The government shutdown is coming to a close, and we already have a good sense of who came out of this fight the worse for wear, and who is looking just great by comparison. Some are obvious, others may surprise, and the most important one I’m guessing you haven’t even heard of.
Winner: The Democrats
Obama, Harry Reid and the rest of the Democratic caucus stayed united in not giving any concessions to the Republican Party over the debt limit or the government shutdown. In the end, the Republicans caved and the Democrats got something close to a clean raise to the debt ceiling and end to the shutdown. It still could have been better for them: the debt ceiling will have to be raised and another government shutdown averted again in a few months.
Loser: The Republicans
This was an across the board disaster for the Republican Party. They promised a lot to their base and in the end they could deliver none of it. They hurt the U.S. economy for no gain, and their poll numbers suffered as a result. For the first time since before the 2010 election, Democrats can legitimately dream about taking back the House in 2014.
Winner: Ted Cruz
Yes, Ted Cruz took on this quixotic quest to defeat Obamacare using the government shutdown and the debt ceiling. And all of that crashed and burned. So why is he a winner? Because his base thinks he did the right thing, he’ll be able to fundraise like crazy off of this, and he likely has an email list of supporters that would make most conservatives drool. Like the Humbug from The Phantom Tollbooth, he has swam a long way in the Sea of Knowledge, and emerged completely dry.
Loser: The Tea Party
Ted Cruz is doing just fine but the movement he identifies with is on the downturn. After years of controlling the agenda of the Republican Party, the Tea Party has proven itself through this episode to be a destructive force in national politics. It’s unclear how the “mainstream” GOP will fight back against the Tea Party, but it’s clear that they have to.
Winner: Terry McAuliffe (the guy in the picture above)
Very few people seem to know this, but there is a very consequential and hotly contested governor’s race in Virginia in one month. Democrat Terry McAuliffe faces off against far right conservative (and current Virginia Attorney General) Ken Cuccinelli. Neither played a direct role in the government shutdown, but the simple fact of the Republican brand being so badly injured this close to the election hurts Cuccinelli and raises McAuliffe. Since the start of the shutdown, McAuliffe has gained a potentially crucial three points on Cuccinelli, from around a 4 point lead to a 7 point lead in the polls. In an off-off-year election with low turnout (which favors Republicans) and Republicans attempting to purge Democratic voters from the rolls, those three points could make the difference.
Loser: The American Tax Payer
There is the chance that the shutdown could benefit Americans down the road by convincing them to vote in more sane people, but the estimated cost to the U.S. government was around $2.56 billion of tax payer money, and that estimate may fail to include the economic costs of government workers not spending money, small towns reliant on tourism to national parks and monuments losing funds and the ripple effects of government services being largely out of business for 16 days. If that was an investment, it was a costly one.
Surprise Survivor: John Boehner
Though Boehner has to defy the Tea Party and put a bill they loathe up for a vote in the House, Tea Party members like Raul Labrador are placing the blame on the Republicans that caved before Boehner did (oh, and the liberal media). This fight seemed like it would take down Boehner one way or another, but if the GOP can hold the House, it seems likely that Boehner will hold his speakership.