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Why Obama Won the Shutdown

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images News
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images News

(The Root) — Though the president made a point to say during his remarks on the end of the shutdown, "There are no winners here," that's not entirely true. While the days of the shutdown marked a low point for the American people and an even lower point for government, the crisis ultimately marked a major win for the Obama presidency, and legacy.


Here are five reasons why.

1. The public blames the GOP. According to the numbers the president has won the war of public opinion. A Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll found that 53 percent of Americans blame the GOP for the shutdown while 31 percent blame the president. The president now looks like one of the only grownups left in Washington, while his foes look like obstinate children.


 2. Liberal and moderate Republicans are disillusioned. Liberal and moderate Republicans, voters who can swing close elections, are incredibly disenchanted with the current activist wing of the party. A Pew Research Center poll found that "the Tea Party's favorability was down across the board since June, but particularly among moderate and liberal Republicans — with 27 percent saying they view the movement favorably, down from 46 percent in June." This could create a crucial opening for Democrats in tight races in the upcoming midterm elections. Which brings me to No. 3 …

3. The shutdown is helping Democrats in midterm races. According to Public Policy Polling when voters are informed that the Republican candidate in six upcoming senate races supported the shutdown, the Democratic candidate gains momentum, winning five of the races and tying in another. Making these findings even more significant, a number of these races are in Southern states in which Republicans were tipped to have an advantage. Without winning these races, the Republicans will be unable to win the Senate. If Democrats expand their numbers in the Senate then the president will have even more opportunity to pursue his policy goals and shore up his legacy.

4. The Tea Party has been emboldened in primaries. While the Tea Party has taken a hit among most voters, die-hard Tea Party loyalists are invigorated. Tea Party superstar Sen. Ted Cruz's popularity has skyrocketed among Tea partiers, according to polls. Tea Party candidates are lining up to challenge more established, less extreme Republicans. As previous elections have demonstrated, Tea Party candidates tend to alienate moderate, swing voters. Previous Tea Party darlings like Christine O'Donnell ended up winning the GOP nomination, and costing the party winnable seats. Now Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell, who played a key role in formulating a plan for ending the shutdown, is being targeted by a Tea Party candidate in his upcoming primary. Good news for Democratic candidate Alison Grimes, and good news for her party.

5. Republican donor base is in revolt. Elections can't be won without money, and the GOP has had an advantage in the money department in recent years thanks to the dawn of super PACs, groups that can spend unlimited amounts of money to influence elections. But according to a recent report by Politico a number of Republican donors are so unhappy with the co-opting of the party by the Tea Party wing and recent party losses that they are reconsidering whether or not to donate. If this thinking spreads, it will spell even further trouble for the party heading into mid-term elections and even better news for the president and the Democratic Party.


Keli Goff is The Root’s special correspondent. Follow her on Twitter

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