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Shutdown politics: Obamacare and echoes of 1995

The last government shutdown was the 21-day shutdown from Dec. 1995-Jan. 1996 and while there is still discussion over who won or lost politically over it the prevailing view is that it went badly for Republicans. Voters at the time blamed them and not Bill Clinton, and the GOP held its House majority afterward but lost the presidential race in a landslide.

So while we're remembering back, we wondered how many of 1995's Republicans are still in the House now. Just 16 percent of today's caucus was there in 1995 (38, including a few who left and returned) with the rest having been elected since - including many who came in with the tea party wave of 2010.


Looking forward, how might this play out in the House districts? It's a long way to the 2014 elections but we don't see any clear gain for either side out of this so far.

There's no clear edge for Republicans in their own districts - though the ability to discourage primaries is surely part of the calculus. Nationwide, Republicans support cutting funding for Obamacare by a large, 73 percent majority. And so do Republicans who live in Republican House districts, including the most strongly conservative districts (hence, the potential for primaries.) But if you look at all the voters represented by House Republicans - everyone who lives in Republican-held districts and including the independents who live there - it's more evenly split over whether to cut funding for Obamacare or not.

CBS News/NY Times Poll

Part of this is because 53 percent of all independents nationwide - who aren't enamored with the ACA - say they would rather have Congress keep the law and try to make it work rather than defund it.

Who might get blamed if the government shuts down? Nationwide, people are marginally inclined to say they'd blame Republicans, 44 percent to 35 percent over the president. But given the partisan divisions we see today and gerrymandered districts toward both sides, where partisans are more packed into their CDs, that doesn't translate directly across the House districts. Voters in Democratic districts are more inclined to blame Republicans, but those in Republican-held districts are - albeit, marginally - more apt to say they'd blame the president and Democrats. (Not exactly conducive to compromise.)

CBS News/NY Times Poll

It's always easy to say independents are key, but we're going to do it here anyway - in this week's CBS News Poll, independents are both nine points more likely to say they'd blame the Republicans for a shutdown, but also think the Affordable Care Act will hurt more than help. For them it appears much of this could come down not to policy but procedure: most would prefer the Obamacare debate be separated from budget discussions, which is a different view than Republicans nationwide.

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