Why is this man smiling? 15 winners and losers from the shutdown crisis

Posted at 1:15 PM, Oct 17, 2013
and last updated 2013-10-17 13:15:39-04

WASHINGTON (CNN) — The government is open. The debt limit is lifted. The fight is over.

But in every fight, there are winners and losers, and this fight is no exception.

From Sen. Ted Cruz, architect of the failed Republican strategy, to Hillary Clinton, who in her silence may have boosted her 2016 presidential prospects, here’s a look at who won and who lost during the shutdown/debt ceiling crisis:

President Obama vs. House Speaker John Boehner

WINNER: Obama From the beginning, Obama refused to negotiate. He held firm, and nothing significant was changed to his health care law. And, according to public opinion polls, Obama is receiving the least amount of blame for Washington’s dysfunction.

LOSER: Boehner Boehner just can’t catch a break. He might have one of the least-wanted jobs in the nation. He tried to appease House conservatives by demanding the president’s health care law be defunded. All he got in return was a government shutdown for which the country largely blames him.

LOSERS: Obama and Boehner Once again, the President and Boehner were unable to usher negotiations through the finish line. They have a pathetic record in solving government budget battles. Ultimately, other key players had to finalize a deal once again.

Sen. Ted Cruz vs. Rep. Paul Ryan

WINNER AND LOSER: Cruz The Texas Republican’s 21-hour talk-a-thon on the Senate floor, days before the shutdown began, had little practical impact on getting rid of Obamacare. While it did excite conservatives, it hurt his standing among his Senate colleagues. If Cruz wants to be an effective senator, that will hurt him. If he wants to win the 2016 Republican nomination, that could help him among the most conservative wing of the party. Evidence of that came at the annual Values Voter Summit in Washington. Cruz easily won a straw poll surveying the activists’ preferences for a 2016 presidential run.

WINNER: Ryan The head of the House Budget Committee swept in and changed the tenor of the debate. He simultaneously opened the negotiating door with the President and effectively brought House Republicans closer to a unified position. But conservative activists were not pleased. Ryan, who was once a conservative hero as recently as one year ago, finished dead last in the Values Voter Summit straw poll.

Sen. Harry Reid vs. Sen. Mitch McConnell

WINNER: Reid The Senate majority leader didn’t blink. He engaged in high-stakes negotiations and refused to accept a deal that would cut government spending or dissect Obamacare. Ultimately, the negotiations took place on his terms.

LOSER: McConnell While the Senate minority leader helped to pull the country back from the brink, it might have hurt his standing with the tea party, which has always been skeptical of him. He is also embroiled in a re-election bid in Kentucky, where he has a primary challenger who is billing himself as a true conservative and a Democratic challenger who is labeling him as too extreme.

Tea party vs. Republicans vs. Democrats

WINNER: Democrats When the focus is on their politically fractured Republican rivals, it’s easy to appear united and (mostly) innocent. But Democrats didn’t come out of this scot-free. A CNN/ORC poll earlier this month found that 57% of respondents were angry at Democrats for the way they were handling the shutdown.

LOSER: Tea party One of the tea party’s main priorities is to dismantle the President’s health care law. Their demands led to the shutdown of the government, yet the final deal barely touched the health care law. Public opinion of the grass-roots movement continues to fall.

LOSER: Establishment Republicans Republicans appear as fractured as ever. In a meeting with House Republicans on Wednesday evening, leadership implored their members to stay united. It was a unifying moment for the GOP, but the question is how long it will last. As for public perception, the Republicans are taking most of the blame, with 63% of respondents in the CNN/ORC poll saying they were angry at the Republicans for the way they had handled the shutdown.

2016: Chris Christie vs. Hillary Clinton vs. Joe Biden

WINNER: Christie In the middle of a re-election campaign, and perhaps considering a presidential run, the New Jersey governor has positioned himself above the fray. In a meeting with the Philadelphia Inquirer editorial board, Christie said, “If I was in the Senate right now, I’d kill myself.”

WINNER: Clinton Clinton largely stayed silent throughout this debate. Why say a word when it could come back to haunt her in an election, especially when she doesn’t have a direct role in the outcome?

LOSER: Biden For the Vice President, it’s a different story. It appeared as if he was nowhere near the negotiating table, but he’s an active member of the government. It’s also a stark contrast to where he sat during the last major budget battles, when he and McConnell brought the deals past the finish line. This time, he didn’t say a word.

United States vs. the world

LOSER: The United States While the United States has spent the past four years lecturing European nations about their economic state, its government has shown that it should not point fingers.

WINNER: China China owns $1.4 trillion worth of U.S. debt. Leaders of the fastest-growing economy have sounded the alarm over the U.S. government’s ineptitude. But with repeat government breakdowns, international investors might begin to rethink placing so much currency — literally and figuratively — in the United States.

A league of her own

WINNER: Sen. Susan Collins The moderate Maine Republican refused to wait for political leaders to announce a deal, and she began talking to senators on both sides of the aisle. Although her talks didn’t result in the final agreement, it precipitated talks between Senate leaders after Boehner and Obama’s efforts hit a brick wall.

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