National Journal’s political insiders came to a rare point of consensus on which party had the upper hand in the upcoming talks over the debt ceiling: Democrats.
A full 83 percent of Democratic Insiders gave the edge to their own party, with a slightly fewer than half of GOP Insiders agreeing with their assessment. Only 19 percent of the Republicans said the GOP had the upper hand, with more—about a third—saying the parties' political standing heading into negotiations were about equal.
The survey results showed a marked shift since the last time the White House and congressional Republicans faced off over the debt ceiling the last time, in early 2011 after Democrats took a brutal beating in the midterm elections.
Politically speaking, who has the upper hand in the upcoming talks over the debt ceiling?
"When your brand is less popular than a cold sore, it makes it hard to win a PR campaign," one Democrat said.
"The president has the bully pulpit and is proving he knows how to use it; the Democrats are speaking with one voice; and public opinion is on our side," another said.
A Republican begrudgingly agreed: "GOP is stunned and scattered, wandering around drunk."
Many other GOP-ers had a harsh indictment of their party's conduct leading to the negotiations.
"The president is eating our lunch in terms of message," one said.
"It is painful to watch John Boehner try to engage Obama in a game of chess, while the rest of the GOP House is playing a bad game of checkers," another Republican added.
A third lamented: "It is inexcusable that the GOP has lost the advantage here. A failure of congressional leadership."
Still, there were several who said the playing field was about equal for both, with the potential for reward and disaster.
"The idea that Obama will 'refuse to negotiate' on the debt ceiling makes no sense. He HAS to negotiate, or House Republicans will simply do nothing and catastrophe will ensue," a Democrat said.
"Both parties look pretty foolish, if we're being honest about it," another added.
A Republican Insider echoed the sentiment: "Both sides stand to lose about equally. No winners here."