Inside the Beltway: Americans anticipate another government shutdown in 49 days

A disconcerting reminder: The federal government is only funded for the next 49 days. The money runs out exactly seven weeks from Wednesday, on Jan. 15 to be exact. But no one is thinking about this as holiday time bustles in — or are they? The public is poised for the worst, apparently: 70 percent of Americans now believe it is “likely” that the government will shut down again, according to a Harris poll released Tuesday. Republicans are more apt than Democrats to agree with this, 79 percent to 64 percent, respectively.

No one has forgotten that pesky debt ceiling, either. Fifty percent of the respondents say it should not be raised again, while one-quarter disagree. “There is a huge partisan difference here,” reports Regina Corso, senior vice president at Harris, who notes that 72 percent of Republicans believe the debt ceiling should not be raised compared to 32 percent of Democrats.

“While another government shutdown appears likely to Americans, defaulting does not,” Ms. Corso adds. “Almost half of Americans — 46 percent — say it is not likely that the government will default and not raise the debt ceiling, while one-third say it is likely the U.S. will default. Nineteen percent are not sure.”

MERRY FISCAL CRISIS

“The How the Government Stole Christmas Party”

— Celebration for mid-December organized by Americans for Tax Reform, which advises invitees: “Come celebrate and enjoy some of the most popular targets for revenue-hungry lawmakers, with hearts two sizes too small.”

THE WHITE HOUSE SHOWBIZ TURKEY

A bird must be image conscious, media ready and brand friendly to be a White House Thanksgiving turkey. This year, it has come down to a pair of Minnesota gobblers named Caramel and Popcorn; there’s a public poll to name the winner, to be revealed Wednesday with all the pomp and circumstance befitting the turkeys in all their plumage. They have their own Twitter handles and fan bases. President Obama will pardon the winner and his alternate, an event to be showcased live on C-SPAN at 1:15 p.m. Both birds have been drilled in pardoning protocols and the inevitable noise and distraction of a photo-op in the nation’s capital.

The press office at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., meanwhile, has seen to the show biz needs of their feathered charges as well, providing much appealing personal information, including audio snippets of their gobbles.

Both weigh about 38 pounds, both are male, and both were born July 8 of this year. But from then on out, it’s every turkey for himself. Popcorn has a “proud strut” and a garbled gobble, while Caramel is known for his “steady and deliberate walk” and “quick, clear and frequent” communications. The first sounds like a politician, the second like a PR guy. But no matter. Popcorn favors corn to eat and Beyonce tunes to listen to, while Caramel relishes soybean meal and the strains of Lady Gaga.

But there is evidence that the turkey ritual has evolved over the years. Farmers have been showing up at the White House since 1873 bearing the gift of their finest birds; a “receiving ceremony” did not appear until 1947. The fate of the bird weighed heavy on presidents of the modern era, however.

President Kennedy sent his turkey back to the farm while President Nixon donated several to a local petting zoo. President George H.W. Bush was the first to inaugurate an official exoneration of the Thanksgiving main course in 1989. The gobbler, Mr. Bush told the press, had “been granted a presidential pardon, as of right now.”

TURNING THE CORNER?

It’s only one point. But one point is one point. A CNN poll released Tuesday trumpeted “Democrats lose 2014 edge following Obamacare uproar.” The findings: 48 percent of Americans would vote for a Republican if the election were held today; 47 percent would vote for a Democrat.

Deeper numbers always reveal, well, something. Among those who would pick the Republican candidate: 49 percent of registered voters, 52 percent of men, 43 percent of women, 96 percent of Republicans, 3 percent of Democrats, 53 percent of independents, 43 percent of moderates, 77 percent of conservatives, 16 percent of liberals, 25 percent of “non-whites” and 58 percent of “whites.”

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