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Shutdowns have yet to cost today’s GOP

First Read is your briefing from the NBC News Political Unit on the day’s most important political stories and why they matter.
A sign announcing the closing of all national parks is posted outside the Lincoln Memorial in Washington
A sign announcing the closing of all national parks is posted outside the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, in 2013.Brooks Kraft / Corbis via Getty Images

Happening this Friday: Federal government heads toward an all-but certain shutdown by this weekend… House GOP’s impeachment witnesses say there’s no evidence yet President Biden committed a crime… Biden calls Donald Trump a direct threat to democracy in blistering speech… Trump, Ron DeSantis and Tim Scott all address California Republican convention… And latest NBC News poll shows that only 36% of GOP respondents who say they’ve received one Covid vaccine believe it was worth it.

But FIRST… Nearly 10 years ago to this very day, during the government shutdown of 2013, the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll showed a looming political disaster for Republicans. 

A majority of Americans blamed the GOP for the shutdown, the party’s popularity declined to its lowest level and the GOP took a nosedive on the generic ballot. 

Then the shutdown finally ended. And while it hurt the GOP in that year’s gubernatorial race in Virginia (the only time in decades when the party controlling the White House has won that race), congressional Republicans emerged unscathed in the 2014 midterms — winning control of the U.S. Senate and routing Democrats across the country.

Next, in Jan. 2019 amid the longest government shutdown in American history, our poll found 50% of Americans blaming former President Donald Trump for that impasse, versus just 37% who blamed congressional Democrats. 

Yet unlike in 2013, the poll showed Trump’s political standing unchanged from the previous month. And while Trump would go on to lose the White House the next year, few if anyone cites that 34-day shutdown as a major reason why. 

We tell these political tales to underscore an important political point about the last two big shutdowns in American history. 

They didn’t end up hurting today’s modern Republican Party. In fact, the GOP won big in the 2014 midterms. And given how much closer the 2020 presidential election turned out to be compared with the polling, there’s the legitimate argument that Trump would have won re-election had he done a better job of handling Covid. 

It’s more than possible that a shutdown damages the GOP in this year’s Virginia elections, as NBC’s Sahil Kapur and Gary Grumbach report. And it’s also possible it could hurt the GOP in 2024, especially with the House up for grabs and with the Biden White House ready to blame House Republicans for it.

But there is an important reason we’ve even reached this point.  

The GOP didn’t pay a political price — at least at the national level — for the last two government shutdowns.

Headline of the day

The number of the day is … 36%

That’s the share of registered Republican voters who say it was worth receiving at least one of the Covid vaccines, according to a national NBC News poll. A majority of GOP voters — 57% — say the vaccine was not worth it.

Many of these voters attribute their regret to the fact that they still contracted Covid after getting the shot, the fact that they felt they were forced to get the vaccine or to the fact that they felt they had adverse reactions to the shot.

As officials encourage Americans to get new Covid shots this fall, the numbers show a deep partisan divide on the issue, with 67% of independents and 90% of Democrats saying it was worth it to get vaccinated from Covid.

Read more about the poll numbers on

Other numbers to know:

Nearly 7 million: The number of women and children who rely on Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) who are at risk of losing their assistance if the government shuts down over the weekend.

425: The number of national parks across the country that will close if a government shutdown occurs.

70,000: The number of child care programs that could close as federal aid from the American Rescue Plan expires at the end of this month.

$20: The new minimum wage for fast food workers in California, starting next year, after California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a new law on Thursday.

9.3 million: The number of people who tuned in to watch the second Republican primary debate on Wednesday night, a steep drop off from the number of people who tuned in to the first one in August. 

$250 million: The value of a civil fraud trial against former President Donald Trump and his two sons, which is slated to start next week.

Eyes on 2024: GOP hopefuls look to strike gold in California

Former President Donald Trump, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott will be circling each other in California on Friday, each addressing the state GOP convention. Businessman Vivek Ramaswamy will also be attending the convention on Saturday.

Their addresses come amid some drama over the state party’s new delegate allocation rules.

As NBC News’ Allan Smith reported earlier this month, the state party is potentially making the delegate-rich state a winner-take-all contest. Instead of allocating delegates by congressional district, the new rule would assign all of the state’s delegates to a candidate who wins more than 50% of the vote. But delegates would be allocated proportionally if no candidate reaches that mark. 

The rule change, which had Trump’s backing, prompted pushback from DeSantis’ allies and the super PAC supporting him, Never Back Down, pulled its field program in the state as a result. 

It would be difficult to change the rules at the convention, Smith reported. The rules are expected to be set on Sunday, which is the deadline for states to submit their delegate selection rules to the Republican National Committee.

In other campaign news … 

Biden takes on Trump: Biden forcefully condemned Trump and his wing of the GOP in a speech in Arizona on Thursday, saying, “This MAGA threat is a threat to the brick and mortar of our democratic institutions,” per NBC’s Gabe Gutierrez and Peter Nicholas. 

Anti-Trump effort struggles: David McIntosh, the head of Win It Back, a PAC tied to the conservative Club for Growth that’s been launching anti-Trump ads, said in a memo to donors that , “all attempts to undermine [Trump’s] conservative credentials on specific issues were ineffective,” per the New York Times. And CBS reports that some major GOP donors gathering next month will try to encourage Virginia GOP Gov. Glenn Youngkin to jump into the presidential race.

Across the aisle: The Biden campaign launched a new TV ad Thursday focusing on the president’s work with Republicans, per NBC’s Megan Lebowitz.

Impeachment watch: Witnesses said during House Republicans’ first hearing in their impeachment inquiry into Biden that “while there is no evidence of a crime by President Joe Biden, more bank records are needed from him and his son Hunter Biden to determine if there might be,” write NBC’s Dareh Gregorian, Garrett Haake, Rebecca Kaplan and Rebecca Shabad

Debate drama: Trump campaign senior adviser Chris LaCivita told NBC’s Katherine Doyle that Trump will not attend the third GOP debate next month. After this week’s second debate Ronny Rojas of Noticias Telemundo fact checks some of the candidates’ misleading claims on immigration.

Under fire: Politico reports that DeSantis’ rivals are starting to attack his record in Florida, something that was once considered unthinkable as Republicans all over the country championed his conservative wins in the state.

Looking ahead: The Associated Press examines Democrats’ deep bench of future presidential contenders, many of whom are focused on helping reelect Biden next year.

ICYMI: What ELSE is happening in the world

An increasing number of Republicans opposed to Ukraine aid are threatening future aid to the country as the Ukraine’s war with Russia rages on.

A group of conservative House Republicans is planning to try to remove Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., from the speakership as soon as next week, the Washington Post reports.

Despite demands from his colleagues that he step down following his indictment on federal corruption and bribery charges, Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., was defiant on Thursday while speaking at a meeting of fellow Senate Democrats.