House Republicans Eric Cantor and John Boehner stand at a news conference. While they are being outpolled by generic independent third party candidates, the two may not have as much to worry about. (Image Source: Reuters)
The government shutdown has been known to greatly impact Republican Party. We have gone over this time and again. There is not a lot of hope for a complete recovery of the party's fortunes to begin with, with independents being disgusted with the party's extremist behavior, and conservatives disgusted with them caving to demands to end the shutdown. But the extent of the damage seems to be overestimated in some conservative quarters, despite a recent poll by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal. Indeed, when voters have a choice, an independent or third party candidate is polling better than a Republican candidate at this time. However, this does not necessarily mean that all those people are conservatives hating on establishment Republicans, contrary to popular belief.
The NBC/WSJ poll does not paint a pretty picture for anyone: President Obama has his lowest net approval rating since entering office in 2009. The Republicans, who have always polled on the low side, barely muster a 20% approval rating, and remain the worst at -31% net approval. A majority think another shutdown will happen. The big cause for concern, though, is the generic Congressional candidate poll: While Democrats remained in the lead at 35%, independent and third party candidates were now outpolling Republicans 30-28.
While it is kind of a big deal that generic Republicans are being outpolled by even independent and third party candidates, let us look at the previous polls: The last time these particular polls happened, in 2010, Democrats were leading even then, which indicates the bias of the poll (given the subsequent House takeover by Republicans). But then, it should be noted that the independent/third party candidate was earning a hefty 25% of pollers' interests, at a time when the Tea Party movement was clearly showing themselves to be a wing of the Republican Party rather than an independent movement. Thus, it is quick to assume that it is Republicans are simply losing conservative voters to Tea Party rebels.
Rather, a better explanation is this: Many voters, particularly independents who do not really lean one way or the other, or have beliefs which do not match with a particular party line, are frustrated with the whole political system. It is likely many have Tea Party sympathies, but just as many could have beliefs that favor the Occupy movement, which never aligned itself with a Democratic Party they see as too much to the right economically. In both cases, their interests are clearly not represented, but more importantly they do not support the current structure. Perhaps a split in the Republican Party would help things a bit, but only so much. What may need to happen is a new Party System should come into play, one with more than two or three parties.