Just how bad was the shutdown for congressional Republicans? This chart covers it.

October 17, 2013

Looking for a clear indicator of the political hit that congressional Republicans took during the shutdown showdown in Washington?

Check out this chart on the generic congressional ballot, a standard poll question that asks people whether they would prefer to see Democrats or Republicans in charge of the House:

Now, the generic ballot -- as we have noted in this space many times before -- isn't a foolproof measure of who will win and who will lose, particularly more than a year before the midterm elections. But, it is a generally accurate indicator of which way the national political winds are blowing (to borrow a phrase from Fix mentor Charlie Cook). And, the winds over the past few months -- the time when talk of defunding Obamacare, shutting down the government and bumping up against the debt ceiling began to dominate Washington -- have been blowing strongly behind Democrats (or in Republicans' face depending on your perspective).

At the beginning of August, the average of all generic ballot poll questions put Democrats at 39.6 percent and Republicans at 38.8 percent, a statistically insignificant margin. By the start of September, Democrats took 41.7 percent to 38.9 percent for Republicans. By early October, Democrats took an average of 44.4 percent to 39.1 percent for Republicans. As of Oct. 13, it was Democrats at 45 percent and Republicans still at 39.1 percent. Over that two-month period, Democrats gained 5.4 points. Republicans gained .3 points.

That's stark evidence -- just in case you needed any more -- of the political problem Republicans created for themselves with the shutdown. As we have said before, the best news for Republicans in all of this is that it is October 2013 not October 2014. The national political winds are blowing in their faces today, but that can certainly change before next November.

Still, the divergence of the "D" and "R" lines in the chart above is striking -- and a warning to Republicans not to pursue a shutdown strategy again anytime soon.

Chris Cillizza writes “The Fix,” a politics blog for the Washington Post. He also covers the White House.
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Sean Sullivan · October 17, 2013