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Bryan Preston

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October 11, 2013 - 3:14 pm
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It’s rare that Nate Silver says what I’m thinking, but he has. Silver argues in his latest post that despite the media’s breathless, “game changer” coverage of the government shutdown, it’s not likely to change any games or even matter a whole lot to next year’s mid-terms.

Remember Syria? The fiscal cliff? Benghazi? The IRS scandal? The collapse of immigration reform? All of these were hyped as game-changing political moments by the news media, just as so many stories were during the election last year. In each case, the public’s interest quickly waned once the news cycle turned over to another story. Most political stories have a fairly short half-life and won’t turn out to be as consequential as they seem at the time.

Yep.

But what about the pair of government shutdowns in 1995 and 1996? It’s common to find articles asserting, without qualification, that they were a major factor in prompting President Clinton’s reelection.

However, the empirical evidence for this claim is thin. Clinton’s approval ratings were somewhat higher a few months after the shutdown than a few months beforehand — but this was part of a relatively steady, long-term trend toward improved approval ratings for Clinton, probably because of solid economic growth.

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.

Yep. I’ve written a piece or two on how the 1990s shutdown had a far less dramatic effect than the current media lets on. It didn’t actually change very much in the next election. It did play a role in forcing Bill Clinton to agree to the Republicans’ balanced budgets. (It also introduced him to Monica Lewinsky.) No shutdown now, however, is likely to have much effect on Barack Obama’s policy or strategy. He’s just a very different political animal from Clinton. He doesn’t want any real budget at all. A strategy that worked on Clinton is not guaranteed to work on Obama or change much in Congress.

Even if the shutdown were to have a moderate political impact — and one that favored the Democrats in races for Congress — it might not be enough for them to regain control of the U.S. House. Instead, Democrats face two major headwinds as they seek to win back Congress.

First, there are extremely few swing districts — only one-half to one-third as many as when the last government shutdown occurred in 1996. Some of this is because of partisan gerrymandering, but more of it is because of increasingly sharp ideological divides along geographic lines: between urban and rural areas, between the North and the South, and between the coasts and the interior of the United States.

So even if Democrats make significant gains in the number of votes they receive for the House, they would flip relatively few seats because of the way those votes are distributed. Most of the additional votes would come in districts that Democrats were already assured of winning, or where they were too far behind to catch up.

Consider that, between 2010 and 2012, Democrats went from losing the average congressional district by seven percentage points to winning it by one percentage point — an eight-point swing. And yet they added only eight seats in the House, out of 435 congressional districts.

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.

Again, yep. The real action next year will be in the Senate. That fight won’t be won or lost in this shutdown. Obama wants Democrats to re-take the House, but that isn’t likely. He may have engineered the shutdown to scramble the signal, but it’s unlikely to do that, even with the current bad polls for Republicans. We’re more than a year away from the election.

It may be that Obama has engineered the rolling budget fights to give himself handy battles to use strategically and to win himself total power over spending. It may be that he wants default to give him some room to maneuver and amass more power within the chaos, but chaos is by its nature unpredictable, and defaulting will have consequences that he does not foresee — for him. In an environment in which Congress no longer passes real budgets, a “clean” CR and a “clean” debt ceiling hike would probably accomplish his goal of having unprecedented power over spending, at least as long as the debt ceiling isn’t breached again. That’s a big goal that does change a lot. He can’t be allowed to achieve it.

The repetitious nature of these spending fights, and the sheer futility of following every single move, 99% of which turn out to be irrelevant to the outcome, leave me agreeing with Silver again.

The folks you see on TV are much too sure of themselves. They’ve been making too much of thin slices of polling and thinner historical precedents that might not apply this time around.

Yep. Humility is a good thing. Politics is allergic to humility;there is almost none of it on TV and even less of it on the Internet.

Comments are closed.

Top Rated Comments   
Well, that has been the point of this entire exercise. Both sides are preparing the battlefield for 2014. The Dems are working at damaging the Repub brand even further, while the Tea Partiers are working at damaging the establishment Repub brand even further. The Establishment GOP are just trying to maintain their seats at the table.

I expect the Establishment GOP to lose big in the midterms. I expect lots of Tea Party challengers. I expect a couple GOP Senators to lose to primary challengers, like last time, and the same for some House members. I expect even more gains in the various State legislatures. The legislatures are the farm teams for the national offices, and the GOP has a lot of talent in those teams.

Eventually, I expect the Tea Partiers will win out, and the GOP will be remade. It will still take some time, because it takes time for the cream to separate and float to the top, and because the old guard will not go quietly. Some of them have to be pried out of office with a crowbar.

The country has to suffer more, before the mistake of 2008 can ever be fixed. People have to learn their lessons, and that requires brutal reality.
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
Bryan, you sound like a typical Establishment Republican.

I don't know where the answers lay, but one thing I'm surte of; the Establishment Republicans don't have them.
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
The shutdown is not a game-changer but Obamacare is. The shutdown will fade from memory and Obamacare remain as our reality.

The "Let the Democrats own it." crowd will be right only if the Republicans are recalled as having been for something better.
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (30)
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hard to believe I just got silver Acura MDX SUV by work part time using a laptop... . .......:>WWW.JOBS60.ℂOM
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
The "IRS Scandal" hasn't gone by the wayside in view of the furor over the Shut Down. On the 9th of October, the House Oversight Committee held a hearing concerning the Obamacare roll-out with Sarah Hall-Ingram, Director of the IRS ACA implementation, or, rather, parts of it. During the Hearing, the issue of the IRS denying or just ignoring Conservative and Religious Groups still came up. So, it's not gone nor forgotten.

As far as Obamacare. I think it will have a huge impact on the 2014 mid-terms. By then people will know far more about how bad it is then they do now. The "kinks" and "glitches" are not something that can fixed overnight or even sometimes soon since it's a problem of basic Programming. Obamacare is self-imploding on it's own so there's no need for the Republicans, far-right, center right, center or even left of center to worry about "caving" on Obamacare. They just need to keep the House with a good margin and take the Senate. Then Obamacare can be repealed irregardless of Obamas threats of veto. The Republicans only need 2/3rds of the vote to overturn his veto. It's not passed the power of possibility.
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
The only thing that is going to matter is when American citizens start getting penalized by the IRS because they literally cannot sign up for Obamacare.
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
Bryan, I think the government shutdown, along with the scandals, will tend to strengthen the resolve of voters who see supposedly non-partisan civil servants acting in a highly political manner against the citizens. Attempting to close open air parks was probably a significant political miscalculation. Even the most casual observer can see that government workers put effort into inconveniencing the people. They may be misinformed about the IRS scandal, but there's no good way to spin pictures of the closing the WWII memorial. This may be the Paul Wellstone Funeral event of the 2014 election cycle.
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
The GOP establishment is in the process of violating everything the GOP says it stands for. This shutdown is the hill they will die on if they back down. May God have mercy on their souls. Voters will not have mercy on their political futures.
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
And if they stick to their guns, ill you support them? Or will continue to participate in the circular firing squad?
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
The GOP establishment attempted suicide by offering everything to Obama he said he wanted. Why he refused their bare throats is an interesting aspect of his psychopathology to investigate.

As for the GOP establishment, people depressed to the point of suicide should be relieved of responsiibility...which is no part of a circular firing squad.
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
Maybe I've missed the entire point of this whole shutdown but wasn't it so the republicans could force The Boy King and the democrats to 'negotiate'? And once again you never hear any proposals coming from the democrats or Boy King other than lobbying for 'a clean CR' (which means their way or the highway) - once again we have the house and senate republicans groveling for face-time with the Boy King so they can present their own proposals. And tripping over each other to do so. They'd gouge out each other's eyes if they thought they could get a leg up over the other guy.

Stupid is as stupid does and nobody does it better than the SOP (Stupid Old Party).

Makes me wonder if the SOP had simply sat in their offices and said they'd wait for agreeable terms before signing on to a deal. You know damned well any deal is going to favor the Boy King/democrats now.


41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
It is and has been to get the "boy-king" to negotiate. Unfortunately the GOP has thin skin and is far too accommodating to wait out the opposition. Did they think that Obama & Co. would cave and give in after a day or two? I predicted it would take a month or two minimum. By rushing to try to compromise and offering new, easy to swallow proposals, they are being weak and killing their chances. Don't give in a bit until Reid or Obama concede something big. You don't cross the Rubicon unless you intend to take the Republic.
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
I think the reference to crossing the Rubicon to take (and end) the Republic is an inapt one. Far better is that if you go to take Vienna, take Vienna.
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
I've been convinced that the GOP has been conniving to throw the fight ever since they nominated Manchurian Candidate McCain.

And yeah, they should have just walked away from the negotiation table on day one. America is better off because of the sequester, and the "shut down" is no different.
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
well, is it possible to exempt the rest of the country and let the entire thing die by itself?
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
"sofa surfing with Nancy Pelosi"

EEEEEEEEEWWWWW!!! Just gnarly man, gnarly.
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
I respectfully disagree, Mr. Preston. The current "17% government shutdown" cannot be compared to any of the other 17 shutdowns in our history when you consider the unprecedented actions that obama and the Democrats have taken to intentionally inflict pain on the American people. True, many voters in the true believer/useful idiot class and low information types will never change their stripes, but the conservatives (even the ones who sat out the 2012 election), independents, and the few patriotic Democrats that are left will all be highly motivated to turn out and to ensure that obama and the Dems never again gain total control of our government. These people have seen the true character (if such a word can be used to describe these people) of obama and the Democrats: "I will not negotiate." "I shouldn't have to give anything." The disgraceful treatment of our surviving WWII vets while bending over backwards to aid illegal alien demonstrators. The absolutely morally bankrupt refusal to pay military death benefits. The lying about "default". The thug tactics used against law abiding citizens who were merely being tourists or trying to reach their own homes. The closing of private businesses and historical sites that the government does not even fund or operate. The refusal to fund experimental cancer treatment centers for children (Harry Reid:"Why would we want to do that?") while simultaneously insulting the press. These are just a few that immediately come to mind. I know I will not forget or forgive. Although the RINO establishment (who have truly identified themselves) will not bring these points up in 2014, I am sure that the real patriots such as Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, Louie Gohmert, et al will remind those with short memories. No, Mr. Preston, this is not politics as usual.
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
ItIt's OK. THE MSM have most people convinced that everything is the GOP's fault, and the people who should be backing the GOP are too busy holding out for perfection.
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
Rjhfl, I would agree with your assessment if the mid-terms were tomorrow so to speak. But they're still a year away and I fear with machinations of our duplicitous and traitorous MSM , everybody will have rolled over and gone back to sleep by then.
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
So right about all of this being designed by Obama and his minions to give us bad government so that O can amass more power to screw things up even more. That’s why he’s there.

It’s quite likely that the truth about Obama won’t be known until he’s well out of office and safely ensconced in his free Hawaii mansion. That’s too bad, but the people keeping the dam of truth from breaking are about as tenacious in this regard as they come.
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
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