By Ryan Isakow
One of the bigger news stories over the past month is a proposal, spearheaded by Senators Cruz, Rubio, Paul and Lee, to block any budget or continuing resolution unless the Affordable Care Act is defunded. This would effectively shut down the government, a move with unpredictable political consequences. The plan has divided the Republican Party; prominent Senators including John McCain and Tom Coburn have criticized the plan, saying it would be counterproductive and harmful to the Republican Party.
Either way, as a political call to arms the initiative is wildly successful. Nearly every health care story in the past month correlates with stories featuring the 4 Senators most associated with the initiative.
The takeaway from the data is that Senators Cruz, Paul, Rubio and Lee have cemented themselves as the faces of repeal. The force of their story is enough to bring coverage of the Affordable Care Act up, implying that opposition is becoming as much a part of stories around the ACA as implementation is.
The Senators have been rewarded for their public opposition to the Affordable Care Act with jumps in their social media presence – mostly.
There’s an interesting disconnect between Senators Cruz, Lee and Paul compared Rubio. While the former received hundreds of new followers every day over the past month, Senator Rubio has stayed stagnant – even losing net followers on some days. One possibility is that the new followers are coming primarily from deeply conservative Twitter users – the same people who are still angry over Rubio’s support for immigration reform. If Rubio manages to convince activists of his credibility in the shutdown, he may see more of a response in social media.
We also looked at the main Republican opposition to the shutdown plan – Senators John McCain, Tom Coburn, and Rep. Peter King.
They saw a similar correlation with Affordable Care Act coverage, albeit less than the shutdown proponents have. For or against, the threat of a government shutdown has captured the attention of the media; those who put themselves in the middle of the discussion are getting an undeniable boost in news coverage out of this.
As October 1st, the deadline for a new budget or continuing resolution, approaches we expect to see more buzz around the politicians in the middle of the fight. Will Rubio regain traction among conservative voters? Will the plan backfire on its proponents? We’ll be an eye on the data.