Remember a month ago, when members of the GOP were at each other's throats over the government shutdown? The going consensus at that time was that one side was driving the party towards extinction. Which side of the party was it? Well, that depended on who you talked to.
Now, as our regular readers likely remember, I wasn't especially fond of the shutdown strategy, but it was also my view that the long-term electoral consequences of that exercise were likely negligible, perhaps even non-existent. Those with a slightly more alarmist take, by contrast, pointed to the sizable lead Democrats showed in generic congressional polling at the time and fretted about the future.
In just six weeks, Republicans have completely erased a 9-point deficit in a generic congressional ballot question and are now running even with Democrats.
Thirty-nine percent of registered voters say they would vote for a Democrat in their district — and the same percentage say they would vote for a Republican — if elections for the U.S. House of Representatives were held today, according to numbers from a Quinnipiac poll released Wednesday.
Last month, Democrats had held a nine-point advantage on the same question, 43 percent to 34 percent.
Independent voters favored Democrats in October, 32 percent to 30 percent, but now favor Republicans by a 37 percent to 26 percent margin.
Now, humility is still the order of the day. Just as it was premature to be despondent last month, it would be foolish to be exultant now.
We can, however, take comfort in two things: (1) this is almost certainly a sign that the failures of Obamacare resonate with the electorate and that they have the potential to be a big asset for us in next year's races; (2) the voters tend to focus on what's right in front of them. You can argue that that's a form of myopia, but you can also make the case that it's a sensible exercise in prioritization. The only way we would've had an election fought over the shutdown was if we would have had an election during the shutdown. It simply didn't generate enough long-term effects to merit its inclusion in an electoral conversation we're going to have a year from now.
There's been an awful lot of news over the past five years that has given conservatives justifiable dyspepsia, but let's not lose sight of where we are right now. The president who once seemed the invincible apostle of liberalism now increasingly looks like a charlatan ... and not just to the right. Moreover, his signature initiative—the holy grail of liberalism for decades—is not just a failure; it's a nationwide punch line.
Elections are always contingent affairs. God knows we may find plenty of ways to screw this up. But it's hard not to like the position from which we're starting.