Rich, I respectfully disagree. The purportedly negative fall-out from the very partial shutdown is a big nothing and will be remembered (or, better, forgotten) as such. The GOP’s ratings have fallen, but they were already lousy before the shutdown, and Democrats remain deeply unpopular, too. Voters are down on Washington. Much of the negativity about the shutdown was inflated by pre-shutdown media horror stories about how awful it would be. In the event, however, about four out of five Americans did not feel personally affected by it, even if they retained an inchoate sense that the shutdown was “bad” and that Republicans were responsible for it.
Obamacare, on the other hand, actually is bad, and perceived as such. The shutdown spotlighted both the reasons why it would be bad and the fact that Democrats unilaterally own it. A vigorous Republican effort against Obamacare was long overdue after three years of the GOP doing pretty much nothing about Obamacare except futilely hoping that the courts would strike it down; of the GOP’s nominating a presidential candidate who could not credibly make Obamacare the campaign issue it should have been; and of the media’s lauding of GOP governors who are playing ball with Obamacare.
Now, day after day, Obamacare is turning into exactly the catastrophe House conservatives, Ted Cruz, Mike Lee and a few others stressed it would be. Their arguments have raised public consciousness and made it much more difficult for the media and Democrats to obscure the problems. Those arguments coupled an effort to stop Obamacare with a conservative willingness to fund the rest of government notwithstanding conservative objections to funding at such astronomical levels. By comparison, we saw President Obama refuse to budge even though he well knew Obamacare could not possibly be implemented on schedule, and even though he made noxious deals to spare corporations, cronies, and Congress. If Republicans keep pounding those facts, the contrast will help the GOP politically over the long haul, and it’s the long haul that matters.
For what it’s worth, I also believe that whatever standing the GOP has lost with the public is not just attributable to people who opposed the shutdown as an anti-Obamacare tactic. Also to be factored in are conservatives who are dismayed to see that while the GOP talks a good game about Obamacare in fundraising drives and election campaigns, it sports few members willing to fight it aggressively. With the battle lines now clearly drawn, with the conservative base energized, and with those who most aggressively opposed Obamacare looking increasingly prophetic, maybe we’ll see a more spirited performance out of Republicans in the months ahead. That would help the party’s standing with the more tuned-in voters who tend to determine the outcome of midterm elections.