Thousands of workers and the American economy stand to lose if the government shuts down next week, but some political leaders might see their hands improved by such a crisis.
Nearly every economist warns of negative repercussions for the U.S. economy should Congress fail to forge an agreement to fund the government's day-to-day operations past Sept. 30. But a handful of Republicans – and even President Barack Obama – are among the select few Americans who have something to gain should negotiations fail and a shutdown come to pass.
The fact that it's in the political best interests of some people (or groups) to force a government shutdown has actually contributed to the fiscal impasse, which shows no sign of resolution with little more than a week to go until all but the most essential government functions cease.
Virtually no lawmaker in either party has openly said he or she wishes for a government shutdown. And if one happens, its length and the manner in which it plays out could warp the politics of the issue.
But with that in mind, here's a look at who could benefit from a government shutdown.
A year removed from his re-election, Obama isn't the most popular second-term president ever, and his signature health care overhaul law still engenders deep skepticism from the American public.
But if Obama has at least one thing going for him heading into his battle against Republicans, it's that poll after poll has shown that Americans don't think that eliminating "Obamacare" is worth the cost of a government shutdown.
Republicans complain that it's been Obama – not them – who is being inflexible in fiscal talks. But if the numbers are to be believed, a shutdown could reinvigorate Obama politically, and thereby likely decrease his willingness to cut a deal that is more favorable to Republicans. It could also strengthen his hand heading into next month's fight over raising the nation's debt ceiling.
President Bill Clinton enjoyed a similar windfall in 1995 during his showdown with a Republican Congress, which led to a government shutdown. Voters largely blamed the GOP Congress for that instance. Thanks to a flurry of messaging efforts, Clinton eventually prevailed over his GOP opponents. The boost helped propel Clinton to a successful re-election effort in 1996.
And though Obama's numbers took a dip during a similar standoff in 2011, he still could emerge as a better alternative than his opponents.
"I think the real fear is that a government shutdown feeds into some kind of standoff over the debt ceiling, and that hurts the economy in ways that could really hurt everyone politically," said Brad Woodhouse, the president of the liberal group Americans United for Change. "But I don't think there's any doubt that the American people will blame the Republicans more."
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz
Perhaps no figure in Washington has hitched his political fortunes to the fate of this fall's spending battles more than the hard-charging, first-term senator from Texas.
Though other high-profile conservatives have joined Cruz in vowing not to fund the government unless spending for "Obamacare" was eradicated, Cruz has emerged as the effort's figurehead. He did this by traveling the country throughout the August recess, turning up the heat – not on rival Democrats, but on fellow Republicans to make good on their campaign promises to fight health care reform.
If the government reaches a shutdown, it will no doubt be because Cruz managed to convince enough fellow Republicans to stand pat on the issue of Obamacare. Though this scenario would likely have wide-ranging (and largely negative) implications for the broader Republican Party, a shutdown would serve as a validation of Cruz's influence in Congress after only nine months on the job.
"He's going to emerge somewhat bloodied, because he's going to have critics not only from the Democratic Party, but also some from within the Republican Party," said Craig Shirley, the conservative PR man who's penned biographies of both Ronald Reagan and Newt Gingrich, the latter of whom was another polarizing conservative involved in a government shutdown. "But I think he's going to be enhanced as a force within the Republican Party and American politics."