A straw in the wind suggesting that Republicans are winning, or at least not losing, the debt limit scuffle is provided by Noam Scheiber ot TNR, who offers this analysis diatribe about the wisdom of Obama's "Just Say 'No' To Negotiation" strategy:
The reason the White House has been so firm in its no-debt-limit negotiation position is that it understands what’s at stake. If Republicans believe they can extract concessions from the president by threatening a debt default (the consequence of not raising the limit), then there’s no end to what they will be able to demand. Elections and the legislative process will become utterly meaningless. A minority party will be able to enact an agenda for which it lacks popular support and sufficient votes in Congress. The only way to prevent this is to make crystal clear that there will be no concessions period, rendering the whole extortion exercise utterly pointless.
The only way to prevent this in the future is to stand firm now? Hmm, the Democratic strategy has been to create a crisis, blame the Republicans, and hope a wave of popular anger enables them to reclaim the House and hold the Senate in 2014. Which, in addition to giving a boost to whatever Obama is passsing off as an agenda, would be a great way to stop this legislative tactic. (Whether that strategy actually made sense at the level of the relevant Congressional districts is debatable.)
Of course, the Treasury could attempt to engage in some ad hoc prioritizing so that interest and principal payments on our public debt are not missed. Since there is no clear legislative authority allowing the Treasury to pick and choose amongst our national obligations it would be a bit of a Mad Hatter's Sequester. But hey, a Democratic Adinistration could simply suspend payments to defense contractors working on weapons systems and $600 toilet seats, right?
This notion of public debt versus all debt, including payments due on government contracts or promised under entitlement programs, is vigorously elided by Obama's backers. Over to Mr. Scheiber, my emphasis:
If Republicans believe they can extract concessions from the president by threatening a debt default (the consequence of not raising the limit), then there’s no end to what they will be able to demand.
That is true only if "debt" is broadly defined to encompass all payments owed by the US Government. But over at the Bureau of Public Debt, they realize that the much-ballyhooed debt limit refers to public indebtedness issued by the Treasury and does not include payments due to Halliburton and General Electric for their fine and public-spirited efforts on government contracts.
If Obama's supporters are losing their arguments and their minds, that suggests the Republicans are hanging in there. My two cents: Obama's "I won't negotiate because they are being unreasonable and intransigent" pose won't hold as the public begins to see Obama as unreasonable and intransigent. I just don't see "I'm crazier than they are" as a winning play.