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Opinion Morning Plum: For Republicans, shunning compromise is a virtue

The war among Congressional Republicans over whether to force a government shutdown to defund Planned Parenthood has also divided the GOP presidential candidates. Jeb Bush opposes the strategy. So does John Kasich. Carly Fiorina has suggested support for the strategy by arguing it will put Dems in the harder position. Marco Rubio is also in this latter camp. Ted Cruz is sitting atop a missile labeled “government shutdown” and shrieking with hysterical, blood-curdling glee as it plummets towards Earth, Dr. Strangelove style.

If those GOP candidates pushing for maximum confrontation think it might endear them to GOP voters who want candidates to stand on principle rather than compromise, they might be on to something. The new NBC/WSJ poll asks this of Republican primary voters:

Now, if your choice in the Republican primary came down to a candidate who will make compromises to gain consensus on legislation to get things done, or a candidate who will stick to their positions even if this means not being able to gain consensus on legislation, which candidate would you be more likely to support?
Will make compromises: 48
Will stick to their positions: 49

A very slight plurality wants a candidate who will stick to their positions even if it means not getting things done. By contrast, the poll also finds that Democratic primary voters say by 60-35 that they want a candidate who will make compromises rather than stick to his or her positions.

Other polls have found a similar partisan divide on the desirability of compromise.  A Pew survey from 2014 found that two-thirds of Republicans want GOP leaders to stand up to Obama even if less gets done, while a majority of Dems wants the president to work with Republicans. And an NBC/WSJ poll from last January found that a plurality of Republicans think the Congressional GOP has been too willing to compromise with Obama. As Jonathan Bernstein has argued, dysfunction in Washington can be blamed on the fact that Republicans have “become increasingly hostile to the very notion of compromise.”

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It’s not clear this means more Republican voters than not will support the push to shut down the government. While Republicans back defunding Planned Parenthood, some polls show only minorities of them support a government shutdown to accomplish that goal. Of course, those minorities are probably louder and more important to the GOP presidential candidates than the other Republicans are. Similarly, the 49 percent who favor sticking to positions over compromise in the new NBC poll are also probably more important to the candidates than the other 48 percent are.

And so, if and when GOP leaders (including the poor fellow who is selected to replace Speaker John Boehner) move to compromise with Democrats later this fall on a long-term measure funding the government that doesn’t also defund Planned Parenthood, the grandstanding from GOP presidential candidates will grow a lot louder.

During the summer, Jeb Bush remarked that arguing for consensus-building and constructive governing could prove “dangerous in a Republican primary.” He may be proven right soon enough.


* BETRAYAL! TEMPORARY SPENDING BILL MOVES FORWARD: The Senate overwhelmingly voted (by 77-19) to move forward a measure temporarily funding the government, and it’s expected to pass today, followed by very likely House approval of it tomorrow. The bill doesn’t defund Planned Parenthood, and Ted Cruz is outraged:

“You want to understand the volcanic frustration with Washington? It’s that the Republican leadership in both houses will not fight for a single priority that we promised the voters we would fight for when we were campaigning less than a year ago.”

Because “fighting” is all it takes to prevail over the fact that Republicans don’t have the votes to overcome Dem filibusters or Obama vetoes. Imagine how loud the screams of betrayal will grow if and when a long-term government funding bill passes later this fall.

* SWING-DISTRICT REPUBLICANS WORRIED: The New York Times reports that House Republicans in (relatively) moderate swing districts are hoping that whoever replaces Speaker John Boehner will emphasize cooperation and coalition building:

Republicans in swing districts are particularly concerned with the makeup of the new leadership. “I am looking for a leadership slate that is looking to govern,” said Representative Robert Dold of Illinois, who is co-chairman of the Tuesday Group, a collection of self-described pragmatists. “We are not sent here to generate gridlock by catering to ideological extremes.”

One thing to watch for: whether the generic House ballot matchup in polls starts to favor Dems as the shutdown mania escalates.

* HILLARY HOLDS BIG LEAD AMONG MINORITIES: The new NBC/WSJ poll finds that Hillary Clinton’s lead over Bernie Sanders among Democrats nationally has narrowed to 42-35, with 17 percent for Joe Biden.. But she still has this advantage:

Mrs. Clinton boasts one powerful advantage that poses a major impediment to Mr. Sanders: Her 76%-to-16% lead over Mr. Sanders among voters from minority groups, a critical constituency that tends to hold outsize sway in Democratic nominating contests. That advantage narrows when Mr. Biden’s name is added to the mix, with 59% of nonwhite voters preferring Mrs. Clinton and 26% favoring the vice president.

This is why Clinton is probably still a clear favorite to win the nomination: this advantage will boost Clinton in states after Iowa and New Hampshire.

* JEB BUSH TO ROLL OUT ENERGY PLAN: It’s coming today, and it’s all about deregulation:

The Florida Republican governor will outline a plan with four general components that are in line with the Republican orthodoxy: lifting restrictions on exporting oil and gas; approving construction of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline; stripping away some environmental regulations; and urging the federal government to yield to the energy desires of state and tribes.

One thing I have not seen Jeb and other GOP candidates asked: On Day One, would they pull the United States out of any international deal to reduce carbon emissions that is reached this year?

* NO, TRUMP’S TAX PLAN WOULD NOT RAISE HIS TAXES: Trump proclaims his tax plan “would cost me a fortune.” Glenn Kessler dives into his plan and finds this is almost certainly not true, noting that its sharp reduction in the top rate and elimination of the estate tax would likely conspire to downsize his tax burden and that of his heirs.

As we noted here yesterday, we now can be close to certain that all the tax plans thus far introduced by GOP candidates would cut taxes for the top earners, and any threat of a real debate over party orthodoxy on this question has been averted.

* QUOTE OF THE DAY, HOW’S-THAT-GOP-MAKEOVER-GOING EDITION: Manu Raju reports that Republicans increasingly worry that Congressional chaos and crazy rhetoric from GOP presidential contenders threaten the party’s 2016 chances. GOP Senator Jeff Flake:

“It’s tough enough to win elections by offending every demographic group that we can identify. What we’ve seen in prior elections is, you could say until you’re blue in the face: ‘That’s not my view.’ But if the head of the ticket, or those running for the head of the ticket, are espousing that view — it hurts. It really does.”

Yeah, one would think offending every demographic group in sight might catch up with you eventually.