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A (Hopefully Strategic) Budget Loss   April 8th, 2011
We lost this round, but hopefully that was a strategic decision, not cowardice       


More observations...

It would appear that Republicans effectively lost this round of the budget battle to avert a shutdown. While many conservatives are portraying it as "caving" and suggesting "guilty" Republicans receive a primary, I disagree. At least for now.

The amount of money that was being negotiated in the continuing resolution was pocket change. It was irrelevant. A drop in the bucket. Didn't matter. The amount of spending that was cut was probably less than the amount of money the government spent while Congress was debating it.

Even though the public supports Republicans on cutting spending, every government shutdown carries a political risk--the public will either turn against Democrats or against Republicans. Just because the public agrees with Republicans on spending cuts doesn't necessarily mean they'll end up siding with Republicans in a shutdown. With the media on the side of Democrats, losing the message war for public opinion is a very real risk that Republicans need to consider.

I suspect the public would have tired very quickly over a government shutdown over truly trivial spending cuts. It would quickly have looked stubborn and petty.

We have the opportunity to shutdown the government in May over the debt limit and again this fall when it's necessary to pass the FY2012 budget. Both of those fights are far more important than any cuts we could have achieved now, and Republicans can make the case that those are truly crucial matters that merit shutting the government down.

I disagree that Republicans should automatically receive a primary for not shutting the government down this weekend. Republicans look reasonable for not shutting the government down for trivial spending cuts, and Democrats look bad for fighting those cuts. And when it comes time to fight over the debt limit and FY2012, the public will know that Republicans don't just shut down the government for trivial matters--we only shut it down when it's truly important. Shutting down the government will highlight the seriousness of the issue. Combine that with the fact that the public agrees with us on spending cuts and I think we'll have some serious leverage in getting what we want from the Democrats in those fights.

Now... if Republicans fail to have an appropriate fight over the debt limit and fail to have a massive fight over FY2012, then we can talk about primaries.

But let's see if there's some wise political strategy here on the part of Republican leadership before we start ramping up primary campaigns. The battle is just beginning and this may very well have been a strategic move.

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