Friday, October 4, 2013

How the GOP is outmaneuvering Democrats on the Shutdown

The latest polls suggest that a super-majority of the American people desire a compromise solution. Yet the polls also tell another tale – there's been very little change as to who Americans regard to be responsible for the shutdown. Although the GOP is seen as marginally more to blame, the data suggests that opinion against the GOP is static. The White House expected that the opposite would occur - that once the shutdown began, the GOP would be routed by public anger. It hasn't happened.

2) PR Flowing with the polling data, the GOP’s present shutdown PR strategy is far more astute than that of Congressional Democrats/the President. While the President refuses to negotiate and overtly broadcasts an ‘'exasperated'’ demeanor – (see Obama + Reid), the GOP is staging clever PR stunts (see ‘empty chairs and WWII memorial funding). Essentially, the GOP have realized that now the shutdown is underway, they must be regarded as open to compromise. In contrast, the Democrats have allowed their anger to distract them away from a cognizant PR strategy.

3) POSTURE As with the sequester, the warnings of ensuing horror (at least in a immediately salient sense) have not come to pass. At the same time, with the problematic ObamaCare roll-out, the GOP’s talking points have been somewhat vindicated. In turn, this has weakened Democratic criticisms of the GOP. Republicans are more able to claim that they are being reasonable - IE – ‘all we want is a one year delay’ etc. In addition, as time goes on, the President is likely to come under increasing public scrutiny for the continuation of the shutdown – IE – as the chief executive, the public will expect Obama to lead America out of this mess. I suspect that Boehner senses the President's vulnerability on this 'leadership perception' issue. At least in part, it would explain why the Speaker is now pushing for a grand bargain.

HOWEVER... it's not all rosy for the GOP. Over the longer term, the present Republican strategy will furnish doubts among independents over the party's governing responsibility. If the GOP becomes a populist centric party – even in the sense of garnering independents over ObamaCare – it risks jeopardizing its position come the 2016 Presidential elections (a concern I've previously warned about). This is especially true with regards to national security (see DNI Clapper’s comments on the intelligence impact of the shutdown).

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