Public Opinion Interrupts the Fiscal Crisis

As you watch today’s fiscal gymnastics, you should be aware that a poll hit Washington last night like a large meteorite: a new NBC/WSJ poll showing very unambiguously that the manufactured crisis is hurting the GOP more than the president or congressional Democrats. Almost immediately, House Republicans who had been talking about keeping the government shut down as part of an offer to extend the debt limit began looking for a way to a CR that would reopen government.

While most earlier polls had shown mixed assignments of blame and a lot of “curse on both their Houses” sentiment that both reflected and reinforced “false equivalence” reporting about the crisis, the new poll shows a 53/31 majority blaming congressional Republicans more than the president, a bigger margin than the same poll registered back in 1995. And nearly every other finding in the poll moves in that same direction: Obama’s approval rating up to 47%; the GOP’s approval rating down to an unprecedented 24%; 70% of the public saying congressional Republicans are putting their own interests over those of the country; 63% opposing a government shutdown aimed at defunding Obamacare; Democrats suddenly opening up an eight-point lead in the congressional “generic ballot” for 2014.

For the first time it’s clear that Republican disadvantages in polling on the fiscal crisis aren’t primarily attributable to intraparty strategic differences, but to a generally negative public judgment.

So keep that in mind as events unfold today.

UPDATE: Here’s how Ezra Klein and Evan Soltas reacted to the NBC/WSJ poll in this morning’s Wonkblog:

Even worse for the GOP is what the pollsters called “the Boomerang Effect”: Both President Obama and Obamacare are more popular than they were a month ago. Obamacare in particular gained seven points…. It’s hard to overstate the magnitude of the GOP’s strategic failure here: Obamacare’s launch has been awful. More than a week after the federal insurance marketplaces opened, most people can’t purchase insurance on the first try. But Republicans have chosen such a wildly unpopular strategy to oppose it that they’ve helped both Obamacare and its author in the polls.

This could’ve been a week when Republicans crystallized the case against Obamacare. Instead it’s been a week in which they’ve crystallized the case against themselves.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.