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The Shutdown: What Will Colorado Voters Remember a Year from Now?

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An EPA employee protests in Denver (credit: CBS)

An EPA employee protests in Denver (credit: CBS)

Written by Dominic Dezzutti

The first government shutdown in nearly two decades has made major national headlines. Many pundits have already chimed in on how this shutdown will affect President Obama and House Republicans. And while national politics certainly deserve our attention, how this current situation will affect politics in Colorado, especially this close to an election year also deserves some attention.

While Democrats have held a significant advantage in Congressional elections in Colorado recently, current momentum lies with the Republican Party at the local level. Momentum may be key to winning back or retaining key seats, but momentum can be tricky to maintain.

One major event can shift momentum a great deal.

The question is, will the shutdown and coming debate about the debt ceiling make a memorable impact on Colorado voters?

Remember, for this to truly be a major political event, not only must it make an impact, but it must be remembered by voters and let’s face it, voters’ memory isn’t exactly the sharpest nowadays.

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For example, how well do you remember the sequestration battle? Do you remember the long list of budget items that would be affected by the sequestration? More importantly, do you remember which Colorado elected officials had which opinion regarding sequestration?

Don’t feel badly if you don’t remember much about that political battle that occurred nearly a year ago. I follow politics pretty closely and I couldn’t tell you any details from that battle either.

My point is that even though the current situation with the shutdown and potential fight over the debt ceiling is a big deal and may impact all of us in many ways, if it doesn’t cause something significantly memorable on a personal level, many of us will not remember it.

That idea sounds ludicrous right now. All of the coverage points to certain Armageddon and it points to the political risks being taken by House Republicans. All of that may be true, but beyond the memorable nature of the event, it must also hit home. All politics are indeed local and so is a situation like this one.

If the shutdown continues and more and more Coloradans see direct impacts, such as economic impact in Estes Park due to Rocky Mountain National Park being closed, then it has a stronger chance of having an impact.

Perhaps if another significant weather system comes to Colorado during the shutdown and reports are hampered by the closure of NOAA, that impact could be remembered.

But beyond memory of the event, voters must decide to assign blame or credit. Frankly, that may come down to the overall opinion of how Obamacare is working. Since the shutdown is primarily about the funding of Obamacare, if Coloradans are enjoying the new health care law in the many months ahead, GOP candidates may pay the price. If the new law is not working well, GOP candidates may enjoy a significant bump.

I think that is the true bet the GOP is making at this point. It isn’t about if voters will remember the shutdown. It’s about how voters will feel about Obamacare next November.

If the new health care system is working well, the current shutdown will look as folly at the feet of the GOP. However, if Obamacare is not running smoothly, and systems that big usually have a tough time doing so, then GOP candidates will not pay a price for the current shutdown.

Right now it feels that the shutdown will have a major impact on next year’s election. Indeed it may. But it only will if voters have something to remember it by and how they feel about Obamacare, not right now, but in a little over a year.

The real fight comes in 13 months.

About The Blogger

- Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here usually every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti is also the host and producer of the Emmy award winning Colorado Inside Out on Colorado Public Television.

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