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Happy No-Government-Shutdown Day!

September 30th, 2015, 10:42pm by Sam Wang

The U.S. Congress has reached the point where not shutting down the federal government at the start of a new budget year is considered an accomplishment. Wow.

The other day, Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo asked his readers for their favorite government shutdown. My favorite shutdown is the original acts of partisan brinksmanship in 1995 and 1996. Why settle for cheap copies when you can have the original?

The ascent of Newt Gingrich was a turning point for the modern Republican Party. The slide toward the right on issue positions began in 1974. This accelerated, and the tone took a sharp turn too, when Newt and Company came in. I was working in the U.S. Senate as a committee staff fellow. People were still adapting to the shock (or rush, depending on one’s party) of the Contract With America, which seemed to be filled with unrealistic goals. As a scientist naive to the appropriations process, I attended a briefing by the GOP budget director. I asked why one would link the debt ceiling with day-to-day funding of the government. To me, it seemed like asking for trouble. She replied that it was “a strategic move.” What an understatement!

All these steps were mind-blowing and extreme at the time. It’s all with us today. Back then it was so fresh, so new.

It seems that the departure of John Boehner as Speaker dramatically decreases the likelihood of a shutdown this year (though we’ll see what happens in December, when the temporary spending bill runs out). Furthermore, if House Republicans have any sense of self-preservation, they’ll refrain from doing so in the run-up to the 2016 election. That’s a big if. Still, one wonders if the next shutdown will have to wait until the first term of a hypothetical President Hillary Clinton (there, I said it).

Tags: 2016 Election

30 Comments so far ↓

  • 538 Refugee

    “President Hillary Clinton” might be premature.


    — A 74-year-old democratic socialist from Vermont essentially matched Hillary Rodham Clinton’s fundraising over the past three months, and he probably has even more cash on hand than she does, a remarkable development certain to make already-nervous supporters of the Democratic frontrunner even more so.

    • Amitabh Lath

      Sanders has never led in any poll except in New Hampshire which is next door to Vermont.

      A lot of Sanders boosting seems to be based on the first derivative, what used to be called “momentum” (as a physicst: Ugh.)

      Would we be doing the same analysis, picking the same variables to look at, if the numbers were reversed? Selective analysis?

      It’s not just Sanders. The success of Trump started a torrent of pundits quoting “favorability” numbers, showing Trump was doomed (until he somehow turned those around). Was “favorability” as big a part of the conversation before?

      This is why it’s best to do blind analyses. Let the numbers do the talking.

    • Sam Wang

      The New Hampshire primary has high predictive power, if one notes that one of the top two finishers usually gets the nomination. Surely we think Hillary will not come in third.

    • 538 Refugee

      Let the numbers do the talking.

      , and he probably has even more cash on hand than she does,

      I am. ;)

    • Amitabh Lath

      I am not sure how to factor in “cash on hand” as a variable. At some point surely it reaches saturation where having 2x as much cash does not necessarily give you twice the advantage.

      You can only buy so many TV ads between now and December. And Sanders probably won’t hit Clinton even if he does buy ads.

      Debates are one place Sanders has a chance to do well and pull ahead of Clinton. I know several ladies of a certain age who were deep in the tank for Clinton in 2008 and are again. If Sanders makes a dent with this group then I’ll definitely take notice.

    • Sam Wang

      For the November 2016 election, if I had to take a guess, big error bars and so on:

      P(Democrat, not Hillary)=0.07
      P(Republican, not Rubio/Bush)=0.06

      The underlying probabilities are P(Dem)=0.7, P(GOP)=0.3, P(Hillary as D nominee)=0.9, P(Rubio as R nominee)=0.6, P(Bush as R nominee)=0.2. In my view, the biggest threat to Clinton is the actuarial risk that she will get a life-threatening illness. Non-independence issues such as the weakness of Bush or Sanders as general-election candidates are ignored.

    • 538 Refugee

      Several ‘tanked ladies’ is too small a sample.

      Sanders drawing the type of money he is at this point is pretty interesting to say the least. Is the left wing emboldened by the right wing? I’m out of the prediction game for this cycle.

    • Amitabh Lath

      That sounds about right. A 6% chance of President Trump is something to ponder.

      Also, to respond to 538Ref, the ladies I mentioned number about half a dozen.
      They are professional women, academics, doctors, lawyers, small business owners. Rational people. They will give Sanders an ear when the debates come.

      They are so deeply committed to Clinton that if Sanders makes an impact and turns even a couple of them, I will consider it very significant.

      Note I didn’t say Sanders must convince this group to win, only that if he does it will indicate a possible huge win for him.

    • 538 Refugee

      AL. The software removed my GRIN TAG on the sample size comment. ;)

    • bks

      For Sam’s table:
      P(Biden is candidate) = P(Hillary contracts life-theatening illness).

    • pechmerle

      Re Amitabh’s comment about ‘ladies who are in the tank for Clinton’: I’m married to one of those. She was bitterly disappointed that HRC did not get the nom’n in 2008. (And as it turned out, a Demo dog catcher could have won that year after McCain’s disastrous Palin gamble, and the decision not to rescue Lehman. [Aside: I have it on good authority that the NY Fed very much wanted a rescue for Lehman, but could not persaude the U.K. regulators to allow Barclay’s to buy Lehman. The U.K. guys (where was Bagehot when they needed him) just didn’t get the necessity.
      But back to the HRC ladies: they want a woman Demo candidate so badly that there is almost nothing HRC can do that will shake them loose — not a Bernie debate star turn, or you name it. What will hurt HRC though is if Demo Men start to feel that she isn’t the best chance of victory. My perception is that that is what happened to HRC in 2008. My wife was very bitter that my son and I decided O’B was the better chance. (anybody have demographics on HRC’s loss of the nom’n in 2008?) If HRC’s poll numbers continue to drift downward vis a vis Trump/Rubio/et al., I’m thinking a defection from her by Demo men is a possibility.

  • Amitabh Lath

    Ah, switching from data aggregation to game theory!

    The basic layout seems to be:
    1) Gerrymandering has made shutdowns cost-free (or even positive) for most of the Republican house members. In fact, not acting all crazy-shutdown probably does have a cost back in the district.

    2) GOP’ers know they start with a huge disadvantage for the White House (best they got is a Bush). If they believed they had something closer to an even shot they might factor that in as a cost, and avoid shutdown.

    3) Given that Social Security and other entitlement programs keep going under a shutdown, I don’t see a way to impose a shutdown cost on R house members or their constituents. Closing parks and shutting down the NSF isn’t going to do it.

    So you might say the house members calling for shutdown are acting rationally.

    • Adrian Crutch

      …evangelic mass hysterics aside…

    • Andy

      It drives me insane when people refer to Social Security as an entitlement program. It even drives me crazy when the two appear in the same paragraph. It is not an entitlement. We all pay into it from the ages of 16 to 65, and then we draw from it. It’s our money that we deferred.

  • Kevin King

    Respectfully, Senator Sanders does not have support amongst a wide enough swath of the Democratic Party to beat Hillary. Even if he wins both Iowa & New Hampshire. Historically, polls and even money raised and from whom have little predicitve power on the nomination, at this stage. Hillary has overwhelming support within the Democratic Party, proper. A bigger threat to her is Biden, and you can see that with her actions: the New York Times, I believe, is reporting that she is taking steps to blunt him. She’s not really done anything like that with respect to Bernie.

    If she’s able to import some of Bernie’s energy with white liberals, it would do her well. It remains to be seen if she can do this.

  • A New Jersey Farmer

    Both parties are dancing with the rebels at this point because it’s free and it allows the bases to let off steam. Most will come back to the more moderate nominees in the end. Perhaps an excellent debate performance by one of the lesser known Democrats will hurt Hillary more than Sanders. Looking forward to the show.

  • Amitabh Lath

    So, Rubio? Since you put this post up I’ve been looking at him and he certainly works out in a lot of ways: establishment, but not too much. Suitably vague on immigration, and earnest as all gosh.

    But. I do not have any numbers or studies so grano salis, but I have trouble seeing a young ethnic as the Republican nominee. The establishment is structurally engineered to elevate the most acceptable old male WASP to its head. Like all those cop shows where the head of the group is a male cauc. Sure, the group is diverse and eclectic and people of all colors and ethnicities are appreciated for their input, but not as leader. Think NCIS or Law and Order or Criminal Minds or anything in the CSI franchise. All top rated for several years, based on appeals to a similar demographic.

    So, Kasich-Rubio?

    • Paul

      IF you discount Trump, Carson and Fiorina (is this a big IF?), I have Rubio and Bush next in line. I calculate median placement of active candidates using five separate metrics [last nine national polls, all polls in the last month in NH, IA and any state poll, as well as 13 betting markets]. Rubio is ahead of Bush nationally (Rubio is tied with Fiorina for 3rd and Bush is 5th now) and Rubio is tied with Bush in IA for 5th place (Cruz is 3rd and Fiorina 4th). However, in NH, the median of all non NH-IA state polls and the betting markets, Bush leads Rubio. In NH, Bush is 5th and Rubio is tied for 7th with Paul (Kasich is 4th and Cruz 6th); in the non NH-IA state polls, Bush is 3rd, and Rubio is tied for 4th with Fiorina; and in the betting markets, Bush is 1st and Rubio is 2nd. Therefore, I still see Bush as competitive (again if you discount the top three). By the way, I have Kasich 8th behind Cruz (6th) and Huckabee (7th).

  • DaveM

    I think Bush is in freefall—the Rudy Giuliani of this cycle. Polling aggregation can’t account for candidate self-destruction. Scott Walker was at 10.2% two months ago, and where is he now?

    Yes, Bush has more old-guard support, so maybe he has a non-zero floor, but thus far he’s had what seems to be an exceptionally low ceiling for a putative front-runner.

    • Amitabh Lath

      I am surprised at how inarticulate Bush has been. We admonish students if they use lazy words like “stuff” when giving talks.

      The New Yorker has a funny take on it

      The Bush campaign was built for defense. It was going to come in, grab a large lead, and then hold it past Iowa and New Hampshire. Now they are 4th or 5th and need to be scrappy and lean, like McCain in ’07 (post shakeup). I don’t think they have the crew or candidate for that.

  • bks

    Do polls lose, or gain, predictive power when they become part of the policial process?

    • 538 Refugee

      At last some solid data to go on. I’m going to mash up an algorithm based on tie choice.

  • Andy

    As for the ladies of a certain age…my mom is one of them, as is her lady partner, as are a pretty fair percentage of their lady friends. In 2007 into 2008 I knocked on doors for Obama (I went to the Land of Lincoln to watch him announce he was running in 5-degree cold), and I met a lot of Democrats who were set to vote for HRC without really thinking much about it, but who, after watching her flail around in her programmed, robotic fashion (“Aides Say Clinton Will Seek to Show More Spontaneity”) gradually began to see Obama as the Dems’ best hope for capturing the White House. Even still, it wasn’t until my mom told me that Barack had peeled off several of her inner circle that I knew he was making serious inroads. These were people who had waited their whole lives to see a serious female candidate who seemed to have an arrow-straight road ahead, but HRC’s flaws are so obvious now, more so than then…this being a time when people are fed up with the status quo and becoming more certain that the Third Way ain’t the right way. I used to think Sanders couldn’t win, but I do now.

    • bks

      I like Bernie, but I don’t see anything that points to a Sanders victory. Hillary has an 18% lead in the Huffington average, and if Biden isn’t in the mix I think it would be even larger. Now that McCarthy let the cat out of the bag about the Benghazi hearings being an anti-Clinton ploy, she has the turned the tables on that issue. She is the one running an ad about Benghazi! Barring an indictment or illness, I’m just not seeing how Sanders pulls it off. (Has anyone seen Jim Webb?)

    • Amitabh Lath

      I basically agree with Andy’s post. One thing Clinton lacked in 2008 was a relentless and baseless Republican attack. It has the effect of firming up her base of support.

      I never understood what the connection was between the tragic killing of our ambassador to Libya and the Sec. of State having a private email server. The fact that the questions are being asked by sputtering idiots in Congress is not helping their case.

    • Amitabh Lath

      Got to respect this decision. Most likely they have implemented several methodology changes, and are using this go around to test and tweak. You don’t want to do that in public.

    • Sam Wang

      Basically. It doesn’t seem all that big a deal, except that Gallup is in the spotlight and so it’s news.

    • 538 Refugee

      They probably have Sanders ahead and think they are further off after the tweaks. ;)

    • Amitabh Lath

      They can’t believe Trump is beating all establishment candidates by >10 points, and every pollster is just going with it.
      Something must be wrong, and by golly they are going to find out what!

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