Political Impact of Washington Fight

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President Obama has said there are no winners in the fight over the debt ceiling and government shutdown. However, the fight could impact upcoming elections. Arizona State University Pollster Bruce Merrill will talk about winners and losers from the drama in our nation’s capitol.

Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. President Obama says there are no winners in the fight over the debt ceiling and government shutdown. But how much will that fight impact upcoming elections? ASU pollster Bruce Merrill is here to look at potential winners and losers from all the drama. Good to see you again.

Bruce Merrill: Good to see you again.

Ted Simons: Speaker Boehner, his quote after all of this was over, we fought the good fight but just don't win. Does most of the Republican Party consider this a good fight?

Bruce Merrill: No, the party is seriously divided. Even before this all started, remember Karl Rove was saying that the far right of the party could cause a terrible split in the Republican Party and cost them election seats coming up in the next election. So, I think you're going to see a party that is going to be divided. It's going to be divided nationally, and in Arizona.

Ted Simons: It's in Arizona as well, because Arizona is pretty solidly red right now?

Bruce Merrill: It is pretty solidly red, but we're talking about within the Republican Party. What has happened within the past 10 or 12 years, right wing of the party, particularly the tea party people, have driven many of the more moderate republicans frankly almost out of the party. And with this rift now, it may very well be that you will see increased conflict between a more developing moderate wing in the Republican Party, compared with the right wingers that control the institutional party.

Ted Simons: Well, with this battle, did the tea party gain more influence or lose some influence?

Bruce Merrill: It depends on what your frame of reference it. Keep in mind, that the interesting thing is that the people, the tea party people, did not represent the majority of people in America. But they only have to represent the people in their own particular districts. And in those districts, these people are going to be seen as heroes. It is actually going to help them. Because we've got this situation where you have 435 individual constituencies, and it doesn't matter what the national interest is. If you want to get reelected, you better understand and espouse the interest of the people in your district.

Ted Simons: In Arizona is that the case as well?

Bruce Merrill: Sure, I don't think enough has been made of it. Keep in mind, in Arizona, our four republican Congressmen were involved in this split, this anti-, being very somewhat negative towards what was happening in the country. And what is particularly interesting to me, while all of the Republican Congressmen were actually more supportive of what was going on with the tea partiers, at the Senate side, John McCain has been very vociferous saying this was a mistake. I told them they could not win with this strategy. They didn't win and won't win in the future.

Ted Simons: The strategy initially was to defund and get rid of the Affordable Care Act. With all of this going on, what happens to efforts to destabilize Obamacare?

Bruce Merrill: Obamacare probably isn't going to go away. As more and more people get on to Obamacare and get the benefits from it, it will be harder and harder to make big changes. I think anybody feels that we could do a better job. The bill needs to be improved. The service needs to be improved. And it will be. But I think, Ted, one of the most significant things that I hope there is more discussion about is this wasn't business as usual. I mean, there has always been since the beginning of this country states' rights people, tea partiers, etc. But what was different about this to me is one of the most basic values that we have taught, and you probably remember when you were a kid in grade school, that the electoral process is one where we have fights during the elections. The majority wins, and there is kind of a responsibility for the minority to support the majority position until the next election. What happened this time is a small group of extremists said we're not playing that game anymore. We're not waiting until the next election when we fight this out. We want our way right now. And I think they frankly made a mistake.

Ted Simons: How do we get to the point where a small group of extremists can have this much influence and can basically say either I get my way or I shut everything down?

Bruce Merrill: Well, it has to do partially with the rules of the Senate and the House and the power of somebody like Boehner, but it also has to do a lot with the media. The media loves this kind of conflict. Whether or not this is going to affect the candidates individually a year and a half, two years from now, it depends on what media crisis exists a year from now. If the election were held today, it would have hurt the Republicans badly. Who knows what the next media crisis is going to be a year, year and a half from now?

Ted Simons: Who knows who the next face of both parties will be. Obviously the Democrats have a president in office and they have Hillary Clinton, kind of the lady in waiting there. Who is the face of -- is Ted Cruz the face of the Republican Party right now?

Bruce Merrill: No, and the reason -- in fact, what's happened, you have to keep in mind that while these -- the tea party is a very small percentage of the Republican Party overall, and even in Arizona. I've done research where my estimate is that even among registered Republicans in Arizona, about 15% are hard core tea partiers, and about another 15% are supporters of the tea party, but not in the extreme way. Even in the Republican Party in Arizona, the tea party is not a majority of Republicans. Most voters in Arizona and in the nation are moderates. And that's one of the interesting things that we've seen through this conflict in the leadership is the leadership is very extreme, where the mass public is pretty moderate. They're not -- the moderate people aren't being represented in this battle at all.

Ted Simons: Very quickly. I will give you some names. Quick profile of how they came out of all of this. John Boehner.

Bruce Merrill: Well, within the organization, he probably came out all right. In the sense that he's still speaker and it is very hard to unseat a speaker.

Ted Simons: Mitch McConnell.

Bruce Merrill: I have a lot of admiration for him. He's running in an area where he's got a tough tea party opponent in the primary, and yet he came out and was, along with the women, was probably the person that brokered this deal. You have to respect him in that he did what was the right thing to do rather than just worrying about getting reelected.

Ted Simons: Harry Reid.

Bruce Merrill: Harry Reid is Harry Reid. I mean, his expression hasn't even changed over this period. And Harry Reid depends on what happens with the Democratic Party in the future.

Ted Simons: Nancy Pelosi.

Bruce Merrill: Nancy Pelosi is Nancy Pelosi. I don't think you can change either of their images very much.

Ted Simons: Last one, President Obama.

Bruce Merrill: Well, you know, he is an interesting person in that he did stand up for what he believed, and you have to keep in mind that this Affordable Health Care Act is his legacy. And he was fighting for the most important part of his administration and you have to admire that he stood up for it.

Ted Simons: Are we going to go through this whole song and dance again come January and February, government shutdown and debt ceiling coming back up again?

Bruce Merrill: I wish we could say that we weren't. My guess is that we will. I can't see any reason, if you listen to the tea party people, they don't accept the fact that they lost in this election or this outcome. They're ready to go again. And I think we're going to have a lot of conflict in another three months.

Ted Simons: Good to see you.

Bruce Merrill: Good to see you.

Bruce Merril:Pollster, Arizona State University;

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