Let’s start with this fact: No one in Washington — not President Obama, not House Republicans, not Senate Democrats — looks good as the federal government shutdown enters its second week.
A Washington Post-ABC News poll conducted last week showed that 41 percent of Americans approved of how President Obama was handling the shutdown, and that middling rating was significantly better than where congressional Democrats (34 percent approval) and congressional Republicans (26 percent) stood in the survey. More than one in four (27 percent) said they disapproved of Obama, Democrats and Republicans.
Given those numbers, it’s hard to say there are any winners — politically speaking — from the first week of the shutdown. More like losers and not-quite losers. Below we pick a few of each.
(For those who wonder how we can pick the bad and the even worse at a moment like this, remember that both a White House aide and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) were caught talking about “winning” the government shutdown over the last week. Politics infects everything — and we mean everything.)
Sen. Harry Reid : The Senate majority leader seems to be the iron spine behind the Democrats’ no-negotiating position. Reid has benefited from the “he’s a former boxer” profile treatment in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, and his quotes on House Republicans — he has accused them of “subterfuge,” of being taken over by “anarchists,” etc. — have made him a hero of liberals.
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Sen. Ted Cruz : If there’s a face of the shutdown, it’s the Republican senator from Texas. And, when it comes to his prospects of running for — and actually having a chance of winning — the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, that’s a very good thing. The Republican base is very angry at the federal government, and being the guy who shut it down because he wasn’t willing to bend on principle is a potentially powerful message.
Republican governors who want to run for president: The Bobby Jindals and Chris Christies of the world are having a field day right about now. Need evidence that all of Washington is broken and that a problem-solver from outside the Beltway is the only answer? The shutdown — along with the name-calling that has followed — says it all.
Rank-and-file Republicans: There’s a reason that the leadership circle (in both parties) is relatively small while the back bench is stuffed full of lawmakers. Reps. Randy Neugebauer (R-Tex.) and Marlin Stutzman (R-Ind.) proved over the past week why they probably shouldn’t have a national spotlight on them. Neugebauer got into an angry confrontation with a park ranger. Stutzman told the Washington Examiner that the GOP needed to get something from the shutdown but conceded he had no idea what that might be. Both men made an already difficult messaging task that much tougher for Boehner.
Cruz: In case there was any doubt that his Senate colleagues — Republicans and Democrats — loathe Cruz, last week cleared that right up. At a lunch gathering of Republican senators Wednesday, Cruz was blasted by his fellow GOP senators, according to Politico’s Manu Raju. While Cruz probably doesn’t need the support of the establishment within the party to run for president (see the “Not-quite losers” section above), having the establishment willing to do whatever it takes to keep the nomination from you isn’t exactly an enviable position.
House GOP moderates: Sure, Rep. Peter King (N.Y.) is a loud voice, but is there any evidence that he can deliver a bloc of “moderate” votes? Not really. King’s threat last week to lead a revolt on a rule vote on the latest continuing-resolution gambit pushed by the leadership went nowhere — and ensured that he and other centrists in the House will be marginalized as the shutdown debate continues.
Immigration reform: Have you heard a single thing about immigration reform in the past few months? Yes, we know House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) introduced legislation last week, but everyone knows it’s not going anywhere in the Republican-led House.
The fiscal showdown seems likely to extend at least until mid-October and could consume Washington all the way through December if a short-term continuing resolution is signed. When the calendar turns to 2014, it’s hard to imagine there will be the political will — particularly among House Republicans — to pass any sort of comprehensive proposal.