On the campaign trail back in 2010, Democrats from battleground districts and states twisted themselves into rhetorical knots to try to distance themselves from Obamacare, an unpopular law that Republicans would use as a raft to ride into the majority in November. “It’s basically been radio — and television — silence. Even as Republicans have attacked Democrats on the bill, Democrats haven’t seen fit to fight back — preferring to change the subject,” The Washington Post‘s Chris Cillizza wrote at the time.
Rep. Jim Costa, D-Calif., who barely hung onto his seat that year, voted for the Affordable Care Act, but later said he would have preferred a more “incremental” approach to health care reform. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., made a full flip-flop, going from “I’d be for it” to “I would not have supported that.” Meanwhile, Blue Dogs like former Rep. Heath Shuler, D-N.C., touted their vote against the law and hoped it would insulate them from party backlash.
Spoiler alert: It didn’t work. Democrats lost 63 seats and the Blue Dogs were nearly wiped out.
Now, some Republicans are facing the inverse problem. While the more ideological wing of the party forced a confrontation over Obamacare that led to the first government shutdown in 17 years, GOP candidates in more competitive districts want nothing to do with it, even as they feel pressured from the right to avoid disowning the Ted Cruz wing all together. So they’re opting for a duck-and-cover approach instead.
It’s happening in southern Arizona, where Republican candidate Martha McSally “wouldn’t take a stand [on the shutdown] despite multiple requests for her position from The Republic, Arizona Daily Star, Green Valley News/Sahuarita Sun and KVOI-AM (1030),” as the Arizona Republic reported this month. “She would say only that the shutdown is ‘a failure of leadership,’ ” the paper’s Rebekah Sanders added.
In New Hampshire’s 1st District, Republican Dan Innis, who is primarying two-term Rep. Frank Guinta, wouldn’t say if he would have supported the GOP’s effort to defund Obamacare by linking it to a government shutdown fight. “Obamacare is a disastrous, big-government takeover of the health care system. While I support repealing Obamacare, I think we’ve got to be realistic,” he told the AP.
In upstate New York, Republican congressional candidate Elise Stefanik used her first policy statement of the campaign to criticize incumbent Democratic Rep. Bill Owens for voting against the series of Republican bills to fund certain parts of the government while leaving the rest closed. “But she repeatedly would not say whether she would have voted for the same four bills, if she was in Congress,” the Glens Falls Post-Star reported.
And across the country in California, Republican challenger Brian Nestande bemoaned the fiscal fight in Washington, but “declined to say if he would have joined Republicans who lobbied House Speaker John Boehner to take a hard line on Obamacare,” according to the Riverside Press Enterprise.
Meanwhile, in the biggest race of the year, Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli has been feeling the heat. He said he’s “very disappointed” with “both parties in Congress,” adding that a shutdown is “an unacceptable outcome for Virginia.”
There’s no doubt the shutdown has been harmful to the GOP brand, with the party’s disapproval ratings shooting up 9 points since the shutdown, according to a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll, and it seems the party’s candidates are worried that the damage will extend beyond Republicans already in Congress. It’s still way too early to say how much the shutdown will impact the 2014 election, but it seems it’s already creeping in.
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The conventional wisdom is already emerging that Donald Trump opened last night's debate well, but that he faded badly down the stretch. And most viewers apparently witnessed it. "The early Nielsen data confirms that viewership stayed high the entire time. Contrary to some speculation, there was not a big drop-off after the first hour of the 98-minute debate." Final data is still being tallied, but "Monday's face-off may well have been the most-watched debate in American history. CNN and other cable news channels saw big increases over past election years. So did some of the broadcast networks."
As Congress continues to bicker on riders to a continuing resolution, federal agencies have started working with the Office of Management and Budget to prepare for a government shutdown, which will occur if no continuing resolution is passed by 11:59 p.m. on Friday night. The OMB held a call with agencies on Sept. 23, one that is required one week before a possible shutdown. The government last shut down for 16 days in 2013, and multiple shutdowns have been narrowly avoided since then. It is expected that Congress will reach a deal before the clock strikes midnight, but until it does, preparations will continue.
President Obama's Clean Power Plan, a large pillar of his efforts to leave a lasting environmental legacy, "goes before the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit today." The plan "imposes the first national limits on carbon pollution from power plants." A number of consolidated cases finds 27 states challenging this plan, which was blocked by the Supreme Court in February pending decisions from lower courts. The states will argue that the government doesn't have the right to impose restrictions requiring them to shutter plans and restructure full industries.
There seems to be a clear consensus forming about Monday's debate: Hillary Clinton was the winner. One focus group of undecided Pennsylvania voters, conducted by GOP pollster Frank Luntz, found 16 favored Clinton while five picked Donald Trump. In a Florida focus group organized by CNN, 18 of 20 undecided voters saw Clinton as the winner.
As both candidates walked off the stage, Donald Trump lauded himself for being restrained and for not bringing up Bill Clinton. "I didn’t want to say—her husband was in the room along with her daughter, who I think is a very nice young lady—and I didn’t want to say what I was going to say about what’s been going on in their life," Trump said. Trump claims he stopped himself from hitting Bill Clinton because daughter Chelsea was in the room.