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Tuesday, October 15, 2013 - 12:15pm

Shutdown: Who Do Georgians Blame?

With national polls showing most Americans blame the GOP for the government shutdown, progressive political groups held events around Georgia Tuesday targeting Republican lawmakers. But it’s unclear who Georgians are blaming.

At the GOP’s state headquarters in Atlanta, a dozen people in clown costumes held signs and protested. They said the Republican-led Congress has become a circus. And they’re blaming the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party.

“We want our old GOP back, quite frankly,” said Laura Bourdeaux of Decatur. “We want a two-party system that actually functions.”

She says she comes from a Republican family but hasn’t voted for the GOP in a long time.

“I’m old enough to remember what the Republican party used to be like,” she said. “And it’s just been hijacked by extremists.”

But one poll conducted in Georgia indicates many Georgians see it differently. The telephone survey of 1,000 Georgians by GOP strategy firm Landmark Communications found more people here blame Democrats than Republicans for the shutdown.

And more than half of those surveyed said lawmakers should repeal or defund the federal healthcare program, rather than delay it. Mark Rountree with Landmark says that’s telling.

“Only nine percent wanted to delay it,” he said of the healthcare legislation. “That’s the reason why coming up with a middle ground is so hard. There are really only nine percent of voters who want a middle ground.”

Rountree said the survey broke down along party lines for the main question of who caused the shutdown. Only ten percent of Republicans, for example, blame people in their party for bringing business to a halt in Washington.

But he said the responses from independents were somewhat surprising. More than 50 percent of them blamed the Democrats for the shutdown. But only 17 percent said they think both parties share some of the blame.

A spokesman with the Georgia GOP said Republicans are willing to compromise. And standing outside the headquarters, Ryan Mahoney chided the protesters.

“We think the Senate Democrats are acting like children. So it’s kind of funny that they’re dressed like clowns,” he said, gesturing to the protesters. “We think Republicans in both the House and the Senate are offering compromise bills to keep the government open.”

Mahoney dismissed the national polls, saying that's not what guides Georgia's Republican elected officials.

"There are probably 30 or 40 of them out there right now and each one says something different," he said.

The shutdown is causing a wide variety of problems in Georgia. For example, Federal Aviation Administration employees in Georgia are working without pay.

It’s also hit Georgia farmers just as many of them are harvesting their crops. Some say they’re missing critical loans and direct payments from the government when they need the money the most.

None of the protesters Tuesday said the shutdown had affected them personally. But they said this isn't the way Washington should work.

"I'm tired every six or eight months the same thing happening," said Larry Burrell of Lawrenceville. "It's getting old."

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