Crooks and Liars tells me that the new conventional wisdom is that the president would pay the political price for the failure to raise the debt ceiling:
“Of course, it’s dangerous,” a House Republican close to Boehner said of the politics of a government default. “But it’s dangerous for everybody, especially the president. At the end of the day, [Obama] will have to give in.”
“Who has egg on their face if there is a sovereign debt crisis, House Republicans or the president?” asked another senior GOP lawmaker.
As Matt Yglesias notes, history seems to point toward sitting Presidents taking the hit for recalcitrant Congresses, particularly when they're Republican obstructors:
That said, the evidence from political science does appear to suggest that if Republican intransigence destroys the American economy, that the voters will respond to this by punishing the incumbent President and electing a Republican.
I assume that Yglesias has all the data from the political scientists that say this is true. But I have to remind everyone that the most famous example of this kind of brinksmanship took place not that long ago and the people didn't blame the president. Or at least that's the conventional wisdom --- and the president did win re-election.
I'm speaking of the government shutdown of 1995, of course. Now it's possible that the data shows that people blamed the president but they voted for him in 1996 anyway. But until about five minutes ago it was written in stone among the Villagers that the GOP had overreached and paid the price. Somehow I doubt that the House Republicans have been pouring over exit polls from '95 and figured this all out. They're bluffing.
On the other hand, Walter Shapiro
makes a good case for how this could get out of control if the president doesn't take this to the people. Oh boy.