GOP pollster sounds the alarm

As I noted the other day, various data points suggest Republicans now know their position on Obamacare — pushing endlessly to destroy the law while offering no meaningful alternative — is untenable, and they are grappling with it at the highest levels. Politico has also quoted multiple Republicans worrying aloud that the drive to shut down the government over Obamacare has brought this untenable position into even sharper relief.

Today, Byron York, who is well connected among top Republicans, brings us still more evidence of this:

A new poll done for Republican members of Congress has found huge public opposition, and solid opposition among Republicans, to the idea of shutting down the government over the issue of funding Obamacare.

In a national survey of 1,000 registered voters done July 31 and August 1, the question, from pollster David Winston, said, “Some members of Congress have proposed shutting down the government as a way to defund the president’s health care law” and asked respondents whether they favored or opposed that plan.

Overall, 71 percent of those surveyed opposed a shutdown, while 23 percent favored a shutdown. Among Republicans, 53 percent opposed, versus 37 percent who favored.

What’s important here is who did this poll: David Winston, a longtime pollster for the GOP leadership. Remember, Winston is one of the Republicans who the other day went public with his pointed observation that a shutdown was folly, arguing:

“The electorate expects Congress to govern. House Republicans are going to offer their health-care alternatives within that process.”

Now that same pollster has actually conducted a poll designed to warn Republicans off their shutdown crusade, by pointing out widespread public opposition to a shutdown, even among Republicans. There has been some discussion of whether the poll’s wording is unfair. The wording doesn’t seem that off to me, but even if there is something to the criticism, the point is that the GOP leadership’s allies are desperate to put a stop to the shutdown madness — to the point of conducting polls to bolster the argument against it — because they fear it will tar the GOP irrevocably as no longer capable of governing.

And along those lines, you really have to read the Associated Press’s amazing report (link fixed) documenting what House Republicans are saying back in their districts about all this stuff. The report says House Republicans are struggling to justify Washington gridlock to their constituents. For instance, behold this quote from GOP Rep. Aaron Schock, talking to constituents in Illinois:

GOP Rep. Aaron Schock told an audience at a coffee shop that the Democratic-controlled Senate had “sat on their hands” while the House sought to repeal Obama’s health care law. “The president right now is doing a very good job of trying to make it look like the House is dysfunctional,” Schock said. “Really what we’re trying to do is carry out the wishes of the people.”

Yes, House Republicans look dysfunctional not because of their Quixotic and endless crusade to repeal a law that has been upheld in Congress, at the ballot box, and before the Supreme Court — even as it has yet to offer a meaningful alternative 30 months after promising one — but because Obama is not cooperating with their efforts to repeal his signature domestic achievement.

Surely this argument — which has echoes of the Republican claim that if the government shuts down, it will be the fault of Obama for insisting on funding his health law — will resonate with the GOP base. But with moderates and independents? Seems doubtful. The difficulty making this case to those voters (presuming they matter to House Republicans in safe districts) illustrates Winston’s argument — and the broader predicament he has identified — pretty well.

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UPDATE: The link to the AP story is here, and it’s fixed above. Apologies for the error.

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