Rep. Greg Walden’s absence from the Anaheim gathering exemplified the shadow the Capitol standoff has cast across grass-roots Republicans eying next year's elections. In Anaheim, as in Washington, the mood among Republicans seemed to meld support for the goals of GOP congressional leaders and an expectation that Republicans would pay a price for them.
Everyone at the event, from congressional Republicans on down, was trying to push blame for the shutdown onto Democrats, in defiance of national polls showing more Americans blame Republicans than President Obama or his party.
“I sure wish I could be with you in person, but as you’ve seen, a few things are going on in Washington as we fight to stand up for our Republican principles,” Walden, who represents a district in Oregon, said on the video played to a few hundred delegates.
“Getting anything done has been incredibly difficult as we have a president and a Democratically-controlled Senate who refuse even to even negotiate and work with Republicans to fund the government and make changes to Obamacare. Even on important nonpartisan issues like cancer funding and keeping the World War II memorial open to World War II veterans, the Democrats refuse to budge.”
He echoed what Sharon Day, co-chair of the Republican National Committee, had said a day earlier when she was asked if the federal government shutdown would harm Republican chances next year. She angrily denounced President Obama and Harry Reid, the Democratic leader of the Senate, for their tactics and what she described as efforts to bait Republicans.
“If you look at it, they have truly become the 'party of no' in this battle,” she said, using a sobriquet frequently flung at Republicans. “I’d like to see the president and I’d like to see Harry Reid stop throwing around statements and comments that are not helpful and I’d like them to sit down and compromise. …
"If you remember, it was the senators who didn’t show up to work on the bill while the Republican Congress worked till midnight. It was the president that played golf while the Republican Congress individuals continued to work and try to find solutions.”
Inevitably, however, she turned to the impact.
“Does it have an impact? I guess it will have an impact,” she said, her body language implying the fallout would be negative: “But the right thing is what I believe -- what the Congress is doing is trying to find solutions, unlike the president and Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi who just simply say, 'I want it all, I want it now and I don’t care what your compromises are, I’m not even going to show up to work and do my job.'”
Jim Brulte, the state Republican Party chairman, declined to say whether he thought Republicans would pay for the shutdown. But an analogy he drew — the fact that President George H. W. Bush was intensely popular in 1991 and lost his reelection race in 1992 — suggested he thought the fallout for Republicans might be short-lived.
“For anyone to suggest that they know what’s going to happen in November of 2014 based on what’s happening in October of 2013 is either a prophet or a fool,” he said. “And I may be one, but I try not to be either of them.”