Pundits and talking heads have been weighing in on the effects of the 16-day quasi-government shutdown on the Republican Party and the 2014 mid-term election. Many are saying that the electoral consequences could be steep, and could even cost the GOP control of the House of Representatives.
It’s hard to counter arguments and polling data that the Republican Party’s standing with Americans has been hurt by the shutdown. Gallup recently found that just 28% of the public has favorable view of the GOP, the lowest of any party on record. The good news is that Republicans are still favored on the economy. They were also given a gift by the endless problems plaguing the federal ObamaCare exchange.
But the shutdown could help Democrats with fundraising and candidate recruitment, Stu Rothenberg recently wrote, at a time when President Barack Obama’s poll numbers with his own party had been softening.
Public Policy Polling has released surveys in competitive House and Senate races showing that Democrats have picked up some steam. There were some problems with those polls, such as using “generic Democrats” against incumbent Republicans in House seats and “generic Republicans” against likely Democratic Senate candidates and inflated party ID numbers to distort the poll numbers.
CNN released a poll yesterday finding that 54% of Americans believe that it’s a “bad thing” that the GOP controls the House, though they also give President Obama negative marks, with an approval rating at 44/52, roughly the same as before the shutdown.
The problem is that it’s way too early to take numbers like these seriously. The shutdown will likely only be a blip on the radar as the nation approaches the 2014 election, assuming, of course, that a similar incident doesn’t happen again at the beginning of the year.
While many point to the 1995-1996 government shutdown and the following election in which Republicans lost a handful of seats in the House as precedent, today’s fast-pace news cycle is an ally to the GOP. Ezra Klein, a leftist policy wonk, equated the GOP’s bad numbers in the context of 2014 to “an MCL tear for a linebacker.” They may be down for the moment, but it’s not a career-ending injury, not by a long-shot.
There’s also the ObamaCare factor. Republicans will no doubt run on that issue, much like they did in 2010, before the law took effect. The only difference is that they can point to rising insurance premiums, failed promises, and the implementation train wreck and say, “See, we told you so.” That would be especially true of the Obama Administration doesn’t meet or come close to enrollment expectations, a very real possibility, at this point, that could have very serious consequences for the insurance industry.
Republicans will see their polling numbers rise after the government shutdown, as has happened seen in the past. Provided that another shutdown doesn’t occur, Republicans are very likely to maintain control of the House, though they could lose seats and see their majority slightly diminish. They’re also practically given at least three seats in the Senate, and they still could grab control of that chamber, though that seems like a stretch right now.
That doesn’t mean that this is good news, though things could be worse. Typically, a president can expect losses for his party in the sixth year of his term (the “six-year itch,” as it’s called) and off-year elections are typically good for Republicans. So the bar is being set ridiculously low, but this is roughly the same political outlook before the government shutdown.
The bottomline is that it’s far too early to write any sort of political obituary for the Republican Party.