By Ashley Lopez
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting
It looks like one of the many ramifications of the ongoing federal government shutdown may be some electoral losses for the GOP. The shutdown was initiated by Republican members of the U.S. House who represent very red districts and are trying to avoid getting primary-ed from the right next year.
However, their Republican colleagues who represent swing districts could be facing a tough campaign because the shutdown. MSNBC reported:
In a poll conducted in 24 House districts over Wednesday, Thursday and Friday by Public Policy Polling, registered voters in 17 of those districts favored a generic Democratic challenger over the incumbent Republican.
The Democrats would need to win 17 seats in the 2014 midterm elections to take control of the House.
Republicans have felt the brunt of the public’s anger for the standoff over the government shutdown. Polls released last week by CBS and Fox showed that Americans blame Republicans for the shutdown by a wide margin.
Progressive organizations like MoveOn.org, which paid for the PPP poll, are already preparing to make a push to retake the house, although the general election is still more than a year away.
As Peter Schorsch of SaintPetersBlog points out, this is particularly troubling for incumbents Steve Southerland, of Florida’s second congressional district and C.W. Bill Young, of Florida’s 13th district.
In Southerland’s North Florida district, his approval rating is upside down 41 to 44 percent. In a ballot test of Southerland vs. an unnamed “Democratic opponent”, Southerland trails by four points, 43 to 47 percent.
Democrat Gwen Graham, the daughter of former governor and U.S. Senator Bob Graham, is already running a spirited campaign against Southerland.
…Southerland’s numbers get worse once respondents are told Southerland supported the government shutdown. Under that scenario, Southerland trails the unnamed Democrat 41 to 50 percent.
…In Congressional District 13, the Tampa Bay Times‘ John Romano framed Young’s dire situation in a must-read Sunday column in which he criticizes Young for ‘abandoning’ John Boehner in order “to fall in step behind the smug tea party frat boys.”
…Young’s district opposes the shutdown 67 to 28 percent, while disapproving of the 42-year member of Congress’ job performance 46% disapprove to 33% approve. In a ballot test between Young and an unnamed Democrat, Young trails 43 to 48 percent. The margin is 42 to 51 percent when respondents are told of Young’s support for the government shutdown.
Young also has a Democratic opponent lined up for 2014.
And there is already a divide among Florida Republicans about the merits of the government shutdown. The Tampa Tribune reported that those divides became very clear during an event with GOP party activists. According to the Tribune:
The hard-core party regulars here for a fundraising dinner and party business meeting used tough rhetoric in favor of a stand against President Obama and the Affordable Care Act.
“This is not the time for us to back down in Washington,” said Jonathan Hayes of Bay County, a member of the state party’s governing executive committee.
They passed a resolution commending Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, leader of the hard-line forces in the Senate, for his one-man filibuster over the issue, which contributed to the momentum for the shutdown.
On the other hand, members of Congress who have to please voters in potential swing districts are speaking more cautiously.
Several Tampa area Republican House members say it’s not a good idea to force a government shutdown over the issue of funding the health care reform law, also known as Obamacare.
“Doing what we’re doing now, I think we run the risk of losing the House,” meaning the Republican majority, said Rep. Tom Rooney of Okeechobee, whose District 17 includes southeastern Hillsborough County.
Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Lakeland, who also represents a substantial chunk of Hillsborough, said with layoffs of workers at MacDill Air Force Base and the chance of veterans not getting benefits, “It’s not worth continuing to keep the government shut down.”
Last year, Florida Democrats made some electoral gains in Congress. However, a tough fight to keep some of those seats is expected.