Who Will Win Sequestration Blame Game?
Both Republicans and Democrats see a protracted sequestration working in their favor politically.
A number of congressional Republican leaders, realizing that voters now blame them for any unpopular spending cuts, note that the issue isn't resonating and won't for a while.
If there is no deal, and the automatic cuts begin to affect airline travel and school budgets, Republicans believe the public will shift responsibility to President Barack Obama; Americans will increasingly ask why he doesn't craft a solution.
If unemployment rises, as most experts predict it will, possibly by as much as 750,000, the president, not Congress, will be blamed, as is usually the case with economic issues. Republicans claim Obama doesn't have a lot of credibility when it comes to jobs anyway.
The White House sees things much differently, of course, insisting that it is House Republicans who are refusing any compromise. These lawmakers are taking ownership of the mess and just making themselves more disliked by the public, senior administration officials say.
The opposition, the administration officials contend, is being hit by a double whammy: They're Republicans and they're members of Congress, two brand names with miserable public-approval ratings.
When it comes to exploiting the $45 billion of automatic cuts to defense spending that would take place under sequestration, they note the Republicans have never been able to paint Obama as soft on national security; killing Osama Bin Laden and stepped-up drone attacks have solidified the president's image as a tough commander-in-chief.
Dismissing the Republican move to give Obama more flexibility in administering these cuts as a "sham," designed to shift the blame, they doubt that a government shutdown will occur and seem convinced that the Republicans won't force another showdown over the debt ceiling, having backed down a few months ago.
Still, these senior officials acknowledged that their knowledge of congressional Republican strategy is limited, a shortcoming they likened to U.S. intelligence capabilities when it comes to North Korea.
(Albert R. Hunt is a Bloomberg View columnist. Follow him on Twitter.)