October 13, 2013

Polls highlight fallout from shutdown

The latest polls show the greatest political damage was to Republicans.

By Dan Balz
The Washington Post

(Continued from page 1)

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Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who staged a 21-hour filibuster, tried to shrug off the results of the latest polls.

The Associated Press

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Other releases also highlighted public dissatisfaction with Washington. “Americans Down on D.C. Leaders Since Shutdown Began,” said one. “In U.S., Perceived Need for Third Party Reaches New High,” said another.

But as in the NBC-Wall Street Journal poll, Gallup found that the public is not assigning blame equally. The Republicans fared as badly in Gallup’s survey. Just 28 percent of respondents said they viewed the Republican Party favorably. In Gallup’s long history, that represents a record low for either political party. The Republicans’ rating dropped 10 points in a month.

Democrats aren’t greatly admired, either, but their overall rating is 43 percent positive and dropped only four points in the time the Republicans’ rating plunged 10. The survey also provided evidence that the shutdown is creating tensions within Republican ranks. In the Gallup findings, self-identified Republicans were twice as likely as Democrats to rate their own party unfavorably.

GOING FORWARD

Three other points flow from the latest poll numbers.

The first is that while Democrats may take some comfort from the relative disparity in perceptions of the two parties, they should be worried about the general disaffection about both parties and the federal government’s capacity to solve problems.

The surveys point to the fact that many Americans look at Washington and see a political class insulated from the impact of either the shutdown or the economy’s weaknesses – a group more concerned with political gamesmanship than the well-being of working families.

The second reality is that no one can know yet how all this will play in next year’s midterm elections and certainly not in the 2016 presidential race. There is simply too much time between now and then for either side to draw conclusions about the long-term impact. Right now, Democrats hold an edge in terms of which party people prefer in House elections. But that was the case in October 2009. Thirteen months later, Republicans won 63 seats and control of the House.

The third point, despite the fact that the next elections are a long way off, is that Republicans cannot ignore the devastating impact this is having on their party. That’s one reason why some Republican senators are working now to find a way out.

But that raises another question, which is why virtually no one in the party stood up and publicly challenged the strategy that brought the Republicans to this point. Some Republican senators have long chafed at the House’s tactics, but in this case they let those tactics play out.

The first order of business is finding a way to end the shutdown and avoid default. But in the aftermath of all this, those who aspire to lead the Republican Party will need to do a serious stocktaking and ask the questions they failed to ask as the debacle unfolded.

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