Many Democrats believe a government shutdown is their ticket to the reelection of President Obama and other gains in the 2012 election.
Not so fast.
A shutdown holds great peril for both sides, and Obama is not in the same position as Bill Clinton was going into the 1995-96 standoff, which helped propel Clinton to reelection.
The dangers for both Republicans and Obama are why there is unlikely to be a federal work stoppage, at least in the short run. Obama may very well lose this one, and I’m sure the White House knows it.
A Washington Post poll out today shows potential blame for a shutdown at a dead heat, with 36 percent saying they would blame Republicans and 35 percent saying Obama would be at fault.
But it’s important to note, as the Post does, that just before the 1995 faceoff got underway, a poll showed 46 percent said they would blame House Speaker Newt Gingrich and congressional Republicans while 27 percent who said Clinton would be the cause.
Republicans have learned from the searing experience of 1995-1996, and will not rerun the hubris of Gingrich, who assumed he had all the cards.
And House Speaker John Boehner is not the lightening rod Gingrich was. With his acerbic manner and high profile, Gingrich made the type of inviting target that the low-key Boehner does not.
Americans today are deeply concerned about the deficit, and Obama has spent two years doing nothing about it. What’s more, we’re much closer to the Election Day that brought the Republicans to power. The last shutdown occurred a full year after the GOP sweep of 1994.
It’s true, Obama has a bully pulpit that Republicans leaders don’t in order to spin his version of the fight. But Obama ain’t the same master of the bully pulpit Clinton was.
What’s forgotten is that Republicans nearly won the last shutdown battle. The Post also has a good rundown of the last go-round, showing how Republicans misplayed their hand after an initial victory.
Boehner was a member of the congressional leadership back then, and he has intricate knowledge of what went wrong. He won’t make the same mistakes.