The Washington Post

How the shutdown derailed the Republican rebranding campaign

Nearly a year removed from a presidential election that put its electoral and demographic weaknesses on full display, the Republican Party has been badly hampered by the ongoing government shutdown as it tries to rebrand itself in advance of both the 2014 midterms and the 2016 presidential election, according to an analysis of three weeks' worth of Washington Post-ABC News polling data.

Fourteen days into the government shutdown, polling analyst Scott Clement tracks the trends from the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll. (The Washington Post)

In choosing to take the hard-line stance favored by its most conservative wing, Republican leaders in Congress have not only alienated electorally critical independents and other key demographic groups that their 2012 presidential nominee won but also further revealed the deep schism within their own party.

Start with political independents who supported Mitt Romney over Obama by five points nearly one year ago. Now 76 percent disapprove of Republicans' budget wrangling, slightly more than the 68 percent who disapprove of Democrats. Among white voters, the story is similar. Romney won whites by 20 points in 2012, but 74 percent of whites in the Post-ABC poll disapprove of Republicans’ handling of budget negotiations. And while Romney won 56 percent of voters ages 65 and older, a much larger 73 percent of seniors disapprove of Republicans on the budget.

Then there are the problems within the GOP that the shutdown strategy has revealed. Nearly half  (47 percent) of Republicans disapprove of the the way GOP has handled budget talks, a remarkable level of discord across the country that mirrors infighting in Washington.

Look deeper into the numbers and the divides become even clearer. More than six in 10 Republicans who call themselves “very conservative” approve of their party's handling of the budget negotiations, according to combined Post-ABC polls over the past two weeks. Approval drops sharply to 48 percent among those who are only “somewhat conservative” and again to 42 percent among those who are moderate or liberal.

By focusing so heavily on tying the delay or defunding of Obamacare to the government shutdown -- an unpopular position, according to polls -- Republicans in Washington played to the wishes of their base. But, as the 2012 election showed, the Republican base is not what it once was, and to win the White House in three years' time the party needs to find a way to broaden its appeal. The shutdown is a clear setback in those efforts at a time when the GOP can ill afford it.

Fixbits:

Senate leaders appear to be close to a deal on a bill to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling.

Even if senators strike an agreement, a filibuster could push a final vote until Friday. Sen Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) appears undecided about blocking a potential deal.

Former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton (D) will officially endorse Democrat Terry McAuliffe for governor of Virginia at a Saturday event in Falls Church.

It's Election Day in Massachusetts' 5th district!

Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) outraised his primary opponent, Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D).  Schatz has more than twice as much money in the bank.

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) outraised Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.).

Newark Mayor Cory Booker's lead is between 10 and 22 percentage points in the latest polling of the New Jersey Senate race. Election Day is Wednesday.

Sarah Palin is headed to Iowa in November.

Must-reads: 

"Cuccinelli has drawn deep lines between what he believes is right and wrong" -- Marc Fisher, Washington Post

"Past Stalwarts of Congress Would Be Ashamed" -- Charlie Cook, National Journal

Clement is a pollster with Capital Insight, the independent polling group of Washington Post Media.

The Freddie Gray case

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Campaign 2016 Email Updates

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Get Zika news by email

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!
Comments
Show Comments
The Democrats debate Thursday. Get caught up on the race.
What to expect at tonight's debate
Tonight's debate is likely to focus on the concerns of African American and Latino voters. Clinton has focused in recent days on issues like gun control, criminal-sentencing reform, and the issues with drinking water in Flint, Mich. But Sanders has been aggressively moving to appeal to the same voters, combining his core message about economic unfairness with his own calls to reform the criminal-justice system.
South Carolina polling averages
The S.C. Democratic primary is Feb. 27. Clinton has a significant lead in the state, whose primary falls one week after the party's Nevada caucuses.
62% 33%
South Carolina polling averages
Donald Trump leads in the polls as he faces rivals Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz as he heads into the S.C. GOP primary on Feb. 20.
Clinton in New Hampshire: 2008 vs. 2015
Hillary Clinton did about as well in N.H. this year as she did in 2008, percentage-wise. In the state's main counties, Clinton performed on average only about two percentage points worse than she did eight years ago (according to vote totals as of Wednesday morning) -- and in five of the 10 counties, she did as well or better.
Upcoming debates
Feb. 11: Democratic debate

on PBS, in Wisconsin

Feb 13: GOP debate

on CBS News, in South Carolina

Feb. 25: GOP debate

on CNN, in Houston, Texas

Campaign 2016
Where the race stands

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.