The Washington Post and ABC News have released a new batch of polling that shows in quite striking terms just how badly the shutdown fight has damaged the GOP.
The question, however, is: Do Republicans actually think it matters that their image is in such disastrous shape, or is that rendered inconsequential by the degree to which the House GOP majority is believed to be invulnerable? The numbers:
* Dems lead in the generic ballot matchup by 49-38. Among independents — a key midterm constituency — those numbers are 46-35.
* Only 21 percent of Americans approve of the way the Congressional GOP is handling the federal budget, versus 77 percent who disapprove. Among independents: 20-78. Among moderates: 14-85. Among seniors: 18-79. Fewer than one in three regard the GOP favorably.
* Only 20 percent think Republicans are “interested in doing what’s best for the country,” while 77 percent think they’re “interested in what’s best for themselves politically.” Among independents: 14-83. Among moderates: 18-81. Among seniors: 24-74.
* Americans blame the GOP for the shutdown by 53-29; moderates by 60-24; indys by 49-29; and seniors by 46-35.
Crucially, large majorities think the shutdown damaged the country. Eighty six percent say it has damaged the U.S.’s image in the world, and 80 percent say it damaged the U.S. economy. Those who predicted a shutdown/default crisis would underscore perceptions of the GOP as ideologically incapable of constructive governing have fresh evidence for that view.
* POLL SHOWS BROAD DISAGREEMENT WITH GOP: Additionally, the poll finds that in the aftermath of the shutdown, only small minorities share the GOP’s priorities when it comes to spending, taxes, and indeed basic governing norms:
* 54 percent agree with Obama that increasing the debt ceiling should not be used as a tool in budget negotiations; 40 percent agree with the GOP view that reducing the deficit should be part of debt ceiling agreements.
* Americans by 47-36 trust Obama over Congressional Republicans to get the balance right between cutting spending that is unnecessary and continuing needed spending.
* 59 percent agree that deficit reduction should include a combination of tax increases and spending cuts (the Dem position) versus only 37 percent who say only spending cuts (the GOP position).
There is still a long way to go until 2014, and there is no question that such sentiments will fade. Barring more such crises in 2014, the underlying structural realities still appear to ensure that the House remains in GOP hands. But that’s exactly what’s important here.
This is emerging as another case — along with immigration and social issues — where the very fact that individual House Republicans live in safe districts, insulated from the currents of national opinion, is actively setting back the party’s efforts to broaden its national appeal. This dynamic is reinforced by the closed conservative information feedback loop, where a great majority of the American people are imagined to have mobilized enthusiastically behind the shutdown crusade, and are clamoring for a continued commitment to more scorched earth tactics against Obamacare.
Beyond what this means for 2014, the apparent inability of many on the right to even acknowledge or care about numbers like these — after all, the only thing that matters is stopping the health law from transforming the country into something no longer recognizably American — makes it less likely Republicans will find a way back to the basic give and take of governing.
* IS A DEMOCRATIC “WAVE” FORMING? Rick Klein reads the polling and games it out:
The defining characteristic of the coming wave, like others before it, is anger. A third of those polled describe themselves as “angry,” and they’re among nearly eight in 10 who say they’re dissatisfied with the way the federal government is working. The new poll is filled with record-low superlatives. In the decades since such questions have been asked, Congress has never been less popular. Neither has “your own representative in Congress,” nor the Republican Party itself.
Watch for Dem recruiting news; GOP retirements; and normally safe GOP districts slipping into contested status to see if any of this is real.
* MORE RED FLAGS FOR GOP: A new USA Today poll finds:
Just 4% of those surveyed — equal to the margin of error — say Congress would be changed for the worse if nearly every member was replaced next year. Nearly half say it would work better. About four in 10 say a wholesale overhaul wouldn’t make much difference. Those findings are similar to the public’s views in previous years when voter dismay cost one side or the other control of the House.
Of course, the underlying structural dynamics appear to be significantly different this time. The question is what it will take to overcome them.
* MORE BAD NEWS ABOUT OBAMACARE: The Post scoops:
Days before the launch of President Obama’s online health insurance marketplace, government officials and contractors tested a key part of the Web site to see whether it could handle tens of thousands of consumers at the same time. It crashed after a simulation in which just a few hundred people tried to log on simultaneously.
Despite the failed test, federal health officials plowed ahead. When the Web site went live Oct. 1, it locked up shortly after midnight as about 2,000 users attempted to complete the first step, according to two people familiar with the project.
As noted here yesterday, if there is anything that can trample on the Dem message about the GOP’s inability to govern constructively, it’s protracted problems with Obamacare implementation. Meanwhile, the Post editorial board calls for more accountability and transparency on the causes and solutions to these glaring problems.
* DEMS COURT BUSINESS LEADERS AFTER CRISIS: The Wall Street Journal reports that the DCCC has sent a letter to over 1,000 business leaders, reminding them that House Republicans allowed the country to slip perilously close to default, while Dems strongly opposed those efforts. Dems are trying to drive a wedge between the Tea Party wing of the GOP and its more pragmatic business wing. But in truth, the alliance between business leaders and GOP leaders — if not the Tea Party — is probably secure.
* BUSINESS ESTABLISHMENT TO FIGHT BACK AGAINST TEA PARTY: Meanwhile, MSNBC reports that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business groups just aren’t going to take it anymore. They are gearing up to battle the right, bankrolling primary challengers, if necessary. If Ted Cruz and company do stage more crises in 2014, this could ensure a divided party heading into the elections.
* WHAT MADE DEMS SO UNIFIED? Sam Stein and Ryan Grim have an amazingly detailed report on the behind the scenes pledge Obama and Harry Reid made to stick to “legislative stubbornness,” i.e., a hard line in the face of GOP craziness. This helped sustain party unity through both the battle over changing filibuster rules earlier this year, and more recently, through the shutdown and debt limit fights.
What this underscores — and this continues to be underappreciated by Republicans — is how much circumstances have changed since 2011, and how determined Democrats are not to make the mistakes of that ill-fated year.
* CIVILIAN DEATHS IN DRONE STRIKES: Two new reports from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch set for release today will paint a terrible picture of civilian deaths in drone strikes. Note this, from a Pakistani shopkeeper:
“The drones are like the angels of death. Only they know when and where they will strike.”