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Praxis

GOP Unpopularity May Be the Key to Resolving the Mess in Washington

Nobody in Washington, D.C. is very popular these days. But a new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll shows that John Boehner and Republicans are paying a much bigger political price for the federal budget catastrophe than are Barack Obama and the Democrats.

Here are the key numbers:

By a 22-point margin (53 percent to 31 percent), the public blames the Republican Party more for the shutdown than President Barack Obama – a wider margin of blame for the GOP than the party received during the poll during the last shutdown in 1995-96.

Just 24 percent of respondents have a favorable opinion about the GOP, and only 21 percent have a favorable view of the Tea Party, which are both at all-time lows in the history of [the] poll.

You can read the full results here.

A few more important numbers:

- President Obama's favorability rating has inched up two points and outpaces that of Speaker Boehner by 30 points (47 to 17).

- Now that it has partially rolled out, Obamacare is more popular (and less unpopular) among voters than it has been all year. Today, 38 percent think the Affordable Care Act is a "good idea" while 43 percent think it's a "bad idea." That compares to 31 percent calling it "good idea" and 41 percent a "bad idea" in September.

- There is a 12-point gap in favorability ratings between Democrats and Republicans in Congress: 24 percent approve of GOP lawmakers while 36 percent approve of the Dems. (Oddly, these numbers swamp approval ratings for Congress as an institution: only 5 percent of Americans are happy with the big picture in our national legislature.)

What does all this mean? The hole John Boehner continues to dig his party into has moved the GOP about a mile closer to Shanghai than it was when I used this metaphor a week ago. They cannot go much farther. Today's offer of a partial compromise may speedily turn into Republican capitulation to political and economic reality. Expect the government to reopen within a week, and look forward to at least a stop-gap measure to raise the debt ceiling before the October 17 default date. Things, I think, are so bad they are looking up. 

Democrats are right to use this moment to begin a push to retake the House of Representatives in 2014. It's hard to say how significantly today's lunacy among the Republican leadership will damage the campaigns of rank-and-file House members a few months down the line, but fundraising for Democratic candidates in the short term is set to soar.

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