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Tarnished Republican Brand Needs New Sheen Ahead Of Midterms

Oct 25, 2013
Originally published on October 28, 2013 5:16 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block. We're going to focus now on the aftermath of the government shutdown and the fight over the debt ceiling. The past few weeks have been tough on Republicans. The fight failed to defund or delay the health care law, as they'd hoped. And it drove public approval of the GOP to historic lows. But is that enough to keep some in the party from attempting another shutdown in the months ahead? NPR's S.V. Date reports.

S.V. DATE, BYLINE: With a 30-seat majority and districts drawn to protect incumbents, House Republicans had hoped for gains in next year's congressional elections. There seemed to be only one thing that could mess things up.

REP. TOM COLE: Shutting down the government...

DATE: That's Oklahoma Republican Tom Cole. He wasn't the only establishment Republican voice warning against using a government spending bill as leverage to get rid of the president's health care law, but he was one of the most vocal. This is Cole on FOX News back in July, when a group of Tea Party Republicans started pushing the idea.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

COLE: And I think it's the sort of thing that could create a backlash that could cost the Republicans the majority in the House, which is after all the last line of defense against the president.

DATE: Cole was ignored. The shutdown happened. As predicted, Americans got angry. And as predicted, they blamed congressional Republicans far more than they did President Obama.

(SOUNDBITE OF NEWS MONTAGE)

UNIDENTIFIED BROADCASTER #1: The GOP brand is sustaining serious damage because of the shutdown...

UNIDENTIFIED BROADCASTER #2: The poll finds 44 percent blame congressional Republicans for the impasse...

UNIDENTIFIED BROADCASTER #3: Criticism of the shutdown is focused on Republicans...

DATE: How bad is it for Republicans right now? Bill McInturff is the Republican half of the bipartisan polling team that does the NBC-Wall Street Journal surveys.

BILL MCINTURFF: There's no question that the Republican Party brand and the perception of Congress are at historic lows.

DATE: That's the bad news. Here's the good news, says McInturff. The congressional election is a full year away, and Americans have a short attention span.

MCINTURFF: In America, the big story of the day is rarely the big story of a year from now. And whether it be the impeachment votes against President Clinton in 1999, the Democrats not voting for the use of force in the two Iraq wars, all of these at the time are perceived to be game changers for the next election and none of them mattered.

DATE: Ron Bonjean is a Republican consultant and actually worked on Capitol Hill during the 1995 shutdown. In his view, McInturff is probably right.

RON BONJEAN: Unless there's a decision to run at the windmill again and shut down the government, you know, without any positive results.

DATE: Unless: that's the key word. Many Republicans hope the fallout from this shutdown will be enough to prevent a repeat in January when the new stop gap spending bill runs out and the debt ceiling extension nears its end. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell reached for an old Southernism when he said there was no education in the second kick of a mule. Of course, it wasn't McConnell pushing that strategy in the first place. It was Texas senator Ted Cruz encouraging a band of about 30 Tea Party Republican House members.

Cruz and his allies say they aren't giving up. And the leader of that Republican House? Here's what Speaker John Boehner had to say this week.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER: And the fact is is that we're going to have issues about funding the government come January 15. We're going to have the debt ceiling we're going to have to deal with again. The looming problems that are affecting our country are still there.

DATE: That's the same sort of language Boehner had been using before the shutdown we just had. S.V. Date, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.