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First Thoughts: Conservatives aren't backing down

Despite the polls and grumbling from establishment Republicans, conservatives aren’t backing down… Shutdown, however, continues to take a toll -- Obama cancels Asia trip, no monthly jobs report, essential government employees (including Capitol Hill police) working without pay for now… House GOP to introduce more mini-funding bills, as leaders hold a stakeout at 11:00 am ET… Cuccinelli: Time to end the shutdown… The week in 2016… And “Meet the Press” to have Treasury Secretary Lew, as well as Sens. Rand Paul and Dick Durbin.

*** Conservatives aren’t backing down: Here we are in Day 4 of the government shutdown, and after a brief period of comity yesterday (given the violent episode on Capitol Hill), both sides in the stalemate are back into their respective corners. That’s especially true for conservatives. Despite polls showing that more Americans are blaming Republicans than Democrats for the shutdown, and despite establishment Republicans admitting they aren’t winning this fight, conservatives aren’t backing down. In fact, they feel they have survived the fallout from the first few days. Case in point is Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-KY) admission in that hot-mic moment that “We’re gonna win this, I think.” Is that the reality of this standoff? Or it is simply due to the conservative echo chamber? After all, one of the major differences between the last shutdown (in 1995-1996) and now is the rise of FOX News, Drudge, and Breitbart News. As the New York Times recently wrote, “a fervent group of conservatives — bloggers, pundits, activists and even members of Congress — is harnessing the power of the Internet, determined to tell the story of the current budget showdown on its terms.” It explains why conservatives aren’t as convinced as many others are that this will do significant damage to the party.

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*** The toll the shutdown has taken: But will that last, especially given the toll that the shutdown has taken? Just consider all the examples that are out in the news today. The White House announced last night that President Obama would be cancelling his entire overseas trip to Asia, which isn’t helpful for the nation’s image overseas. (“Some real opportunities in Southeast Asia will be lost,” one Asian expert told the Washington Post. “The Chinese will probably quietly say that the Americans do not have staying power.”) The police who responded to yesterday’s incident on Capitol Hill -- as well as all other “essential” government personnel -- are working for now without pay. FEMA has had to recall furloughed workers to respond to the tropical storm in the Gulf of Mexico. The monthly jobs report isn’t be released like it normally is on the first Friday of the month, as all indications that the shutdown will have a negative impact on the U.S. economy the longer it goes on. And the Treasury office that monitors the sanctions on Iran has been reduced to a skeleton staff. These aren’t small things, and given the fact that it seems there’s a majority of House Republicans who would support a temporary CR that would fund government (for three to six weeks), it’s a head-scratcher that we’re in this stalemate. Remember, this isn’t about a long-term budget fight; it’s about a SHORT-TERM funding bill. It’s hard to disagree with The Economist’s cover: “No way to run a country.”

*** House GOP introduces more “mini-funding” bills: Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, NBC’s Frank Thorp reports that House Republicans have introduced 11 MORE "rifle-shot CR" mini-funding bills for specific programs and agencies to be considered in the coming days. This will continue to be the strategy for House Republicans, as they try "to address situations that are in critical stages," as House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) put it Thursday during a press conference. Thorp adds that the bills address issues that Republicans have been pressured to fund using this strategy -- such as Head Start programs, food and drug safety, and federal worker backpay. It's likely that each of the bills will pass, as the previous five that the House has already considered did, and they will then be sent to the Senate. The real question is whether Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) will take them up, as he's already said he opposes the strategy, and the White House has threatened to veto bills such as these. House Republican leaders hold a stakeout with reporters at 11:00 am ET.

*** Cuccinelli: Time to end the shutdown: While conservatives on Capitol Hill aren’t backing down, the same isn’t true for a conservative running in the nation’s most competitive 2013 contest -- Ken Cuccinelli. “After days of equivocation, Republican gubernatorial nominee Ken Cuccinelli on Thursday called on Congress to reopen the federal government, then fight over whether to starve the new health care law of funding,” the AP writes. “Cuccinelli told reporters after a Thursday-morning event that shuttering the government is not the right way for opponents of the 2010 Affordable Care Act to gain leverage to defeat the law he wants to see repealed.‘Strangling government to do this is not an appropriate course to go,’ said Cuccinelli, the state's attorney general.”

*** The week in 2016: Who’s the boss? While 2016 candidates have had relatively little to say about the government shutdown this week (except that it shouldn’t be happening) one weighed in strongly: Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ). He claimed he could solve the shutdown showdown by his shear will. “My approach would be, as the executive, to call in the leaders of Congress, or the legislature or whatever you’re dealing with, and say we’re not leaving this room until we fix this problem because I’m the boss. I’m in charge,” he said... A Quinnipiac poll had Hillary Clinton dominating with 61% of the Democratic field (Biden was second at 11% and Elizabeth Warren third with 7%). Clinton also topped Christie, Ted Cruz, and Rand Paul by double digits. Paul led a tightly packed GOP field with 17%... Cruz came under fire from conservatives and even Grover Norquist… Warren got the J-Mart New York Times treatment, as a possible presidential contender if liberals disappointed with Obama and not big into a Clinton legacy look elsewhere… Rick Perry called the implementation of the health-care law a “criminal act” while campaigning for Republican Senate candidate Steve Lonegan in New Jersey… And Republicans -- who are being viewed as having the top priority of causing political problems for President Obama -- once again had their problems with women highlighted in this poll from National Journal, which shows the GOP losing even more ground with them.

*** On “Meet” this Sunday: Filling in for David Gregory, NBC’s Savannah Guthrie will interview Treasury Secretary Jack Lew on “Meet the Press,” as well as Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Dick Durbin (D-IL).

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