After House talks break down, all eyes on Senate to end shutdown
As congressional Republicans sink in popular opinion,
GOP governors -- including some who might contend for their party's
presidential nomination in 2016 -- are happily using the opportunity to
differentiate themselves from their beleaguered colleagues on Capitol
A record 70 percent of Americans disapprove of the way
Republicans in Congress are handling their jobs, according to the new
NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, but outside Washington, Republican
governors' are faring much better.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is cruising to re-election in
deep-blue New Jersey by a 34-point margin over his Democratic
challenger. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder enjoys a 49-39 percent
favorable/unfavorable rating in a state President Barack Obama carried
easily last fall, and other Republican governors in blue states -- John
Kasich in Ohio and Scott Walker in Wisconsin among them -- have stayed
afloat as well.
In short, Republican governors are succeeding
where their counterparts on Capitol Hill are failing. And that's why
it's pretty difficult right now to find GOP governors willing to praise
their party's antics in Congress.
Christie put it especially succinctlyin an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer's editors on Friday: "If I was in the Senate right now, I'd kill myself."
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, the head of the Republican Governors
Association who might seek the GOP presidential nomination for himself
in 2016, gave voice to the divide on Tuesday: "As Republican governors,
we want to reclaim our brand from Washington, D.C.," he said on CNN.
"For too many years, we've outsourced what it means to be a Republican
-- we defined that in Washington, D.C."
Indeed, one of the biggest
problems for the Republican Party as a whole is the degree to which the
party brand has been defined by GOP lawmakers inside the Beltway. The
ongoing federal government shutdown and threat of default on the
national debt -- not to mention, Congress' failure to advance
comprehensive immigration reform -- has only turned Republican governors
more sharply against Washington.
"My approach would be, as the
executive, is to call in the leaders of the Congress, the legislature,
whatever you're dealing with, and say, 'We're not leaving this room
until we fix this problem, because I'm the boss, I'm in charge,'"
Christie said at the outset of the shutdown.
Gov. Brian Sandoval warned of "catastrophic" effects for his state
unless the shutdown is ended, noting that he was directing his
frustration "toward the Congress, all of them, as well as the president,
there are starting to be some real consequences here in my state."
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker took to the pages of The Washington Post on
Wednesday to favorably compare his own actions as governor against the
ongoing dysfunction in D.C.
"Our reforms are working, and we
continue to work with the legislative branch to do more to improve the
lives of the people we represent," Walker wrote. "That's what we're
doing in the Badger State. And that's why Wisconsin continues to be open
The shutdown has the added effect of creating a
dividing line between Republican governors and Republican members of
Congress heading into the 2016 presidential election, as well.
Governors are already thought to have an advantage over legislators
in presidential nominating contests, able to marshal their
accomplishments as executives versus lawmakers, who must often explain a
number of less-than-ideal votes they've taken over the years.
that end, presidential hopefuls in Congress -- Sens. Marco Rubio, Rand
Paul and Ted Cruz among them -- will be forced to answer for their votes
on the shutdown. Not just the ones that contributed to the shuttering
of the government, but the eventual votes that facilitate an end to the
Those votes are ripe enough fodder for a rival candidate to use
during the 2016 primaries. But more to the point, the crop of Republican
governors have the option of railing against Washington, as deeply
unpopular of a symbol among conservatives as it is among the broader
public right now.
Or as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush -- another
Republican said to be eyeing the White House in 2016 -- told NBC's Brian
Williams, the spectacle in D.C. is "embarrassing."
"We still have
the partisanship," he said. "And so, my hope is that at least on a few
things, we can find enough common ground to move on those and fight the
fights in the places where there's big disagreements."