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October 11, 2013

Americans blame GOP for shutdown

STILLWATER, Okla. — Americans have played the blame game and the Republican Party has lost, according to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released earlier this week.

The public blames the GOP more than President Barack Obama for the partial government shutdown that entered Day 12 Saturday by a 22-point margin (53 to 31 percent).

Only 24 percent of respondents have a favorable opinion of the Republican Party and just 21 percent responded favorably to the Tea Party faction of the GOP. Both are all-time lows.

Oklahoma State University visiting professor Brandon Lenoir said Republicans could bounce back in the polls before next fall’s midterm elections if they can quickly negotiate a settlement to end the shutdown and raise the debt ceiling.

“The average American has a very short attention span,” Lenoir said. “So, if this was to get resolved today it might affect some voters, but generally speaking it would not have a huge affect because we are a calendar year out from the election.”

If the impasse drags on and the shutdown and failure to raise the debt ceiling creates economic havoc, Republicans could lose control of the House, he said. The GOP has 232 members in the House, while Democrats have 200. A 17-seat swing would put Democrats in charge. Democrats already control the Senate.

“The fact is 90 percent of the House members that go up for re-election will get re-elected. There is a huge incumbency advantage even in times of crisis,” said Lenoir, who has a doctorate in philosophy in American politics and political behavior from the University of Pittsburgh. Lenoir’s expertise is interpreting the possible impact of events on voter behavior based on political theory and history.

The Tea Party faction — approximately 40 members — of House Republicans put the party on the road to this standoff when they linked defunding the Affordable Care Act to keeping the government funded.

The Affordable Care Act is President Barack Obama’s legacy — much like the New Deal was President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s legacy and President Dwight Eisenhower is remembered for creating the Interstate highway system.

Obama wasn’t about to cave in to their demands with his legacy at stake, Lenoir said.

“Anytime a president and Congress lock horns, nine times out of 10, and in fact it’s an even higher percentage than even 90 percent, the president fares better in public opinion versus Congress,” Lenoir said.

Earlier this week, House Republicans switched strategies. House and Senate Republicans are talking with Obama.

Each has offered to reopen government and raise the $16.7 trillion debt limit in exchange for deficit reductions and easing across-the-board spending cuts that the White House and Congress dislike, according to The Associated Press.

The Republicans are trying to find an exit strategy that will appease their constituents and polish their tarnished image.

“The Senate has already passed a continuing resolution (to fund government). ... It hasn’t even been brought up in the House. We are hearing more give within the Republican Senate. The question is, will the Republican House move forward as well?”

House Speaker John Boehner and Obama agreed to keep talking Friday afternoon, spokesman Michael Steel said.

Boehner must convince the 40 members who created the standoff over the Affordable Care Act to accept a compromise that doesn’t curtail the health-care act in some way.

If the government shutdown continues to grab headlines, it will be more difficult for the more conservative Republicans to hold off a compromise.

Congressional Republicans and Democrats will work through the weekend, Boehner said.

“I wouldn’t be surprised that if by Saturday a compromise is announced,” Lenoir said.

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