Some in the GOP are freaking out about polls showing GOP approval way down since the beginning of the shutdown. At the same time, Dems, are suffering from premature giddiness over the prospect of retaking the House in 2014. Bill O'Reilly thinks Hillary Clinton could be the big beneficiary of this supposed GOP slump. I have a different take.
Part of what's going on here is that you have two different Republican parties. There's a Republican party that wants to fight the President across the board on almost every issue, and then there's a Republican party that wants to cut deals. There's a Republican party that wants to hold the line on immigration and trade, and there's a Republican party that's for open borders and unlimited trade deficits. There's a Republican party that worries about gay marriage, abortion, and other social issues – and there's a Republican party that has almost no concern over those issues. There's a Republican party that thinks we should be more cautious about engaging in conflicts around the worlds, and a Republican party that supports almost every war any President might consider.
So when you ask people, "Do you approve of the Republican party" -- how they answer that question will probably depend on which of those two parties they consider the "true" GOP. One of the unfortunate aspects of the shutdown fight is that Republicans were never unified on what the fight meant or what victory would look like. You said on day one that it was only a matter of time until the GOP Establishment caved in, and you are going to be right. So the Establishment blames Ted Cruz for starting a fight that couldn't be won, and the folks at Red State accuse the Establishment of surrendering – and lots of folks in both groups decide that they're not happy with the GOP. Against this background, it's not surprising that the GOP approval numbers have fallen.
But none of this means that the GOP is necessarily doomed, or that its efforts have been entirely mistaken. I think the GOP will keep the House in 2014, and I think they will likely pick up seats in the Senate as well. I also think that, in a time where the country is being so badly governed, there are political advantages for conservatives who can claim that they disagree with both the Obamas and the Bushes. In terms of current policy, I am confident that we wouldn't be having any serious conversations about government spending if the Tea Party had simply gone along with business as usual. I also think the Tea Partiers did a good job of helping to keep us out of war with Syria. And I still think they have a good chance to stop immigration reform. So it's not true to say that they are losing on every issue. In fact, some liberals are very frustrated that the Tea Party is having so much success. Check out this article:
Right-wing coup: Deluded secessionists have already won
Finally, I would say that we shouldn't fear a debate between the two groups of Republicans. Reagan and Ford spent months fighting over the 1976 GOP nomination, and that probably helped the GOP more than it hurt. Obama and Hillary had a huge fight in 2008, and that probably helped the Democrats more than it hurt. Instead of sweeping all these issues under the rug, Republicans should fight them out. It may look messy for awhile – but over time, the party will end up with positions that have been tested in battle and can be defended in public.