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Hillary Clinton vs. Chris Christie? How the shutdown could affect 2016
How eight potential presidential candidates look in the aftermath of the budget battle
 
These two won big.
These two won big. (Ramin Talaie, Kena Betancur/Getty Images)

After watching a weary President Barack Obama decry the government shutdown as a "self-inflicted crisis" yesterday, it's a wonder that anybody even wants the job anymore.

Still, potential Democrats and Republican contenders are presumably weighing their odds for 2016. And while it's a good three years away, the shutdown's repercussions could reach far and wide: Just ask Republicans who saw Bill Clinton sail to re-election in 1996 after a similarly ill-advised decision to close the government.

Furthermore, considering that the last two weeks have been considered an epic failure of leadership by the American public, there is good chance contenders will have to answer for how they voted — or the comments they made on the sidelines.

Who came out of the budget battle looking presidential? And who hurt their chances to sit in the Oval Office? A look at how the shutdown has altered the nascent 2016 race:

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas)
Presidential stock: Up

Yes, polls show that the government shutdown has soured the general public on both the GOP and the Tea Party. But the general public doesn't decide primary elections. Partisans do — especially when they are willing to knock on doors for you. And those are the people who really, really love Cruz, the architect of the GOP's shutdown strategy cum debacle.

(Source: Pew Research Center)

He might have angered plenty of establishment Republicans over the last two weeks. But his all-or-nothing opposition to ObamaCare has won him love from his base and mountains of campaign cash — not a bad combination for 2016.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)
Presidential stock: Down

Before the shutdown, the Florida senator had already hurt his stock with conservatives by spearheading a failed attempt to pass immigration reform. With the fight over ObamaCare, however, he might have gone too far in the other direction. As The Week's Matt Lewis notes, Rubio "ratcheted up the rhetoric, as if to remind everyone: 'I'm a Tea Party conservative, too!'"

The problem? He ended up pleasing nobody. That includes Tea Party conservatives, who still haven't forgiven him for immigration reform, and moderate Republicans and swing voters who were turned off by, as Lewis calls it, a "transparent act of shameless pandering" to the Cruz wing of the GOP.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D)
Presidential stock: Up

When the government shutdown started, Cuomo condemned "the lunacy that's going on in Congress," comparing it to the relatively drama-free politics of Albany.

That, of course, is the benefit of being a governor. Last week, Congress had a 5 percent favorability rating. (Five!) The GOP had a 28 percent favorability rating. A politician who enters the race without being attached to either is starting with a huge advantage.

Vice President Joe Biden
Presidential stock: Down

The Democrats rallied behind Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) during the recent negotiations, while Vice President Joe Biden was mostly relegated to the sidelines — possibly because the Democratic leadership had expressed concerns that he had given away too many spending cuts during previous budget negotiations with Republicans. Reid, in contrast, didn't give an inch.

Whatever the situation, Biden was pretty much a nonfactor — at least publicly — over the last few weeks. That doesn't exactly scream "leader."

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.)
Presidential stock: Up

Paul already has the support of Tea Party conservatives, which might be why he maintained such a low profile during the shutdown. Instead of going the Rubio or Cruz route, Paul cozied up to the Republican establishment, defending Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) when he was attacked by conservatives for compromising with Democrats.

Paul's biggest hurdle to the GOP nomination is being labeled a perpetual outsider like his dad, Ron. The shutdown let him bolster his mainstream credentials, without forcing him to compromise on the libertarian-leaning views that have made him a hit with the conservative base. (Note to Rubio: This is how you please the competing factions of your party without looking like an opportunist.)

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.)
Presidential stock: Neutral

The former vice presidential candidate pushed plenty of his own ideas during negotiations over the debt ceiling — which ultimately were not included in the final bill that passed Congress. Some would argue that is a bad sign, considering that, as chairman of the House Budget Committee, he should have more sway on budget matters.

In the end, however, he remained true to the conservative base, voting against the final deal while getting to sound wonky and serious about fiscal responsibility at the same time. We'll call it a draw.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R)
Presidential stock: Up

Christie, who is polling even better than Bruce Springsteen in their native state of New Jersey, had the advantage of spending the entire shutdown criticizing Washington from above the fray. Here is the governor on meeting with Republican senators earlier this month:

What I said to any of them that I met with: Get the government reopened, stop monkeying around, and get back to work. I said, I'm out there in the field, people have no patience for this stuff. None. [New York magazine]

That is the kind of no-nonsense rhetoric that could appeal to Republican voters tired of the Tea Party circus, not to mention Republican leaders looking for a candidate who has a shot to win the general election.

Hillary Clinton
Presidential stock: Up

The former secretary of state was already the clear front-runner in both the Democratic presidential primary and the general election. Now, with deep divisions exposed within the Republican Party, her path to the presidency looks even clearer.

As the National Journal's Michael Hirsh argues, any moderate candidate in the GOP primary is "going to have to out-Cruz Ted Cruz," leaving him or her vulnerable with an American electorate largely tired of the Tea Party. That has to leave Clinton feeling pretty good about 2016.

 
Keith Wagstaff is a staff writer at TheWeek.com covering politics and current events. He has previously written for such publications as TIME, Details, VICE, and the Village Voice.

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