Sean Trende | The Politics of the Government Shutdown

Of course, the real action for 2014 is not the House, where the GOP will continue to control the agenda except in the unlikely event that it loses 17 seats. The real fight is for control of the Senate, which in turn revolves around races in eight states: West Virginia, Arkansas, Kentucky, South Dakota, Louisiana, Alaska, Montana and North Carolina. Obama lost those states by, respectively, 27, 24, 23, 18, 17, 14, 14 and two points, respectively.

The politics of a shutdown in these states are very different than in the nation as a whole. We can try to estimate the popularity of a shutdown by taking as a national baseline CNN’s recent finding that 46 percent of voters would blame Republicans for a shutdown vs. the 36 percent that would blame Obama. If we adjust these numbers according to the results of the presidential election in 2012, we would estimate that the president would shoulder the blame for a shutdown in each of those states save for North Carolina, and that outright majorities would blame the president in West Virginia, Arkansas and Kentucky.

The last thing Democratic candidates in these states want is a public spat over a piece of legislation that is highly controversial, that might have a problematic rollout in the coming weeks and months, and that places them on the side of an unpopular president. If there’s an upside for the GOP, this is probably it. Even after the 1995-96 shutdowns, the GOP managed to gain Senate seats, largely by making gains in reddish states.


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