The possibility of a government “shutdown” where the Congress does not pass a budget that the president will sign (and that’s what it’s been over the last 2 decades) has one of two outcomes. Either the shutdown makes Republicans look unreasonable and politically tactless and therefore lose the electoral support of voters or shutting down the government draws a line in the sand that forces negotiation by a formerly resistant president.
In 1995, it was the latter. The government ran out of budget allocation and eventually a budget was passed. After the second time, President Clinton knew there was a certain amount of negotiation that had to be done. In the last few years, there was both a budget lapse and a debt ceiling freeze. The president did not budge, supported by a slim majority in the Senate. The GOP caved that time. However, the party was criticized even 20 years ago. Shutdowns do not lose points for Republicans, even with media disdain. Caving does. Look at the electoral losses among TARP supporting Republicans in 2008.
Key votes near an election often sway voters the most. On his way out, John Boehner tried to “fix” the budget so that debt ceiling votes were not a problem anymore, much like the bankrupt socialist democracies in Europe. However, that vote will be the one remembered rather than some fictional debt limit vote that can’t happen now.
One of the differences between modern Democrats and modern Republicans is that promising a chicken in every pot really only works for Democrats now. Obama is popular with the establishment because he puts more control over people on the government (Obamacare) and funnels money to constituencies (the Stimulus). Big business tolerates him because his administration gives them a taste, like influence in regulation, tax breaks for fictional green technology and millions of health insurance customers compelled to purchase an expensive product.
Republicans are tired of that waste. The recent budget “compromise” spends more money on defense. Well, anyone with libertarian leanings knows what a big corporate welfare scam that is. Tax cuts are not as popular anymore because they have become targeted kickbacks rather than a sound growth plan. Many Republicans want less regulation and less spending. They want to get less and the establishment doesn’t understand how to not give it to them.
This is why the House is ungovernable and the only Republicans candidates with traction are not career politicians. Trying to court Latinos 20 years from now or whatever the GOP strategy is will lose them elections right now.