October 2, 2013

Greg Sargent is one of the more perceptive Beltway observers, and he thinks the Dems are going to hold their ground:

In another sign Dems may well hold firm and not let Republicans escape from this predicament on terms more favorable to them, there’s now serious talk among Democrats of not accepting a GOP budget offering unless it also includes a debt limit hike if this shutdown crisis drags on.

Several Senate Democratic aides told me this morning that this is seriously being considered, confirming a report in Politico. As one put it to me: ”We are less than two weeks away from the deadline. If we were not having this shutdown fight, this is the week we would be moving a debt ceiling bill.”

A second said: “It doesn’t make much sense to do a short term CR only to have to turn around and do it again with the debt ceiling.”

Needless to say, if it comes to this, the stakes in this battle will escalate dramatically — and the pressure on Republicans will intensify. This also comes as two new polls show Dems with an advantage in the overall battle.

A new CNN poll finds that Americans say by 56-38 that not raising the debt limit would be bad for the country, and would blame Republicans over Obama by 53-31.

Also tellingly, a majority say raising the debt ceiling is more important than delaying major provisions of the Affordable Care Act. While it’s true some polls have found opposition to raising the debt limit, others have found clear opposition to tying the debt limit debate to Obamacare.

Meanwhile, a new National Journal poll finds a plurality of Americans — and of independents — think the GOP’s top priority is causing political problems for Obama, far more than say the same about Dems.

As I’ve argued here before, it’s very possible public perceptions of a protracted standoff will be shaped less by details of the budget debate and more by already existing perceptions of which side is more committed to constructive governing and which is actively trying to prevent the system from functioning for political reasons.

But here’s the problem: Conservative Republicans remain convinced the public is on their side in this battle. Despite multiple polls showing disapproval of the law does not translate into public support for GOP sabotage of it, multiple Republicans are quoted today claiming the public will side with them over time.

The real danger here is that many Republicans — who are in an anti-Obamacare bubble where no good news about the law ever penetrates; where the most minor glitch confirms the law has already collapsed under its own weight; and where huge majorities will support any tactic, no matter how destructive, designed to hasten that supposedly inevitable collapse — will remain convinced the public is with them as this showdown drags into a debt ceiling crisis. This makes miscalculation about the Dem resolve not to cave on the debt limit more likely, which in turn makes default more likely. And with it, unpredictable levels of economic havoc and destruction.

Although he doesn't say it, I'd say there's more danger from the media, which will feel compelled to push their "both sides do it" narrative even more than usual.

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