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‘Shutdown’ Will Be 2014 Factor

October 5, 2013
By MIKE MYER , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

Secretary of State Natalie Tennant already has begun taking shots at U.S. Rep. Shelley Capito regarding "gridlock" in Washington. Look for that to happen in other states where Republicans in the House of Representatives will be running against Democrats, for U.S. Senate races.

In fact, count on Democrat strategists to make the partial government "shutdown" a key part of their strategy to keep the GOP from gaining control of the Senate next year.

Capito, the Republican representing West Virginia's 2nd District in the House, remains a clear favorite to win the Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va. Being a Democrat, in the same party as wildly unpopular President Barack Obama, leaves Tennant with a severe handicap.

But Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., may have thrown a lifeline to Tennant and a few other Democrat candidates.

Obama and Reid have steadfastly refused to agree to a government funding bill that includes any changes to the national health insurance law. Republicans who control the House have refused to agree to a funding bill without some changes to Obamacare. On Tuesday morning, that resulted in a partial shutdown of federal government agencies.

House Republicans are merely using power envisioned by the nation's founders. Giving each house of Congress varying degrees of power over the purse was seen by the founders as a way to avoid abuses by the executive branch - as well as majorities in the other legislative body.

But since 1995, when then-President Bill Clinton managed to use his public relations skills to portray Republicans as irresponsible for allegedly shutting down the government, many conservatives have been leery of such confrontations. Never mind that the claim made then by Clinton and now by Obama and Reid isn't accurate. It takes two to disagree over a spending bill, after all.

Still, blaming the 1995 shutdown on Republicans worked well for Democrats. Expect them to try it again, especially in states such as West Virginia.

Recriminations over the shutdown also may be part of next year's Senate races in other states. In Arkansas, Louisiana and Montana, all states where GOP leaders hope to pick up new Senate seats, the likelihood is strong the Republican standard bearers will be people now serving in the House. Their Democrat opponents will accuse GOP candidates of having acted irresponsibly regarding the shutdown.

The tactic may be considered in other states where Republican Senate wins are being predicted, even though the GOP candidates will not be incumbent House members. Those states include Iowa, North Carolina and South Dakota.

Again, it won't matter to Democrats that trying to brand Republican House members as irresponsible isn't intellectually honest or accurate. Hey, if it worked for Bill Clinton, why not?

But the Democrats may want to be careful what they wish for. Here's why:

It's probable Obamacare will proceed as the president and Reid want, without substantive changes (except, of course, those Obama himself has made, in contradiction of the law).

By about this time next year, quite a few voters - including many staunch Democrats - will have been burned in one way or another by Obamacare. Pointing fingers at Republican House members who tried to block enforcement of penalties - but not insurance coverage - mandated by the law may not be a very smart thing to do.

We'll see. For now, however, don't be surprised if some Democrat candidates for the Senate attempt to use the shutdown against Republicans.

Meanwhile, what about Obamacare and the shutdown? Here's an idea:

Obama and Reid have insisted they'll be happy to discuss changes to the health insurance law, but only after the House passes a "clean" government funding resolution.

House members should do just that - then call Reid and Obama out when they refuse to negotiate in good faith about Obamacare, as they will.

Myer can be reached at

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