Republicans and Democrats have wasted little time trying to use the first US government shutdown in a generation for political advantage ahead of next year’s Congressional elections, seizing on the plight of furloughed workers and shuttered government services to cast blame on each other.
A year out from election day and just days into the stoppage, the debate already is playing out in TV and radio ads in key congressional districts, newspaper editorials and fundraising pitches from campaign committees eager to pad their bank accounts early for 2014. And both sides are aggressively testing the political arguments they likely will try to make over the next year.
Republicans are trying to focus the nation’s attention on President Barack Obama’s healthcare law, which more Americans dislike than like. Republicans trying to derail or delay the law say it’s Democrats who shut down the government by refusing to negotiate over the law.
“Instead of admitting Obamacare was a mistake, Democrats are insisting Americans be forced into a government-run healthcare programme they don’t want,” says a national television ad from the Senate Conservatives Fund, a Republican outside support group.
Following Obama’s lead, Democrats are telling voters that Republicans have been hijacked by extremists and the tea party, and have jeopardized the economy by trying to extract unprecedented demands before re-opening the government. They say if House speaker John Boehner can’t control his flock, Republicans can’t be allowed to control the House.
“Speaker Boehner doesn’t have the guts to put a clean bill on the floor to fund the government,” says an ad that a liberal group, MoveOn.org, is airing on cable television. “Why? Because he’s afraid of the tea party.”
At this point, polls show more Americans blame Republicans for the shutdown than Obama and other Democrats. A CBS News poll conducted after the shutdown began Tuesday shows 44% of Americans blame Republicans, compared with 35% for Obama and Democrats. Nearly one in five says both sides share the blame.
Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus brushes off the surveys, saying: “Governing by simply looking at daily tracking polls is probably not the right way to govern.”
Some Republicans contend that as the shutdown drags on, the public will turn on Obama for refusing to negotiate on health care.
But Democrats are counting on this shutdown, like two that took place in the 1990s, to inflict damage on the Republican brand. They’re hoping that could boost Democrats’ prospects for reclaiming the House