Harry and Nancy aren’t going to like this:

A slim majority, 52%, agreed with Bush that most benefits should go to children in families earning less than 200% of the federal poverty level — about $41,000 for a family of four. Only 40% said benefits should go to families earning up to $62,000, as the bill written by Democrats and some Republicans would allow.

That means that as long as the facts are out on prominent display, the slimmer side of the SCHIP expansion debate wins, and that’s the president’s side. The result probably explains why the leftwing pundits and bloggers are even more toxic and dishonest than usual on this particular issue, and keep trying to shift the debate back to the family that they’re claiming to be shocked, shocked to see “attacked.” They keep hoping that someone prominent on the right will take the bait and actually attack the Frosts.

There’s a little bit more good news in the poll for the GOP side:

A larger majority, 55%, said they were concerned that the program creates an incentive for families to drop private health coverage for a public program. Bush and Republican opponents have called that a step toward government-run health care. Only 42% said that wasn’t a concern.

Taken together, the results show that while Bush may be losing the political battle with Democrats, he may be winning the policy debate.

Now for the bad news, which comes in two parts. One, generically, the voting public still trusts the Democrats on the issue.

Of those polled, 52% said they have more confidence in Democrats to deal with the issue, compared with 32% for Bush.

I half expect the president to cave as he has done so many times in the past, but there’s a win to be had here if he’ll stand in the way of history and at least whisper “Can’t we slow down a little bit?”

The second part of the bad news has nothing to do with this poll, but it’s an observation about life that’s relevant to this and all other things political.

Gossip is more powerful than truth, a study showed on Monday, suggesting people believe what they hear through the grapevine even if they have evidence to the contrary.

Researchers, testing students using a computer game, also found gossip played an important role when people make decisions, said Ralf Sommerfeld, an evolutionary biologist at the Max Planck Institute in Germany, who led the study.

“We show that gossip has a strong influence… even when participants have access to the original information as well as gossip about the same information,” the researchers wrote in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Most rumors are nonsense, of course, but they have a powerful effect on the decisions people actually make. They’re more powerful than verified facts. “Bush lied, people died” comes to mind as a prime example.

That in mind, I’ll link to Keith Olbermann’s interview with the Frosts last night. It’s a low moment in cable news, an interview in which the Frosts exhibit the photos of their injured children in an attempt to crank the rancor in what ought to have been a civilized debate up to 11.

The interview does end on a comedic note, though, with Halsey Frost’s description of Olbermann as “responsible.” That’s one rumor that will never be verified.