For many of the GOP Insiders, the prospects of a shutdown if House Republicans, Senate Democrats and President Obama fail to reach an agreement on extending the continuing resolution by March 4, brought back unpleasant memories of the 1995-96 stoppage when Republicans were blamed for the furloughs of several hundred thousand federal employees and the disruption of government services ranging from processing passports to cleaning up toxic waste sites.
"The Republicans look awful if there's a government shutdown and they are seen to have caused it," said one GOP Insider. "I remember how the last shutdown went and find it impossible to believe this one could go any better," said another.
Indeed, several recalled how a new Republican House Speaker empowered by a huge victory in the midterm elections was outmaneuvered by a first term Democratic President. "As Bill Clinton proved, the president has the bully pulpit in these situations, something Newt Gingrich never recovered from," recalled a GOP Insider. Another cautioned of the possible shutdown: "We always think it's a good idea until we do it and get our butt kicked when real people start suffering for it."
Democrats, meanwhile, were much more sanguine about the prospects of a shutdown and some seemed to even welcome one. "A shutdown will force middle income [families] to see how much government does to enhance the lives of ordinary Americans," said one Democratic Insider. "So far, Republicans have convinced everyone that government does nothing."
The National Journal Political Insiders Poll is a regular survey of roughly 200 Democratic and Republican campaign consultants, party officials, strategists, lobbyists, and allied interest group leaders.