Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Shutdown: Day 2

Get Eastwood In There
We enter Day 2 of the Shutdown Standoff. What's going on?

The Empty Chairs Strategy
The Republicans tried to have a joint House-Senate conference committee to talk it out. Reid rejected that saying that it wouldn't go down so long as they were holding up a clean CR. The Republicans felt that showed the Democrats were unreasonable. The Democrats pointed out that House Republicans had blocked 18 such attempts to have the exact same conference in previous months.

The Divide And Conquer Strategy
House Republicans unveiled a plan to fund various popular programs such as the National Parks or the VA or the Holocaust museum: it didn't make it out of the house giving them a chance to say that the Democrats are hypocrites for talking about the pain the shutdown causes--but then not doing anything to stop it!
On the other hand, Power Line points out:
Of course, the Republicans could have passed these measures without any Democratic votes, but they followed a procedure that required a two-thirds majority, hoping either to pressure Democrats into voting for the bills, or embarrass them if they didn’t. So the whole thing was political theater.
For their part, the Democrats see the attempt as trying to make an end-run around funding stuff they don't like and starting with the most popular ones--after all, if they got stuff they like funded why ever "restart" the government in the first place? Frum Observes:
Boehner Argued For Congressional Obamacare Exception
Apparently Speaker Boehner was "for the Congressional Obamacare exemption before he was against it."
House Speaker John Boehner has spoken passionately about making sure lawmakers and their staff do not receive any Obamacare exemptions.
But Politico reported Tuesday that before staking out that position, the Ohio Republican was working hard to quietly make sure Congress could get new subsidies to cover their health insurance plans.
It's embarrassing, sure--and it'll probably infuriate the base who has been clinging to this nonsense as a key talking point (Obamacare is SO bad Congress exempted itself!)--but when your-side-does-it-too it loses a lot of power. Well, we all knew Boehner was a RINO anyway.

The Big Problem: No Message
The GOP has a huge problem at this point: they are not united and, therefore, don't have a united message. That's absolute poison in a spin war--and, if you believe (and I do) that the media will more or less have Obama's back--then you should have seen this eventually coming and taken steps (such as having a good, iron clad message) to combat it.

While the go-to strategy is to try to make Obama and/or Harry Reid own the shutdown (and that, right there, is a problem: you can't have two people own something) right now the argument that the Tea Party or Republicans in general have nothing to do with this 'slimdown thingy' (what Fox News calls the shutdown) is simply not credible. It's also not clear what the objective now is: as the exchanges (however unstable they are) went live yesterday does a victory involve removing insurance from people who have already bought it? Or what? I'm not clear and neither is anyone else I can see.

The disarray in the ranks right now is a bad sign. Conservative Intel finds the whole strategy boggling:
So instead of positioning themselves well to put pressure on Democrats, or put pressure on the GOP leadership to do something that had a chance of working out, conservatives instead wasted a lot of time building email lists and losing the expectations game, apparently on purpose. The fact that President Obama can only gain from a shutdown is only dawning on some people now. What incentive does Obama have to end this? Serious question — answer it on Twitter for me if you can. (@freddoso)
The early polling has been bad. A Quinnipiac poll shows:
The Quinnipiac University Poll found voters, by 72 percent to 22 percent, oppose shutting down the government as a means of blocking implementation of the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare -- with Democrats opposing the shutdown 90-6, independents against it 74-19 and Republicans favoring it 49-44.
Obamacare Launch Fail: Nobody Knows About It
The exchanges went online yesterday and crashed. Apparently some 2.8 million people came to see what was going on (and a whole bunch of reporters taking screen shots). We don't know yet how many people actually bought insurance off them--if any--but conservative observers noted that (a) this is proof the bill isn't ready for prime time and (b) the editorial noise over the shutdown has drowned out that argument.

The insurance actually kicks in Jan 1 and is open for business until the end of December--so there's a lot of time to get the exchanges up and running more smoothly. The window for this story to be valuable isn't all that large.

State Of Play
The Republican theory seems to be this: Things are bad now--but as the shutdown progresses people will see how little we need government! They'll see how unreasonable the Democrats are--they'll come around to our side. The Democrats seem to feel that they are in a scoring position and that the longer this goes on the worse the GOP looks.

So long as the GOP is internally fractured that's probably true.

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