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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Rove Slams Defunding Strategy, Warns Republicans

In his Wall St. Journal column for this week, Republican strategist Karl Rove has a warning for the wingnuts in his own party:

Today, independents look more like Republicans than Democrats, especially when it comes to health care. In a new Crossroads GPS health-care policy survey conducted in 10 states likely to have competitive Senate races and in House districts that lean Republican or are swing seats, 60% of independents oppose President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. If this holds through 2014, then Republicans should receive another big boost in the midterms.
There is, however, one issue on which independents disagree with Republicans: using the threat of a government shutdown to defund ObamaCare. By 58% to 30% in the GPS poll, they oppose defunding ObamaCare if that risks even a temporary shutdown.

Evidently it hasn’t dawned on Rove that a lot of self-identified independents are really just Republicans who are too embarrassed to admit it. But it’s interesting nonetheless that so many think defunding the Affordable Care Act is a bad idea if it risks a government shutdown.
Rove has made a lot of strategic mistakes himself over the years, as amply demonstrated by the 2012 elections. But he can still count:

After all, avoiding a shutdown would require, first, at least five Senate Democrats voting to defund ObamaCare. But not a single Senate Democrat says he’ll do that, and there is no prospect of winning one over.
Second, assuming enough Senate Democrats materialize to defund ObamaCare, the measure faces a presidential veto. Republicans would need 54 House Democrats and 21 Senate Democrats to vote to override the president’s veto. No sentient being believes that will happen.

Apart from the head counting, a shutdown would create an awful mess the Republicans would have difficulty explaining:

A shutdown now would have much worse fallout than the one in 1995. Back then, seven of the government’s 13 appropriations bills had been signed into law, including the two that funded the military. So most of the government was untouched by the shutdown. Many of the unfunded agencies kept operating at a reduced level for the shutdown’s three weeks by using funds from past fiscal years.
But this time, no appropriations bills have been signed into law, so no discretionary spending is in place for any part of the federal government. Washington won’t be able to pay military families or any other federal employee. While conscientious FBI and Border Patrol agents, prison guards, air-traffic controllers and other federal employees may keep showing up for work, they won’t get paychecks, just IOUs.

No doubt the GOP’s Kamikaze wingnuts will respond to Rove’s warning with snarkage about his disastrous outing in the 2012 elections. Unlikely as it is, if they pull off the shutdown, Rove may once again end up atop the rubble of his party. The interesting question is, has just the threat of a shutdown already done damage to the GOP’s 2014 prospects?

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