Karl Rove: GOP's 'Ill-Conceived' Defunding Strategy Won't Work

Thursday, 19 Sep 2013 12:24 PM

By Cathy Burke

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The GOP's defunding strategy on Obamacare won't work — and could even backfire, strengthening President Obama and alienating independents, warns former Bush administration deputy chief of staff Karl Rove.

"The desire to strike at Obamacare is praiseworthy," he writes in an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday.

"But any strategy to repeal, delay, or replace the law must have a credible chance of succeeding or affecting broad public opinion positively."

Special: Should Obama's Health Plan Be Defunded? Vote Here Now!

Rove, who helped organize the political action committee, American Crossroads, noted the "epic gains" Republicans made in 2010, when they had control of more legislative chambers than at any time since 1928 — and won more than half of the gubernatorial races in both 2009 and 2010. He said those successes were the result of independents voting Republican.

And independents remain key, he said.

"Today, independents look more like Republicans than Democrats, especially when it comes to healthcare," Rove wrote, pointing out that a new Crossroads GPS healthcare policy survey in 10 key states showed that 60 percent of independents oppose President Obama's Affordable Care Act.

"If this holds through 2014, then Republicans should receive another big boost in the midterms," he said.

But there is one issue on which independents part ways with the GOP.

Some 58 percent oppose defunding the Affordable Care Act if that risks even a temporary government shutdown compared to just 30 percent who don't oppose defunding the unpopular law, according to the poll.

"This may be because it is (understandably) hard to see the endgame of the defund strategy," he wrote. "Even the defund strategy's authors say they don't want a government shutdown. But their approach means we'll get one."

There are formidable hurdles as well, he said: at least five Senate Democrats voting to defund the law; a likely presidential veto of it — and an unlikely override of that veto.

"A shutdown now would have much worse fallout than the one in 1995," he said, noting that seven of the government's 13 appropriations bills had already been signed into law, including two that funded the military at the time.

"So most of the government was untouched by the shutdown," he recalled. "But this time, no appropriations bills have been signed into law, so no discretionary spending is in place for any part of the federal government . . . much of the federal government will lack legal authority to function."

And independents aren't buying the defunding arguments, he said.

"Independents went with Mr. Obama's counterpunch 57 percent to 35 percent," he said, while voters in Senate battleground states sided with him 59 to 33.

In GOP-leaning congressional districts and swing congressional districts, the president won 56-39 and 58-33 respectively, he added.

Special: Should Obama's Health Plan Be Defunded? Vote Here Now!

The defunding "tactic," Rove maintained, "is an ill-conceived tactic, and Republicans should reject it."

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