Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) spent the summer of 2013 telling Republicans that the conventional wisdom about the government shutdowns the 1990s was wrong.
“The sort of cocktail chatter wisdom that, ‘Oh, the shutdown was a disaster for Republicans,’ is not borne out by the data,” he said.
Cruz’s argument won over enough Republicans that they were willing to engage in a shutdown of their own — and the results were jaw-droppingly terrible for the GOP, but great for the junior senator from Texas.
“Measured head-to-head, the public blames the Republicans in Congress for the shutdown over Obama by 53-29 percent – similar to the result measuring then-President Bill Clinton vs. the Republicans in January 1996, after their own shutdown battle,” ABC News’ Gary Langer reports, based on a new ABC News/Washington Post poll.
The real problem for the GOP is that it fixated the public on the House of Representatives.
“Republicans’ detour into what some have described as a defund-at-all-costs ‘cul de sac’ has turned a negative spotlight on the party to an extent no Democratic ad could ever achieve,” The Cook Political Report’s David Wasserman said last week.
A flurry of new polls shows that the damage to the GOP’s image may have long-lasting effects and could possibly cost them their House majority, something that no serious observers considered a possibility before October 1 of this year.
Here are four bits of information from the latest polls that Republicans are hoping either aren’t true or will change quickly.
Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr
Ted Cruz Made Obamacare More Popular
According to a new CNN/ORC International poll, 53 percent of Americans either support the Affordable Care Act or think it should go further, up from 49 percent who felt that way before the shutdown.
A Washington Post/ABC News poll released Monday showed approval for the law also up, even among Republicans.
“Forty six percent now support it while 49 percent oppose it, ” according to The Washington Post‘s Chris Cilizza. “That compares favorably to a 42 to 52 percent negative split last month. Support has rebounded since July among moderate and conservative Democrats, while Republican opposition has also softened.”
Most Americans Are Sick Of Republicans Controlling The House
The House GOP’s position on the shutdown started as unpopular and only got worse from there. On the eve of the shutdown, 63 percent of Americans disapproved of the way they were negotiating, according to the ABC News/Washington Post poll. That number has grown to 77 percent in their latest poll, which also finds the Republican Party at the lowest approval rating in the history of the poll.
But, clearly, the real problem for Republicans is the way the shutdown focused Americans’ anger on House Republicans.
For the first time since they took back the lower house of Congress in 2010, a majority of Americans in the CNN/ORC International poll believe that Republicans controlling the House of Representatives is bad for America. The 54 percent calling a GOP House majority ” a bad thing” is three points higher than the 51 percent that said their majority was a good thing in December of last year.
The GOP’s highly gerrymandered redistricting, which allowed them to keep the House while losing the popular vote by 1.4 million, will ensure that they retain their majority unless they lose by a margin of about 6.8 percent. Democrats currently lead in the generic ballot by 5.9 percent.
Another CNN/ORC International Poll shows that 75 percent of Americans think Republican House members deserve to lose their jobs.
“Three-fourths of people questioned in the survey said that most congressional Republicans don’t deserved to be re-elected, 21 percentage points higher than the 54 percent who say most Democrats don’t deserve another term in office,” reports CNN Politics’ Paul Steinhauser. “Only 1 in 5 say most Republicans deserve to be re-elected; 42 percent say the same thing about Democrats on Capitol Hill.”
But the numbers may be even worse than Republicans could have imagined.
Democrats would take the House if the election were held today, according to Democratic pollster Public Policy Polling.
PPP based its assessment on polling of 61 districts since the shutdown began and an extrapolation that Democrats are now leading by a 7 percent margin. A generic Democrat leads in 35 of the 61 districts polled. In another 14 districts, a generic Democrat was at least tied with the incumbent Republican when respondents were told their representative supported the shutdown. This means Democrats have “pickup opportunities” in 49 races.
Republicans only need to lose 17 seats to surrender their majority.
AFP Photo/Jim Watson
Speaker Boehner Is Even Weaker
When some Republicans were trying to convince their fellow Republicans not to shut down the government, they pointed out that it would ultimately create a crisis that would pit Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) against President Obama. That meant pitting a man who got 246,378 votes in 2012 against one who got 65.9 million, the first Democrat to win over 51 percent of the popular vote since Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
The effort to defund Obamacare placed Boehner in an impossible position. If he didn’t fight, he could lose his job to a conservative revolt, and if he did fight, he could create a backlash such as the one we are now seeing, while ultimately disappointing the conservatives in his caucus.
So it’s no surprise that the biggest loser in the shutdown was the Speaker. Only 3 out of 10 Americans believe Boehner should remain Speaker, with 63 percent saying he should be replaced, according to the new CNN/ORC International poll.
As it was the Speaker’s weakness that made the shutdown inevitable, his newfound unpopularity could make him even more subject to the whims of the extremists of his party.
AFP Photo/Nicholas Kamm
Seniors Are Still Turning Against The GOP
The new CNN/ORC International poll again finds that older Americans are highly dissatisfied with a Republican Party that is willing to play chicken with the debt limit, which could have led to a default that would have delayed Social Security checks.
On the key question of whether GOP control of the U.S. House of Representatives is a good or bad thing for the country, voters over 65 (who went Republican by a 59/38 margin in 2010 and a 56/44 margin in 2012) said “bad” by a 47/46 margin. More dramatically, those between 50-64 years old said “bad” by a 61/35 margin, a group that went 52/47 Republican in 2012 and 52/46 in 2010. In a comparison of confidence in Obama or “congressional Republicans” to “deal with the problems facing the country,” over-65 votes prefer Obama 45/33, and those 50-64 prefer the president 48/28.
We don’t have access to breakouts by age and race, but it’s likely the erosion of confidence in the GOP is even more dramatic among the older white voters who are that party’s base.