Nate Silver, the respected poll data cruncher who accurately predicted the 2012 election results, wrote a piece today for his blog FiveThirtyEight cautioning against all the heated analysis predicting doom for Republicans as a result of the shutdown.
Silver notes that any given issue tends to be fleeting, and that the last shutdown in 1995 didn’t noticeably hurt Republicans at all.
Republicans certainly need such assurances, as yet another poll – this one by NBC/Wall Street Journal – finds them at their lowest approval rating ever, with only 24 percent giving them having a favorable rating. Meanwhile, the gap in blame between President Obama and the GOP has opened up, with 53 percent blaming Republicans for the shutdown and only 31 percent blaming Obama.
This is not to be taken lightly, and it was probably inevitable given that the Washington press corps covering the shutdown is convinced conservative Republicans are evil space aliens from the planet Simpleton.
But I think even if there’s grumbling about tactics like shutting down the government, Republicans have the issues are their side, and when the smoke clears will be viewed as the principled Party that believed desperate measures were needed to salvage a desperate situation – that being a nation beset by Obamacare and endless piles of debt.
Silver notes that in 1996, Republicans did just fine.
Nor was Clinton’s victory over Bob Dole in 1996 anything unexpected. Incumbent presidents generally win reelection even under marginal conditions (as Barack Obama did last year) — and they’re overwhelming favorites during peacetime elections when the economy is robust, as it was during 1996. Furthermore, Clinton did not have much in the way of coattails: Democrats gained just two seats in the House that November, and wouldn’t win back the chamber for another decade.
And they’re likely to hold power in 2014 too.
In 2014, likewise, it will require not just a pretty good year for Democrats, but a wave election for them to regain the House. But wave elections in favor of the party that controls the White House are essentially unprecedented in midterm years. Instead, the president’s party has almost always lost seats in the House — or at best gained a handful.
This shutdown is “just one issue,” Silver notes. Given the range of things that inform people’s votes, how much is this going to matter in 12 months?
My view is, it’s three issues. The shutdown, Obamacare, and the debt. And the GOP wins on two out of three.