The standoff over the budget and debt ceiling that culminated in a government shutdown amounted to a political disaster for Republicans. One of the main reasons why has nothing to do with what happened and everything to do with what didn't.

A new Kaiser Family Foundation poll released Friday explains it. Forty-four percent of Americans say they paid very close attention to the fight over the short-term budget and the debt limit, while only half as many say the same thing about the glitches that have plagued the rollout of the health-care law's online exchanges or marketplaces. Just 24 percent say they paid scant attention to the shutdown and debt showdown, compared to 46 percent who say the same thing about the troubled health-care rollout.

(Chart via Kaiser Family Foundation)
(Chart via Kaiser Family Foundation)

So, while Republicans were dominating the headlines with their fight against Obamacare in the budget debate, the real-world problems with the law were going overlooked by the public for much of last month. In short, Republicans couldn't get out of their own way.

It's especially stinging for Republicans because Obamacare was at the center of the House GOP strategy that led to the shutdown. Republicans' repeated refusal to pass a clean stopgap spending bill was rooted in an unyielding desire to use the budget debate to pick apart the health-care law. They talked over and over again about the negative impact of the law, and how it needed to be stopped.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration's unsteady unveiling of during the same period gave rise to widely publicized causes for concern. But instead of allowing those issues to dominate the conversation, Republicans elbowed them to the side with their fight against the health-care law in Congress, which dealt the party a big-time political blow, even before taking into account the missed opportunity to spotlight the rollout woes. The party's image plunged to an all-time low in the wake of the shutdown, a Washington Post-ABC News poll showed.

The good news for Republicans bent on hammering Democrats over the law and pointing out its problems is the shutdown is over while the problems with the health-care law are not.

Even as overall views of the law have held steady, most Americans say they think the Web site problems are part of a broader problem with the law’s implementation, according to Post-ABC polling. In the Kaiser poll, 80 percent say the federal government's implementation has been only fair or worse; 48 percent say it's outright poor.

Finally, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said, “Hold me accountable for the debacle,” at a House hearing earlier this week -- strong words that illustrate the seriousness of the complications the Obama administration is facing.

Still, politics is all about moments. When an opportunity arises, if you're not there to seize it, you lose, even if they other side doesn't win. The GOP just learned that the hard way.


CBS reports six people signed up on the first day of the Obamacare exchanges and 248 were signed up by day two.

The campaign of Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) is buying ad time to coincide with Democrat Charlie Crist's campaign launch.

Mitt Romney will be on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday.

A new poll shows New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) maintaining an 18-point lead in next Tuesday's election.

Rep. John Barrow (D-Ga.) wants an individual mandate delay.

President Obama's top aides explored swapping in then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for Vice President Biden on the 2012 ticket.

Freshman Rep. Steve Daines (R), who is expected to run for Montana's open Senate seat, has scheduled a "special event" for Wednesday.

Obama gives Rep. John Tierney (D-Mass.) a vote of confidence.

The father of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) says Obama should go "back to Kenya."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) says the Senate will vote again on the two nominations Republicans blocked Thursday.

Rudy Giuliani will campaign for Christie.

Terry McAuliffe raises half a million dollars in a single day, while Ken Cuccinelli raised $12,000.

Rachel Maddow responds to Rand Paul.


"Book Details Obama Aides’ Talks About Replacing Biden on 2012 Ticket" -- Jonathan Martin, New York Times

"In Alabama Race, a Test of Business Efforts to Derail Tea Party" -- Campbell Robinson and Eric Lipton, New York Times

"In the Clintons’ talk of brokering compromise, an implicit rebuke of Obama years" -- Philip Rucker, Washington Post