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New polling highlights shutdown risks for Republicans

If you're a Republican lawmaker, and you're at all concerned about the 2018 midterm elections, today's polling is a reminder that the GOP is taking a big risk.
The Capitol building at dusk.
The Capitol building at dusk.

In early 2011, congressional Republicans moved the nation awfully close to a government shutdown, and a Washington Post/ABC News poll asked respondents who'd they'd blame. It wasn't especially close: 45% said they'd hold GOP lawmakers responsible, while 31% would blame the Democratic president.

Nearly seven years later, with another potential shutdown on tap, conditions are slightly worse for the Republican majority.

A new ABC News/Washington Post poll finds substantially greater Republican risk in a government shutdown, with Americans by a 20-point margin saying they're more likely to blame Donald Trump and the Republicans in Congress than the congressional Democrats if one occurs.Forty-eight percent in the national survey say they'd blame Trump and the GOP, vs. 28 percent who'd blame the Democrats in Congress. An additional 18 percent would blame both equally.As is often the case in Washington mud fights, political independents make the difference: They're more likely to blame the Republican side by 46-25 percent.

The survey was in the field from Monday through Thursday, as the threat of a shutdown became more acute.

The results are more than just a peripheral curiosity. Ideally, elected officials would be principally concerned with how a shutdown would adversely affect the country, but even for those who have electoral interests on their minds, public opinion should matter: if you're a Republican lawmaker, and you're at all concerned about the 2018 midterm elections, today's polling is a reminder that the GOP is taking a big risk.

At this point, I imagine some of my less progressive readers are shouting at their screens, insisting that the shutdown threat is entirely Democrats' fault. Republicans may control the House, Senate, and White House, the argument goes, but the shutdown is likely because the Democratic minority is taking a stand in support of Dreamers. As such, the right insists, Dems deserve the blame.

I understand the argument. If the polling is any indication, the line doesn't appear to be working, at least not yet, but I appreciate why Republicans believe they have the high ground.

I also think they're mistaken. As is usually the case, context is everything.

Let's remember that when Donald Trump ended the DACA policy, putting Dreamers' futures in jeopardy, he demanded that Congress work on a solution. Soon after, the president appeared to strike a deal with Democratic leaders to protect Dreamers' fate.

Trump, without any meaningful explanation, then abandoned that agreement, and again demanded that lawmakers work out a solution. He even went so far as to say he didn't care about the contents of the deal.

When Democrats and Republicans crafted a compromise, Trump initially told its architects that he was on board with the plan, before quickly changing course and rejecting it.

What was Trump's preferred alternative? To the chagrin of his own party's leadership, the president hasn't offered one. Indeed, Trump has refused not only to lead negotiations, but also to establish parameters on what he would or wouldn't sign.

What we're left with is a bipartisan plan that can't get a vote and bipartisan opposition to the pending Republican bill.

Avoiding a shutdown isn't that complicated: Congress could vote on the deal Trump asked for, briefly supported, and provides him with much of what he says he wants. This, in turn, would not only keep the government's lights on, it would also extend protections to Dreamers -- who, according to the president, Republican leaders are determined to help.

It's against this backdrop that Trump declared via Twitter yesterday, "If there is no Wall, there is no Deal!"

Is it any wonder public opinion isn't cutting Republicans' way?