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Shutdown takes its toll on congressional GOP

As the deadline neared for the nation's first-ever war-time government shutdown, the consensus was that congressional Republicans, already unpopular, would feel the brunt of the public backlash. So far, those expectations were correct.

A Washington Post/ABC News poll released yesterday found widespread dissatisfaction across the board, but Americans' attitudes towards Republicans are especially brutal.

While approval for President Obama and congressional Democrats ticked higher in the wake of the government shutdown, approval for congressional Republicans dropped to a woeful 24%. Just as important, GOP lawmakers, who shut down the government exactly one week ago, have seen their disapproval ratings soar to 70%. A majority of Americans, 51%, now say they "strongly" disapprove of the nation's far-right party.

Republicans might take some solace in the fact that no one in Washington is faring especially well right now, but there's just not much of a silver lining for the GOP. ABC's Gary Langer explained, "In another way to look at the results, Obama's gone from 41-50 percent approve-disapprove last week to 45-51 percent now -- a 9-point negative margin then, a similar 6-point negative margin today. The Democrats likewise show little change overall (from a 22- to a 26-point negative gap). But the Republicans have gone from 26-63 percent approve-disapprove to 24-70 percent, an initial 37-point difference widening now to a 46-point negative result."

Greg Sargent dug a little deeper into the results and found that among Americans who describe themselves as "moderates" or "independents," disapproval has reached 73%.

The right might also suggest these results should be taken with a grain of salt because it's just one poll. Perhaps. But let's not forget that CBS News, CNN, and the Pew Research Center also released post-shutdown polls, and all of them found Republicans receiving the blame for the crisis.

In theory, this should push Republican lawmakers into accepting the conservative compromise Democrats are already prepared to accept. That, however, is unlikely.

The American mainstream may be repulsed by the GOP's extremism, but the Washington Post/ABC poll also found that self-identified "conservative" and "very conservative" voters actually approve of Republicans' antics.

In other words, the GOP has kept its base -- the kind of folks who vote in party primaries -- quite pleased, even while drawing the ire of everyone else. We're looking at a national landscape in which Republicans and their most loyal backers are on one side, and the entire rest of the United States is on the other.

And since GOP lawmakers believe they're largely insulated from the effects of democracy -- gerrymandered districts have created exceedingly safe seats -- poll results like these probably won't raise an eyebrow for most of the caucus.

That said, there are some Republicans in competitive districts, and they clearly have cause for concern. Public Policy Polling conducted a poll for, and found results that should cause at least a little concern for GOP leaders.

Looking ahead, Republicans may gamble and hope the polls shift in their favor as the shutdown drags on, but it's more likely that a protracted crisis will damage the GOP even further, whether the party cares or not.