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Monday, Oct 07 2013 10:22 PM

House leaders need to herd better, quickly

By The Bakersfield Californian

Having watched the travails of the GOP's House leadership over the past three years, it seems cruel to point this out, but things might be getting tougher still for John Boehner, Kevin McCarthy and friends.

A new Washington Post-ABC News poll, released Monday, shows that voters are finding fault with House Republicans' strategy in the shutdown debate like never before: Seventy percent disapprove of their management of the stalemate, way up from last week's 63 percent. (President Obama is no hero either: 51 percent disapprove of his handling of things, although his approval rating increased from 41 percent to 45 percent over the same period.) That in itself is no big deal; Congress has been polling badly for years.

But a Pew Research Center survey suggests that voters are holding on to their partisan leanings no matter what. Three-quarters of GOP voters still say Obama needs to come to the table and negotiate. Three-quarters of Democrats believe he shouldn't because the Republicans are in the wrong.

That would suggest that large numbers of others -- the independent voters -- are gradually moving into the Democrats' camp. And individual House members in more conservative districts can't do much about it because their supporters want them to keep hard-lining it, and there could be trouble if they don't.

The House leadership is getting pinched in the middle. Never let it be said that majority whip McCarthy's job is a cakewalk. Those Washington Post-ABC News poll numbers would suggest that Republicans will pay a price at the ballot box next year if things keep going south, but Boehner, et al., have been taking their marching orders from a tea party caucus that for the most part doesn't seem to care enough to change. Unless House leaders can find a way to moderate the troops a little better, the worst may be yet to come.

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