By RONNIE ELLIS
CNHI News Service
It was an awful week for Republicans who are getting most of the blame for the mess in Washington.
An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll produced some “jaw-dropping numbers” for the GOP: only 24 percent of the country has a positive view of the party, the lowest number in the poll’s history. Half (53 percent) blame Republicans for the shutdown while only 31 percent blame President Barack Obama.
It gets worse. The poll found 70 percent of respondents think Republican leaders in Congress are putting politics before the national interest and get this: 40 percent of Republicans agree.
The poll came out Thursday after Republican House leaders began trying to find a way out of the standoff. But you know their internal polls already showed the same backlash even before the NBC/WSJ poll was released. That’s why they were scrambling to find a deal.
How bad was it? The public poll indicated the Affordable Care Act — “Obamacare” — is now viewed favorably by 38 percent of the public, an increase of seven points. Half of the public now believe the law should not be defunded. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who led the defunding fight, saw his unfavorable numbers double from 18 percent to 36 percent. Little surprise Republicans dropped demands to defund the ACA.
They were warned. Republicans like Congressman Hal Rogers, who were around in 1995 when the same thing happened, knew what was coming and said so but Cruz and tea party Republicans refused to listen.
It also wasn’t a particularly good week for Sen. Mitch McConnell. His supporters had to fend off an effort within the Boone County Republican Party to endorse McConnell’s primary opponent Matt Bevin. They succeeded but the local party nevertheless passed a resolution criticizing the Republican Party of Kentucky for appearing to favor some Republican candidates, an indirect swipe at McConnell.
Still, Kentucky is not the nation. McConnell knows Obama remains deeply unpopular in the commonwealth so he continues to run more against Obama than either Bevin or presumptive Democratic nominee Alison Lundergan Grimes.
It’s why he blamed Obama for the closing of Kentucky Power’s Big Sandy coal-fired generator at Louisa. On Twitter, his staff posted this: “McConnell on Big Sandy shutdown: Another devastating reminder of the Obama Administration’s war on #coal and #Kentucky jobs.”
Just one problem: the federal consent decree signed by Kentucky Power to reduce emissions at Big Sandy, which led to the closing, was signed in 2007 before Obama had even been nominated. Republican George W. Bush was still president and Obama trailed Hillary Clinton in the polls at that point.
McConnell’s staff defended the statement by saying KPC had options to keep the plant open until 2012 but closed it because of the Obama administration’s “stricter regulations.” But the decision was driven by the 2007 decree and KPC’s solution actually relies on a coal-fired plant in West Virginia that previously met those “stricter regulations.”
The polls could also portend bad news for other Kentucky Republicans. First-term Sixth District Congressman Andy Barr can’t be happy either. The best time to defeat a congressional incumbent is in his or her first re-election bid.
State House Republicans want to take over the majority of that chamber next year and the recent sexual harassment scandal has so far embarrassed only Democrats. Now they have to worry the national party backlash might reach into Kentucky and make that task more difficult.
A lot can happen before next year’s election and this week’s bad news could easily have been forgotten by then. It probably will be. But for now, Republicans surely must be concerned.
RONNIE ELLIS writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at email@example.com. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cnhifrankfort.