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Government shutdown: Most Americans blame Republicans. But will it matter in 2014? (+video)

The last time the government shut down, Republicans were punished at the polls. Political history doesn’t necessary repeat itself, but the GOP should worry about next year’s elections.

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Those who believe “the government should do more to solve problems” has gone up from 48 percent to 52 percent, and the portion who would like to see Congress controlled by Democrats has risen to an eight-point advantage (47-39 percent). Not exactly a landslide for progressive government, but less tea party oriented.

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“That is an ideological boomerang,” says Bill McInturff, the Republican pollster who (along with Democratic pollster Peter Hart) ran the poll. “As the debate has been going on, if there is a break, there is a break against the Republican position.”

In barely more than a year, Americans will be trudging to the polls for another national election that could determine the balance of power in Congress as well as how Obama does his last two years in office. (Except for those whose bumper sticker reads “Don’t vote. It only encourages them.”)

Conventional political wisdom is that the 1995-96 government shutdown – national park closures were a big deal then too – hurt the GOP later, when Republicans lost House seats and Rep. Newt Gingrich was forced to resign as Speaker.

Some analysts and political operatives are warning that it could happen to Republicans again in 2014.

Nate Silver – probably the best poll tracker in the business as evidenced by spot-on election predictions in his New York Times blog – is skeptical.

The media is probably overstating the magnitude of the shutdown's political impact, he asserts

“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,” he wrote the other day on his temporary web site. “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.”

Silver acknowledges recent polls mostly blaming Republicans for the shutdown, although he also notes that differences between the two political parties here aren’t as stark as they were in 1995 and 1996.

“The unanswered question is how this abstract notion of blame, on just one issue, might translate into tangible changes in voter preferences 13 months from now,” he writes. “Republicans are taking more blame for the shutdown – but they were extremely unpopular to begin with. How many people's votes will be changed by the shutdown?”


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