John Sides makes the case that a debt default will hurt President Obama even if it also hurts congressional Republicans:
For one, I’d be impressed that more Americans say they’ll blame the GOP and not Obama if most Americans actually wanted to increase the debt ceiling in the first place. See Mark Blumenthal’s thorough rundown of the polls.
Second, during the 1995 shutdown, Clinton’s popularity went down during this time — although this fact seemingly cannot penetrate the conventional wisdom. See my earlier post. Yes, the polls also weren’t kind to Gingrich and the GOP, but it is hard to claim that Clinton benefited in the eyes of voters. There is certainly no evidence that I know of that the shutdown helped re-elect Bill Clinton. It’s interesting that McConnell thinks that, if only because it appears to guide his actions now. But I don’t think it’s true.
Finally, even though this fight over the debt ceiling is unusual, I have a hard time imagining that Obama is going to emerge unscathed if the ceiling isn’t lifted and the economy suffers. After all, incumbent politicians are punished by voters for a thousand trivial things, even losses in college football games. I am hardpressed to imagine that voters will suddenly exonerate Obama from possible economic disruptions and simply blame the GOP. To be clear, I don’t think either party would come out of a debt ceiling meltdown smelling like roses. But let’s not pretend that Obama will somehow avoid that.
Or put it this way: what if the meltdown led to, say, 1-2 months of bond rating markdowns, stock market convulsions, disruptions of key government services, and wall-to-wall media coverage of the same? What happens to Obama’s approval rating in that time? My bet is that, just as with Clinton in 1995, it goes down.
What’s your bet?