Shutdown becomes a campaign issue for both parties

WASHINGTON – Even before the federal government officially shut down at the stroke of midnight on Oct. 1, Republican and Democratic political operatives were trying to cast the blame for the closure on the other party.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is launching automated telephone calls against GOP Reps. John Kline and Erik Paulsen, who represent districts that were narrowly carried by President Barack Obama last fall. The committee is launching similar calls against all 63 Republicans they believe are remotely vulnerable to a Democratic challenge.

Here’s the DCCC’s script:

“While you were sleeping, Congressman [Kline or Paulsen] shut down the government. You heard that right. But even worse – Congressman [Kline or Paulsen] is still getting paid – and he’s just not listening to our frustration. All because of his demand to take away your benefits and protect insurance company profits.”

Before midnight, the National Republican Campaign Committee put out cookie cutter press releases against Democratic Reps. Collin Peterson, Tim Walz and Rick Nolan, who represent the three Minnesota districts the GOP believes could be potentially competitive. Republicans focused on an amendment they had attached to the spending bills that would prohibit the government from offering health insurance subsidies to members of Congress and their staff. This is a thoroughly confusing topic, somewhat explained here but the GOP has chosen to cast the issue as a “special break” for Congress that it is ending. The NRCC’s press releases say that Peterson, Walz and Nolan:

“…voted against a bill that would not only keep the government open, but strip ObamaCare’s congressional exemption and give the same delay to middle-class families that the Obama administration gave to big business. He should be ashamed of his vote.”

Kline is the Democrats’ top target in Minnesota, and an announced DFL challenger, Mike Obermueller, wasted no time tying the shutdown to Kline.

“Congressman Kline should be ashamed for keeping his paycheck for not doing his job, even while veterans and seniors face the uncertainty that comes with a government shutdown,” said Obermueller in a statement.

Republican candidates, as opposed to their party committees, have been quieter. Mike McFadden, the businessman who’s running for the GOP nomination to challenge DFL Sen. Al Franken, released a statement about the shutdown that didn’t mention Franken at all and instead leveled criticism at both sides of the aisle.

“Our government has shut down because typical politicians in Washington are more interested in partisanship than actually getting something done. It is time for members of both parties to stop talking past each other, stop managing the nation from crisis to crisis, and start showing some actual leadership,” said McFadden.

Another GOP Senate candidate, state Sen. Julianne Ortman, also didn’t refer to Franken in a tweet she posted about the shutdown:

One reason Republicans may not be making as much political hay with the shutdown as Democrats is that the the public appears to strongly oppose the GOP’s efforts to delay or defund the Affordable Care Act via must-pass budget bills.