the issue in their rhetoric. That is, doing what's popular shouldn't need much of an explanation; what's odd is going against the polls. Which is it: do Dems misread the polls and mistakenly believe that people really want balanced budgets? Do they think that "responsible" budgeting will be popular regardless of the polling and, the 1996 presidential race notwithstanding, the election results? Or do they simply care more about policy than they do about popularity? I have no idea, but I do think that this is a pretty clear case of the Republicans in perfect sync with the will of the people, and the Democrats far from it.