More Evidence Of The Political Risk To The GOP In A Shutdown

With just hours to go, the Republicans on Capitol Hill seem prepared to take a big political risk.

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Backing up the CNN poll I discussed this morning, a new ABC News poll shows that Republicans seem to have the most to lost in this showdown over a government shutdown:

A new ABC News/Washington Post poll finds the Republicans in Congress at greater risk of political damage in a government shutdown: Sixty-three percent of Americans disapprove of their handling of the budget debate, 13 points worse than Barack Obama’s rating on the issue.

Neither side gets remotely positive scores, indicating plenty of irritation to go around. But Obama’s 41-50 percent approval rating for handling the budget negotiations far exceeds the GOP’s 26-63 percent. The Democrats in Congress fall between the two, at 34-56 percent.

While these views are highly partisan and ideological, the Republicans are weaker in their base. Seventy-one percent of Democrats and 61 percent of liberals approve of Obama’s handling of the issue. Fewer Republicans or conservatives approve of the GOP’s performance, 56 percent and just 40 percent, respectively.

Notably, even among those who call themselves “very” conservative, fewer than half, 45 percent, approve of how the Republicans in Congress are handling the issue. (Naturally, even fewer in this group, 17 percent, approve of Obama’s approach.)

In the political center, this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, finds that 56 percent of independents disapprove of Obama’s handling of the issue. But 66 percent disapprove of how the Republicans in Congress are dealing with it.

(…)

These views are roughly similar to results in ABC/Post polling after the brief shutdowns in 1995 and 1996. In late January 1996, Bill Clinton’s rating for handling the dispute, 42-50 percent, was essentially the same as Obama’s now; the Republicans’, 20-74 percent, was somewhat worse than now. Overall, today, as then, the president looks to be on firmer ground, the GOP less so.

Additionally, the public by 72-24 percent in 1996 said “partially shutting the government should not be used as a tool in budget negotiations” – again similar to current opposition to using the threat of a shutdown as a way to try to block the health care law.

This number comes as conservative journalist David Freddoso shoots down an idea that has been floating in Republican circles for the past week or so, namely that the 1995-1996 shutdown didn’t really hurt the GOP:

A lot of conservatives are now trying to minimize the damage the GOP suffered after the 21-day government shutdown of 1995-1996. They point out, correctly, that even though President Clinton was re-elected, Republicans held the House (losing just three seats on net) and gained two Senate seats.

What they fail to mention or appreciate is that this was not a good performance for the GOP that year. The GOP’s Senate gain that year sounds just fine if you measure it from a baseline of zero, but political victories and defeats aren’t measured that way. Absolute victories can be relative disasters, and vice-versa.

Republican success in the Senate in 1996 was as much a function of the map as anything else. Even taking Bill Clinton’s second plurality victory into account, Republicans underperformed in Senate races. They picked up relatively low-hanging fruit by winning three seats where long-serving Democrats were retiring — in Nebraska, Alabama, and Arkansas — but they narrowly lost four other close contests, and have since managed to gain only one of those four missed seats.

In South Dakota, Republican Sen. Larry Pressler lost his re-election to Sen. Tim Johnson by about 8,500 votes out of more than 300,000 cast. Republicans are only now hoping to pick that one up now, 18 years later

They lost an incredibly close contest for an open Democratic seat in Louisiana by less than 6,000 votes out of 1.6 million cast, putting Sen. Mary Landrieu, D, into office. Again, she will have held this seat for 18 years by next November.

In Georgia, Max Cleland, D, just barely won the seat of retiring Sen. Sam Nunn, D. He won by 30,000 votes out of more than 2 million cast. Republicans did pick this one up in 2002.

Republicans also narrowly lost a Senate seat in a special election that occurred in January 1996, right after the shutdown drama. Ron Wyden, D, narrowly defeated Republican Gordon Smith to take over the seat vacated by the resignation of Sen. Bob Packwood, R. The margin of victory was just 18,000 votes out of more than 1 million cast. (Smith went on to win the state’s other Senate seat that fall, holding it in the GOP column.) Wyden still holds this seat, and probably can as long as he wants to.

So yes, Republicans gained two Senate seats after shutting down the government. But they could have done much better. We can’t immediately conclude that the shutdown caused this underperformance, but the election of 1996 is not something you want to hang your hat on when you argue that shutdowns don’t matter.

If there is a shutdown, it’s entirely likely that the GOP’s control of the House will not be in serious jeopardy. As Nate Cohn explains today in The New Republicthanks to gerrymandering and the fact that the number of actual competitive districts in the House today is far lower today than it has been at virtually any time in the recent past. Indeed, the GOP victory in 2012 was as much the result of redistricting after the 2010 census as it was public dissatisfaction with the President and the state of the economy. The fact that Republicans suffered relatively small loses in the fact of a very good Democratic year in 2012 is further testament to just how solid this majority actually is. Is it possible that we could see some kind of wave election in 2014 that would sweep the Democrats back in power in the House? Well, anything is possible. However, under current conditions the odds of serious Republican losses in the House seem pretty low. This, of course, is what happened in 1996.

Just as in 1996, though, the GOP could face problems in the Senate. Seventeen years ago, the GOP had a big enough majority in the upper chamber that it could afford to suffer the minor losses it did that year. Nonetheless, as Cohn notes, the party lost seats that it probably could have won, even with Bill Clinton at the top of the Democratic ticket. This time around, the GOP is in the minority in the Senate and aiming to regain the majority after a disappointing performance in 2012 when it actually lost two seats. If Republican are going to win the majority back, they will have to win six out of seven red state seats currently held by Democrats while holding on to all of the Republican seats up for re-election. While can’t say for sure, as Cohn readily admits, that the 1995-1996 showdown was responsible for GOP underperformance in the Senate races that years, when you’re in a situation like the GOP will be in next year where there’s little room for error, it’s hard to say that the party is helping itself right now, and they’d realize that if they took off blinders.

But of course, those are the kind of facts that complicate a convenient narrative. Now, the GOP appears headed toward another shutdown, the first since that fateful one that lasted three weeks and, in part, put in motion events that led to everything to the re-election of a President and a sex scandal that would eventually lead to impeachment and trial in the Senate. Perhaps its easy for them to forget just how big a price they paid for that, but they may be about to learn all over again.

FILED UNDER: Congress, Deficit and Debt, Health Care, Public Opinion Polls, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020.

Comments

  1. legion says:

    an idea that has been floating in Republican circles for the past week or so, namely that the 1995-1996 shutdown didn’t really hurt the GOP

    That there is the sound of desperation, my friends. People who are paid to tell those in power only what they want to hear, regardless of how much harm it causes them or anyone else, are screaming at the tops of their lungs, trying to get one last paycheck cashed before they slink back off to the think tank & lecture circuit. The fact that the careers of the people who listen to them – and the economy of the nation they were supposed to be governing – will become smoking craters means less than nothing to them.

  2. al-Ameda says:

    If there is a shutdown, it’s entirely likely that the GOP’s control of the House will not be in serious jeopardy. As Nate Cohn explains today in The New Republic, thanks to gerrymandering and the fact that the number of actual competitive districts in the House today is far lower today than it has been at virtually any time in the recent past. Indeed, the GOP victory in 2012 was as much the result of redistricting after the 2010 census as it was public dissatisfaction with the President and the state of the economy. The fact that Republicans suffered relatively small loses in the fact of a very good Democratic year in 2012 is further testament to just how solid this majority actually is.

    Doug, are you saying that the GOP may suffer negative consequences in that, this situation may cause them to not gain ground or attain a majority in the Senate because of the polled perception that they are behaving poorly?

    If that is how you read it, then we agree. The House is effectively rigged to stay GOP for a while, and the GOP could have had 3 additional Senate seats in 2012 if they had not screwed up in ND, MO, and Indiana. I doubt that this has any effect on the 2016 presidential race, at any rate it is too early to guess that one right now.

  3. C. Clavin says:

    “…the GOP appears headed toward another shutdown, the first since that fateful one that lasted three weeks and, in part, put in motion events that led to everything to the re-election of a President and a sex scandal that would eventually lead to impeachment and trial in the Senate…”

    Do you really think Republicans are going to find out that Obama has been getting hummers in the Oval Office?
    Where is Linda Tripp?
    Imagine how the bigots will react if they find out it’s been with a white girl…their little tiny heads will explode and get little ground-up tea leafs all over the Halls of Congress……

  4. Woody says:

    The expectations of the GOP infrastructure – donors, media, thinktanks and so forth – are that the Republican Party will not really suffer losses that matter to them. As noted, it is unlikely at this point in time that the GOP will even lose the House in 2014, and of course 2016 is far imto the future. I suspect the GOP’s senior legislators are hoping this holds true should a shitdown or debt default take place.

    Personally, I’m wondering who Megyn Kelly will question when it dawns on them that the GOP’s constant primal screaming has not, in fact, been unquestionably popular outside the Murdoch cocoon; that their credibility as a sound political party will take a hit; and that they will put the House into play, even with favorable redistricting.

  5. Blue Shark says:

    …The Republican party so richly deserves all of the derision that is due them.

    …Problem is … there has been nearly no cost to them for all athe obstruction and crazy antics over the past few years with the MSM covering the both-sides-do-it charade.

    … We can only hope this time some of the mutant chickens being farmed by the Republican can surely come home to roost.

  6. john personna says:

    I think Doug is saying that one victim of gerrymandering is the GOP itself.

    They have “primaried” their party into an extremist organization.

  7. john personna says:

    @Blue Shark:

    It’s an “agency issue.”

    The House Republicans driving this know where their fundraising bread is buttered. It’s just that this doesn’t help Senate or Presidential contenders from their own party, at all.

  8. superdestroyer says:

    When they are members of an irrelevant political party. What is the risk when the choice is either give Sen. Reid everything he wants or shut the government down. If they vote to give the Democrats everything they want, then do the Republicans have any reason to exist?

  9. superdestroyer says:

    @john personna:

    The if the Democrats and Republicans did not gerrymander, then the Republicans would be in the majority. If the Democrats were willing to give up many of the CBC and CHC seats, the Democrats would be in the majority. However, how is being in a minority party when the majority party has perfect discipline good for conservatives?

  10. john personna says:

    @superdestroyer:

    Point me to a popular vote endorsing … anything you want.

  11. Mr. Prosser says:

    The prevailing wisdom seems to be saying that the GOP will hold the House because of gerrymandering. Well, fine. But who’s to say that all the gerrymandered districts are full of barking loons? Perhaps the coming messes will anger those in the safe districts to primary the loons. I’m sure we’ll always have the Gohmerts and Inhofs but is it a forgone conclusion the R’s will always allow the ultras only?

  12. C. Clavin says:

    If they vote to give the Democrats everything they want,

    Get it thrust your skull…this is not something Democrats are asking for…something they want.
    It’s the job of Congress to pay the bills on what they spent. Tea-Stain Republicans think they can get what they want by not paying their bills. It’s what the extremists want.
    So stop lying.

  13. superdestroyer says:

    @john personna:

    There have been many at the state level. Even in California, voters will vote against affirmative action and uncontrolled spending increases when given the chance. I suspect in a few years that as the Democrats become more powerful that they will go after initiative and referendum in the states that have them. I doubt if the Democratic Party establishment is going to want to share power with groups that can gather petitions and get things on the ballot.

  14. superdestroyer says:

    @C. Clavin:

    The Continuing resolution is for FY2014 that is just beginning. This is about allowing the Obama Administration to not only keep spending at current levels but to also spending money on new programs where a real budget bill has not been passed. If the Democrats did not demand a complete victory on FY2014 spending, they could probably find a compromise with the Reppublicans. But since the Democrats consider the Reppublicans irrelevant and on a path to extinction, the Democrats see no reason to ever compromise again. What is amazing is how this is the real beginning of the one party state and the MSM refuse to even notice.

  15. john personna says:

    @superdestroyer:

    But on these recent national topics, and a return to pre-Obamacare … nothing?

  16. Todd says:

    @superdestroyer:

    What is the risk when the choice is either give Sen. Reid everything he wants or shut the government down.

    Why do Conservatives insist on saying things like this?

    Simply keeping the government running (at stupid sequester spending levels no less) is far from “everything” Sen Reid or President Obama wants.

    On the contrary, it’s (quite rightfully) the least they’ll accept.

  17. David M says:

    @superdestroyer:

    What demands are the Democrats making? Specifically demands similar to the GOPs attempt to defund Obamacare.

  18. superdestroyer says:

    @Todd:

    Are you suggesting that President Obama would like a much higher budget deficit, a much bigger public sector, and a smaller private sector? Or are you suggesting that President Obama and Sen. Reid would like to raise taxes by almost $1 trillion dollars to cover the current budget deficits.

    If the citizens do not want to pay much higher taxes, then budget cuts are the only answer. What Sen. Reid wants to do is limit the budget cuts until the Democrats regain control of the House so that the Democrats can raise taxes generaly on white middle and upper middle class voters to transfer more money to core groups in the Democratic Party.

  19. superdestroyer says:

    @David M:

    The Democrats are demanding the funding of new entitlement programs (ACA) without ever passing a budget for those entitlements. ACA is being funded out of the continuing resolution which is really just suppose to be a continuation of current spending. Thus, more spending for subsidies (meant to produce more automatic Democratic Party voters) I also suspect that the sequester will not continue if Sen. Reid gets his way.

  20. David M says:

    @superdestroyer:

    The Democrats are demanding the funding of new entitlement programs (ACA) without ever passing a budget for those entitlements.

    That’s so off the mark it’s not even wrong. Please stop trying to discuss the Federal Budget when you clearly don’t even have a wikipedia level understanding of it.

  21. David M says:

    Oh, and the idea that Obama or Reid will get their way on anything is just ridiculous. I’m fairly sure a vote will be held at some point and a majority of each House will compromise on a CR. Passing a bill by majority vote is in no way close to anyone “getting their way”.

  22. Scott says:

    No, there are no new programs in a Continuing Resolution. The funding is for exising programs. The ACA is not a new program, it was passed in 2010.

  23. Todd says:

    @superdestroyer:

    If the citizens do not want to pay much higher taxes, then budget cuts are the only answer.

    Somehow it looks like you’re operating from the premise that I think budget deficits are “bad”.

    I don’t.

    As for this:

    so that the Democrats can raise taxes generaly on white middle and upper middle class voters

    You pretty much just described ME there … and I’m not terribly scared … of the Democrats.

    From my perspective, Republicans in general, and Tea Party Conservatives in particular are a much greater threat to my economic well being. You see, if they succeed in wrecking the economy (say for instance by allowing the debt ceiling to be breached), then there’s a reasonably good chance that I might not have much income for the government to tax anyway.

    p.s. what’s with the “white” part? Are you suggesting that my black and mexican friends who make about the same amount of money as I do won’t be taxed ????

  24. C. Clavin says:

    Destroyer….
    First…ACA is not an entitlement.
    Everything else you said is wrong too.

  25. Tyrell says:

    If the government “shuts” down, then how is it determined what essential services will continue?
    Maybe people would realize that there are many government agencies that are non essential, redundant, and antiquated. Some essential agencies have a lot of waste and fraud.
    Delaware River Commission, Denali Commission, Federal Tricycle Authority, Federal Inter Agency For the Management of Exotic Weeds, Indian Arts and Crafts Board, Office of Thrift Supervision, Millenium Challenge Corporation, Radio and TV Marti (Hispanic), US Mission To the UN, African Development Foundation. Some of these could also be combined or privatized.
    Of course there are many secret agencies and departments that Congress has no knowledge of. Some agencies were cranked up decades ago and just keep running on like some sort of machine.
    I don’t know a perfect answer, but it seems that one thing that could be tried would be to put some of the Congressional leaders together at a hotel with lots of good food, give them a deadline and tell them that they will not be allowed to use phones, watch tv, or listen to the radio. That way they will get it done by Saturday morning so that they will be home in time to watch college football on tv. Then they will come up with something.
    I remember that movie “Dave” in which an imposter as president actually managed to get people together and get some real things done. That is who we need as leaders: real people that have run businesses, worked in the field, and had to meet a payroll.
    “Get ‘er done”
    “I’m stuck in Folsom Prison .. and time keeps dragging on” (Cash)

  26. humanoid.panda says:

    @Todd: @David M:
    Should we mention to mr. destroyer that the vast majority of the ACA funding is actually not reliant on anything discussed in the budgetary process, since that process deals with discretionary spending and ACA is (mostly) mandatory spending, and therefore every single word he wrote here is nothing but gibberish?

  27. humanoid.panda says:

    @C. Clavin: Technically, it is actually is an entitlement, in the sense that just like Social Security and Medicare, the government is obligated by law to pay out subsidies and maintain the exchanges. For this reason, the shutdown will not affect the ACA, except on the margins.

  28. David M says:

    @Tyrell:

    ….redundant…waste and fraud…put some of the Congressional leaders together…give them a deadline…I remember that movie….president actually managed to get people together and get some real things done….leaders…real people…“Get ‘er done”

    That all sounds good, but the GOP wants to repeal Obamacare, not agree on compromises to improve it. They have ruled out compromising on the issue, so you need realize there aren’t two rational parties in DC right now. The Democrats are the only adults left.

  29. C. Clavin says:

    Panda…
    It’s a program that includes some entitlements…Medicare for instance.
    I look forward to purchasing private insurance free of the employer relationship. That’s not an entitlement.
    Subsidies are not entitlements. Unless you think the Fossil Fuel industry and Agri-Biz are on entitlements.

  30. humanoid.panda says:

    @C. Clavin: To make myself clear, the ACA subsidies are an entitlement in the legal sense, as in something the government is legally obligated to provide and is therefore not part of the discretionary budget that gets hashed every year. I don’t at all mean this in the conservative sense of “Stuff the dark brown hordes are receiving at expense of honest taxpayers.”

  31. anjin-san says:

    @ Tyrell

    That is who we need as leaders: real people that have run businesses, worked in the field, and had to meet a payroll.

    Herbert Hoover was a brilliant businessman, both in the office and out in the field, where he knew how to roll up his sleeves and get things done. He was also big on eliminating “government waste”

    How did that work out?

  32. Liberal Capitalist says:

    Done. It’s closed.

    I think the next week will be the end of innocence for those who believe they are the Tea Party.

    6 million pissed off Americans is a big group with which to contend.

  33. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @superdestroyer:

    Are you suggesting that President Obama would like a much higher budget deficit,

    You mean like the one Bush drove up with the willing help of *every* Republican in the House and Senate?

    And this is your party of fiscal responsibility. No wonder they keep getting re-elected.

  34. Paul Hooson says:

    Reasonable persons can see the political danger in unreasonable acts. The story of the Whig Party 2013?

  35. superdestroyer says:

    @Scott:

    But since the Congress has never passed a budget since 2010, Congress has actually never voted for a budget that pays for the ACA. Remember,the government has been under CR since 2009. President Obama has actually never signed a budget that has funded all of the government.

    What is bad is that the Democrats have used the CR process to act like a budget without ever really having to follow the rules.

  36. superdestroyer says:

    @C. Clavin:

    Subsidies paid to people who cannot afford to purchase insurance are an entltielment. Not only will the subsidies grow but people will get used to having the subsidies. The ACA is a massive entitlement program that is meant as a transition to single payer. One of ways that it will cause the transition is the massive amount of money that will be spent on subsidies (along with the failure of some insurance companies).

  37. superdestroyer says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    The Republicans were voted out of office for their stupid spending and Bush II left office with a 20% approval rating. One would hope that the Republicans would learn that there is already one big spending party and anyone who votes for big spending will vote for the Democrats.

    That is why the U.S. will soon be a one party state. More than 50% of the voters want a high tax, big spending massive federal government and believe that they are clever enough to take advantage of the spending while sticking others with the bill.

  38. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @superdestroyer:

    One would hope that the Republicans would learn

    Let me save you a lot of time and just state the obvious: They won’t.

  39. grumpy realist says:

    @superdestroyer: I guess from your viewpoint, any spending on stuff like bridges and research is an “entitlement” too.

    Why do you go on and on about the deficit when there’s a far bigger danger out there?

    If we don’t get a handle on our carbon emissions, we’re going to go over the 2 degrees Centigrade that’s considered the upper limit that our world can absorb without massive changes occurring. In light of that, don’t you think your fears of the massive brown hordes to be a little trivial?

    (Personally, I think that’s how we’re going to deal with the problem: just let nature take care of it. It will involve a hell of a lot of population migration, less arable land, famines, and all those other wonderful things Nature uses to bring the system back to equilibrium. Oh, life on Earth will still be possible–just not at the level we’ve been expecting and have been stupidly trashing.)

  40. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @Tyrell: Seeing as the Office of Thrift Supervision was dissolved more than two years ago by the current Administration, you’re a bit behind the times.

  41. superdestroyer says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    Which is why the U.S. has already become a functional one party state and will soon be an operational one party state. If politics is about entitlements (who pays and who receives), then one big spending party is more than enough. What is there to disagree over when no one is allowed to disagree on entitlement spending or on taxes?

  42. superdestroyer says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Progressives give away their true position on global climate change when they support amnesty, open borders, and comprehensive immigration reform. The impact on the environment of allowing millions to migrate from the third world to the first world is massive. Yet, progressives are not allowed to even think about it. Maybe when progressives show some persoanl leadership on global climate change by stopping their jet setting ways and get rid of their multiple homes and third world servant, the rest of us will take them more seriously.

  43. john personna says:

    @superdestroyer:

    Said the guy who can’t comprehend how free trade with Mexico relates to immigration from Mexico.

    Of course you can’t see how a guy working in Tijuana for import to San Diego has a carbon footprint as high as the guy doing the same work in San Diego.

  44. John D'Geek says:

    @john personna: Actually, the “sorting of America” * has a lot to do with it. When everyone in one geographical area (or close enough to “everyone” that those that are different effectively have no voice) believes the same thing, then extremism is fostered.

    Example #1: San Francisco
    Example #2: Texas

    [* I have no financial links to this book or author]

  45. fred says:

    Unfortunately thr greatest ally of the GOP in shutting down the government and making us the laughing stock of the world is mainstream media, including the fraudulent Fox News and Talk Radio. The GOP and Tea Party talking heads get on all these radio and TV shows and spill misinformation and downright lies about ACA but the journalistic hosts are so misinformed and uneducated about programs and policies they discuss that they allow the talking heads to rant on and on without them correcting info being given to the public. News journalists owe it to the general population to be informed about government and public policies so that they can be sure the general population is best served with the truth when they host shows or write articles. These folks contributed in a large way to the government shutdown. Prime culprits include Wolf Blitzer, and most of CNN, some on CBS, ABC and MSNBC, right-wing newspapers and all of Fox News and Talk Radio run by right wing extremists. By the way, the journalistic profession seems to have bought into this idea that corporations are people and that’s such a disservice to our nation.

  46. Mr. Replica says:

    They say history repeats itself… and judging by the fact that in the 90’s the republicans shut down the government, took a big political hit, and still got control of the government less than ten years later…I’d say we will be back in Iraq by 2025.

    This time tho the WMDs will be there.

  47. superdestroyer says:

    @john personna:

    I guess progressives do not understand that when an immigrant moves into the U.S., has four kids, purchase an F-150 pickup truck that they will have a larger environmental footprint that is they stayed in Central America. What is amazing is that Greenpeece used to be anti-immigrant but threw away the science because progressives only like science when it supports their political ambitions.