I pointed out the other day that President Obama has unquestionably been hurt by the government shutdown, but Republicans have been hurt more.
How bad is it for the GOP?
The most recent Gallup poll shows the GOP is viewed favorably by 28 percent of Americans–down 10 points since September and the lowest number for either party since Gallup began asking the question in 1992. “The Republican Party is clearly taking a bigger political hit from Americans thus far in the unfolding saga,” according to the Gallup analysis.
- Only 24 percent of those polled have a positive view of the GOP. Fifty-three percent have a negative view–a differential of 29 percent.
- By contrast, 39 percent have a positive view of the Democratic party. Forty percent have a negative view–a differential of one percent.
- Twenty-one percent have a positive view of the Tea Party versus 47 percent who have a negative view.
- Forty-seven percent say they want to see Democrats control Congress while 39 percent want to see the GOP control Congress.
- Fifty-three percent believe the GOP in Congress is most responsible for the shutdown; 31 percent believe President Obama is. Thirteen percent believe both sides are equally at fault. Three percent don’t know.
- Seventy percent say that the congressional Republicans are putting their own agenda over the good of the country; 51 percent say Obama is doing the same.
- Forty-three percent say ObamaCare is a bad idea; 38 percent say it’s a good idea.
- Thirty-nine percent favor defunding ObamaCare entirely, while only 23 percent believe this so strongly that it’s worth shutting the government down. Fifty percent oppose defunding.
Question 8 in the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows that the percentage of those surveyed who want a Congress controlled by Republicans is now less than 40 percent–a low since the fall of 2009. As for the populist uprising against the Affordable Care Act that Senator Cruz promised? There’s evidence that support for ObamaCare has actually increased (see this analysis).
As Jonathan (and Nate Silver) rightly point out, it’s far too early to draw definitive conclusions. Polls provide us with snapshots in time. They certainly don’t tell us everything. But they do tell us something. And the trends seem clear, and clearly worrisome, for the GOP. Which brings me to the concern many of us had with the approach taken by Senators Cruz & Co.–a group of men who, you’ll recall, demanded that Republicans shut down the federal government if the president didn’t agree to defund his signature domestic achievement, the Affordable Care Act.
The concerns about the approach used by Senator Cruz were several-fold: (a) it was misleading (there was no chance the Affordable Care Act would be defunded); (b) it was irresponsible (Senators Cruz, Rubio and Lee accused conservatives who disagreed with the Cruz approach as being de facto supporters of the Affordable Care Act); and (c) it chose to fight the president on the weakest available ground (as unpopular as ObamaCare is, the defunding idea was never popular with the public). It also deflected attention away from the disastrous rollout of the ObamaCare exchanges and blew to pieces a far more plausible strategy, which was to focus on delaying for a year implementation of the individual mandate (which has widespread popular support).
“I think it was very possible for us to delay the implementation of ObamaCare for a year until Cruz came along and crashed and burned,” according to conservative anti-tax activist Grover Norquist.
More broadly, some of us on the right were concerned that this kind of brinksmanship approach tends to hurt, not help, the party squaring off against the president, who brings to the battle tremendous institutional advantages. And while engaging in this fight wouldn’t produce any particularly meaningful results, what it might well accomplish is erasing the political advantage Republicans had built up over many months. That, too, appears to be happening. According to Gallup, the sharp drop in support for Republicans since September “contrasts with previous Gallup findings from just before the government shutdown showing the Republican Party making up ground on a few key issues.”
Such are the bitter fruits that resulted from the Suicide Caucus. But in all of this bad news there is something hopeful to be found: Ted Cruz has become increasingly toxic and may well have discredited himself with many Republicans and conservatives. He certainly should have.
Mr. Cruz’s actions weren’t wrong because they failed. They were wrong because they were ill-considered, imprudent, selfish, and harmful to his party and the conservative cause. He didn’t achieve anything he insisted he would–and, in the process, he set back conservatism in several respects. Liberals must be thanking their lucky stars for the junior senator from Texas.