GOP strategists are urging restraint in the upcoming debt-ceiling fight. They are excited by the prospect of reclaiming the Senate in November's midterms elections but anxious about the party's capacity to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, as amply illustrated in recent campaign cycles. [...] "The only way you lose the House is if Dems intercept a Hail Mary pass on the debt ceiling," another GOP strategist said.
On "Face the Nation" yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Harry (D-Nev.) was asked about the need for Congress to raise the debt ceiling within a month or so. "I'm afraid," Reid conceded, adding, "I am really concerned about what's going on with Republicans in Congress."
He's not the only one. In an interesting twist, Republican strategists are concerned, too.
As party strategists reportedly see it, Republicans are well positioned for the 2014 midterms. All they have to do now is not screw things up royally for themselves -- if they tread water for 10 months, the argument goes, voters probably won't punish GOP candidates for having shut down the government and accomplishing nothing.
But causing a deliberate sovereign debt crisis -- holding the nation hostage and threatening to crash the economy on purpose unless their demands are met -- is pretty much the opposite of what constitutes treading water.
The question then becomes who GOP lawmakers are inclined to listen to more: the party strategists working on keeping them in power or Tea Party extremists who see unprecedented extortion as normal, even if it means deliberately creating a global recession.
Over the last month or so, a variety of prominent Republican officials said they're prepared to side with the latter, vowing not to raise the debt limit unless Democrats agree to give GOP lawmakers some kind of right-wing treat.
No one should believe them. Republicans made similar noises a few months ago, before making clear they had no intention of actually following through on their threats. When push comes to shove, the GOP does not actually want to trash the full faith and credit of the United States -- making all threats to the contrary rather meaningless. President Obama has said he will not negotiate with those who claim they'll hurt Americans on purpose, and since he's not bluffing, the fight is over before it starts.
Reid's fears are understandable, and Republican strategists' advice is sound, but GOP officials only have one smart move: skipping this fight, rather than picking the fight and having to back down later.