State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.
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After shutdown, little political fallout against GOP discernible

Written by Mary Wilson, Former Capitol Bureau Chief | Oct 21, 2013 4:48 AM

The 16-day federal government shutdown, for now, is over, and elected officials and strategists assessing the effect on political capital are finding it hard to see much damage.

One take is that the debate only strengthened Republican candidates for the year to come.

"There are two big issues coming out of the debacle of the past couple of weeks," said Charlie Gerow, a Harrisburg-based GOP strategist. "One is the incredible increase in the national debt, and two, the disaster of Obamacare."

But after the shutdown-inducing fight, Republicans seem no closer to changing the Affordable Care Act or reducing the national debt. The interests that have been served in the short-term appear far more parochial - the whims of each candidate's district, and the groups that help the GOP raise money.

Republican consultant Ray Zaborney highly doubts that any members of Pennsylvania's Republican congressional delegation will see their fundraising take a hit because of how they voted on a measure to end the 16-day government shutdown and avert defaulting on U.S. debt.

"What happens when you get elected to congress is you go there to represent your district," said Zaborney. "A lot of people didn't want the debt ceiling to be raised in their districts, and in other districts, it was a concern of what would happen to the economy if we didn't raise it."

How is it possible that early polls indicate the Republican Party's brand has taken the largest hit (relative to Democrats and the President), but individual members can emerge unscathed?

Chris Borick, a pollster and political science professor at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, said the answer lies in exactly who has been turned off by the shutdown saga. Voter surveys show the past few weeks of squabbling have left moderates feeling sour - but it's not clear if that even matters to individual members of Congress.

"While it's an important group electorally, in terms of raising funds it's a little different ball game," Borick said. "If I'm a Republican and I'm looking to raise cash, I usually go to some of the same sources - more conservative individuals, more conservative groups - I don't usually make a lot of inroads into the center."

The more conservative groups run the game when it comes to raising money - and it's their perspective that has been elevated by the latest debate.

It's a debate the country will return to in mid-January, when federal spending authority runs out, according to the latest deal.

"The fight's not over," Zaborney said.

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