Financial Impasses: Political Fallout

Most of my Democratic friends, like the White House staff, are gloating about how the government shutdown and the debt ceiling cliff-hanger will scorch the Republicans in the 2014 elections. Not so fast!

The polling: NBC/Wall Street Journal polls indicate that the public blames House Republicans more than President Obama for the shutdown by a 53% to 31 % margin, that Republican approval ratings are down to 24%, the Tea Party is down to 21%, and that President Obama’s approval rating has actually ticked up a couple of points in the mid 40s. Other polls are similar.

There are three general reasons for Republicans to not be too concerned:

1. Congressmen and women are in Washington to help govern for the good of the nation, not just to be poll watchers. That is an admirable trait – a bit quixotic facing a president who is all politics all the time and not very effective in negotiations, but admirable none the less. The base appreciates it.

2. The impact on 2014 elections will be limited.

– The initial media onslaught was that the Republicans got crushed after Newt Gingrich’s extraordinary shutdown in 1995 and 1996. The reality: there have been 17 such “spending gaps” since 1976; in the 1996 elections Republicans gained two Senate seats and lost three House seats but retained a 21 seat majority.

– Left leaning analysts from Charlie Cook to Nate Silver agree that a Democrat take-over of the House is highly improbable.  The Democratic argument goes that gerrymandering after the 2010 census has allowed Republicans to build a majority of safe districts despite the fact that in 2012 Democrat House candidates got over 1,000,000 more votes than Republicans. Careful mapping may account for five or six Republican seats among their majority of 34, but the larger factor is that Democrats roll up huge majorities in their inner city constituencies, such as in Philadelphia where Romney got zero votes in 59 precincts (?). Whatever, the map will be the map until 2020.

–  With each state having two senators and there being more red states than blue states,  over time the Republicans should control the Senate. Candidate selection, messaging, and infighting have squandered opportunities in the last two cycles, but Republicans are still within five of controlling the Senate and this cycle offers six Democratic seats in states that Romney carried. These elections will be based on the candidates and the result will come down to the wire.

–  And the sop that Republicans got crushed in 2012 and this will be the last straw is totally specious. Republicans hold 30 governorships and both houses of the state legislature in 26 states. That’s a pretty good source of candidates and electoral support, even if it doesn’t include New York and California.

3. Time passes quickly in politics.

–  Within the last year “sea changes” have been predicted from immigration reform, NSA spying, Benghazi, the Syria fiasco, and the IRS abuses. Memories of the government shutdown will pass. (A debt default would have been a different matter.)

–  Obamacare will remain. The technical fiasco of its start-up will presumably be resolved long before November of 2014, but the policies will remain. Millions will understand that Barack Obama lied to them about their costs going down and being able to keep their doctors and insurers and that Republicans fought as hard as they could. Millions will have part time work or be unemployed because of perverse Obamacare incentives for employers. Many will still be offended by policies that offend their religious beliefs. And the blowback has yet to begin when the administration tries to enforce the individual mandate against the “Invincibles” who made up much of Obama’s core – while offering deferrals to union and company plans.

With Harry Reid and President Obama refusing to discuss budgets, Obamacare reform, entitlement reform, or tax reform Republicans have only two levers – the annual spending authorization (budget or Continuing Resolution) and the debt ceiling. Disagreements on priorities between Republicans in the House and the Senate led to lousy messaging this time, but the political fallout will be short-lived.


This week’s video is Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sibelius’ PR appearance on the Daly Show. Watch from minute 8 to 11 to understand the real thinking of the administration and the Left.