Updated: November 18, 2013 7:59AM
After 16 days of shuttering federal government services and furloughing thousands of employees, GOP House Speaker John Boehner said Wednesday that Republicans fought the good fight: “We just didn’t win.”
That’s called losing.
To regular folks watching the mess play out in Washington, the last several weeks have felt like an exhaustive exercise in futility.
The most damaging part for Republicans: for all the pain inflicted on Americans over the last several weeks, the GOP is not only getting hit the hardest in poll after poll -- it has little to show for it.
Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh blamed the party for “creating one of the greatest political disasters I’ve ever seen in my lifetime,” for coming up virtually empty-handed.
U.S. Sen. John McCain declared the shutdown “one of the more shameful chapters” in his years in the Senate.
Republicans miscalculated. They were expecting the 2011 President Barack Obama and not the 2013 Obama — who took an absolute hard line. And so did U.S. Senate President Harry Reid.
Democrats wouldn’t approve of funding the government piecemeal (with a few exceptions). They wouldn’t negotiate.
So as the shutdown dragged on, the reason behind it became increasingly unclear, beginning with Republican pushback over Obamacare and blurring into the debt ceiling debate.
“The perception is that the shutdown was over Obamacare. In reality it was about something much bigger, which is why I disagreed with the strategy in the first place,” said U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) “We have every right to have some demands. I didn’t think our initial opening demands were realistic.”
Kinzinger said he believes there will be a backlash at the polls.
“I have no doubt that this is going to hurt us,” he said. “I think this has hurt everyone, but I think this has hurt us disproportionately. And in politics, proportions are what matters.”
Former Rep. Bob Dold, a Republican who’s trying to get his north suburban seat back, said there’s a more general backlash – against extremists and Washington.
“As a moderate, my frustration level is there are more and more people focusing on the extremes and less where the American people want us,” Dold said. “I think there’s certainly going to be a backlash against Washington.”
U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) the House Deputy Whip, said Wednesday there is an argument that the episode has spurred a larger discussion on spending and reforms.
“Look, any time you’re at this level of conflict and divided government, it’s challenging. Here’s the good news: We’ve been able to come together around this short-term remedy. There’s going to be an effort on Capitol Hill of having budget conferees get together, and that is a good thing,” Roskam said.
Roskam said Republicans who came in after the 2010 and 2012 elections now represent over half of the House Republican Conference.
“They bring with them a freshness and perspective that is very helpful. I think there’s a sense of clarity about what we’re trying to accomplish,” Roskam said. “Even though we were not able to accomplish all the goals, there’s a clarity. You recognize what happens when you avoid these problems.”
Roskam wouldn’t directly answer whether he supported the shutdown, saying instead: “I was disappointed that the president just essentially shunned the notion of negotiating,” Roskam said. “That’s not how past presidents have operated. When you have his staff saying they would rather default than negotiate. I wouldn’t rather not default than negotiate.”
Will there be an attempt to oust Boehner? Quite the opposite.
In a closed Republican meeting on Wednesday, Boehner won a standing ovation from his members.
“He let them have their say until the very end. He stood with them,” said one longtime Republican Illinois political operative who asked not to be named. “What they got out of this — if you’re Boehner, you may have that support of the Tea Partiers who were questioning his loyalty.”