A mathematical comparison of the latest political disasters is straightforward: Government shutdown > Obamacare website woes.
That = bad news for the GOP.
Polls show the public disapproves most of congressional Republicans after they precipitated the partial shutdown to stop the Affordable Care Act. Tea party poll numbers are lower than ever.
The shutdown could have cost the economy as much as $24 billion. After it ended, the Affordable Care Act remained, the failures of its sign-up website drowned out by intramural GOP conflict.
Florida Republicans — including congressional candidates, the governor and the GOP senator — are on defense.
Was anything gained?
“No. I think there was some ground lost from a political point of view,” former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a Republican, told ABC’s This Week on Sunday. “Tactically, it was a mistake to focus on something that couldn’t be achieved.”
When asked about Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s pledge to “do anything” to stop the act, Bush said the GOP needs to “start solving problems” and do a better job of picking its battles.
“Have a little bit of self-restraint,” said Bush, who also faulted President Barack Obama’s leadership.
Many Republicans running for office are far more reticent about criticizing Cruz’s tactics — including Bush’s son, George P. Bush, a candidate for Texas land commissioner who said he supported the senator’s defund-Obamacare push.
But Jeb Bush’s blunt comments are the antithesis of those of Florida’s current governor, Rick Scott.
Three days before the Oct. 1 shutdown, Scott said little about the effects it could have on the state’s economy and jobs.
“They ought to do what we’ve done: We’ve balanced our budget, we lived within our means. We paid down our debts, over $7 billion worth of debt. And gosh, our economy’s going,” Scott said.
Asked again about his concerns, if any, Scott said only, “I think they ought to look at what we’ve done, because it’s worked in our state.”
Then the shutdown happened.
Scott was asked during one media availability whether he supported the GOP congressional decision to link the Affordable Care Act to the budget. Scott wouldn’t answer directly, instead blaming Obama for failing to compromise.
Then the shutdown ended with a deal to reopen the government and avoid a confrontation over the nation’s borrowing limit.
“Washington’s failure to reach a long-term agreement on the debt ceiling confirms our nation’s leaders have their heads in the sand about our economic future,” Scott then wrote in a statement.
Democrats were quick to identify Scott as a tea partier, a sign that they believe the right wing of the conservative movement will hurt Republicans. Still, surveys also show that the poll numbers of Obama and Democrats have taken a hit, albeit a lesser one when compared to Republicans.
If Obamacare’s website remains problematic, or if the program starts to fail more broadly, those numbers could flip.
Democrats are on offense for now. They hope the damage to the GOP brand is real and will remain bigger than Obamacare’s problems until the midterm elections next year.