We’re just a few weeks into 2013, but the Republican brand has already reached a new low. To wit, when given the choice between a generic congressional Democrat, and a generic congressional Republican, only 37 percent say they would support the Republican, according to the latest survey from Rasmussen.
Indeed, it’s this unpopularity that has caused a little panic in GOP ranks. The Hill’s Alexandra Jaffe reports on the “growing angst” among Republican lawmakers over the longevity of their House majority. In short, they worry that the voters will punish the GOP if its perceived as “botching consequential talks on the debt ceiling, sequestration and a possible government shutdown.”
Given the size of the GOP majority, Democrats have a large hurdle to cross if they want to take the House in 2014, but this is a reasonable concern. Not only are Republicans trailing on the generic congressional ballot, but the public has grown tired of GOP shenanigans. According to a CNN poll released last month, 53 percent of Americans saw Republican policies as extreme, and 52 percent believed that Republicans should give up more than Democrats to craft bipartisan solutions to the nation’s problems. Likewise, according to the most recent Washington Post poll, 71 percent of Americans disapprove of Republicans in Congress, and 67 percent say they’re doing too little to work with Obama on “important issues.”
In the same way that last year’s Republican Senate candidates were harmed by the low popularity of the GOP (itself driven by the 2011 debt ceiling stand-off), there’s a good chance the same will happen next year, especially if the party provokes another debt ceiling crisis.
With all of that said, the midterm electorate is much different than the one that votes in presidential elections. The former is older, whiter, and more conservative. The latter is younger, browner, and more liberal. It’s that difference which drove the Republican gains of 2010, and which gave Obama a huge advantage in last year’s presidential election. Even if Republicans provoke a debt ceiling crisis and destroy any remaining credibility they enjoy, it remains true that they’ll enter 2014 with a favorable electorate on their side. And given the extent to which voters tend to support the same party, regardless of circumstances, odds are good that Republicans won’t lose any of their most reliable voters.
Which is to say this: Regardless of what they do, Republicans will be in decent shape next year. They can certainly improve their image by working with Democrats to raise the debt ceiling, but if they don’t, the actual hit to their electoral standing will be modest.