In an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll completed Oct. 9, 70 percent of respondents disapproved of congressional Republicans, whereas President Barack Obama's rating blipped up a couple of points.
Fortunately for the GOP, the bad news for congressional Republicans led some D.C. Democrats to overplay their hand by allowing the partial shutdown to appear more painful than it need be.
Message received: If the government cannot work for Democratic leaders, it need not work for citizens and taxpayers.
As Obama was holding press events to announce his refusal to negotiate with Republicans, the Department of Defense halted death benefits to the families of troops killed in combat. A Pentagon official blamed "a loosely worded law" for the move, but if it is loosely worded, the administration could have chosen to make the payments.
Instead, the Fisher House Foundation charity volunteered to front death benefits until the shutdown ends. "After losing a loved one in service to our nation, these families should not have to endure more pain as the result of political squabbling," said the foundation's chairman, Ken Fisher.
Democrats warned how the partial shutdown would halt important cancer research that could save children's lives. House Republicans proposed a bill to continue funding for the National Institutes of Health. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he wouldn't support the bill. CNN reporter Dana Bash asked Reid: "Given what you've said, will you at least pass that? And if not, aren't you playing the same political games that Republicans are?"
When Reid balked, Bash asked, "But if you can help one child who has cancer, why wouldn't you do it?"
Reid responded: "Why would we want to do that? I have 1,100 people at Nellis Air Force Base that are sitting home. They have a few problems of their own." Nasty.
Last weekend, as the drop-dead deadline to raise the debt ceiling loomed, Reid pooh-poohed a bipartisan compromise measure pushed by Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. But then the Democrats' war on taxpayers presented a signal moment. The government had placed barriers around the National World War II Memorial. Enraged veterans and tea party protesters tore down the barriers.
There's no public interest in closing off the monument. Indeed, it took manpower and money to erect the barriers. So there's no real saving. There's just a cheap headline.
Now the story has boomeranged on Democrats. The NBC/Wall Street Journal poll also found that 51 percent of Americans think Obama "is putting his own political agenda ahead of what's good for the country." And that poll was taken before last weekend's protests and other similar stories played out.
As I write this, Reid says he is "optimistic" that a deal can be reached. Why would the sage of Searchlight, Nev., want to do that? Maybe, now, it's in his interest.