Government shutdown post-mortem: How the leading 2016 presidential candidates fared

It’s not a secret that many of the key Republican players in the government shutdown are aspiring 2016 presidential candidates. But did their role in the whole ordeal help or hinder their chances at winning the GOP nomination for President in 2016?

Some of the players were obvious winners (see: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan) while others may have seen their stars diminish over the past two weeks. And with nearly half of all Republicans disapproving of how the party was behaving during the shutdown, many of the candidates discussed below will have some work to do if they are going to stay credible candidates moving forward.

Here’s a look at where the key players for 2016 stand (in alphabetical order):

1. Chris Christie

Chris Christie

The New Jersey governor, who is up for reelection in less than a month, came out a big winner at the end of the shutdown. Granted, he was largely on the periphery throughout the entire ordeal by nature of not working in Washington. Yet his separation from the nation’s capital didn’t stop him from blasting his fellow Republicans over the shutdown.

“You get hired to do a job. Do your job!” he said during an editorial board meeting with The Philadelphia Inquirer last week. “There are too many people down here who spend all their time pontificating rather than working. And that applies to both parties. I don’t have patience for that.”

As a result, his actions will not only boost his margin of victory next month, but his standing within the party headed into 2016.

2. Sen. Ted Cruz

Sen. Ted Cruz

Cruz has some fences to mend if he wants to remain a credible 2016 presidential candidate. By framing himself as the face of the government shutdown, he temporarily raised his status within the party - epitomized by his resounding win in the 2013 Values Voter Summit straw poll last Saturday. Democrats will make sure the American public remembers that as soon as he makes his bid official in 2015, however.

3. Paul Ryan

Paul Ryan

Ryan was one of the few Washington Republicans that came out unscathed post-shutdown, and there are two key reasons for that. First, the Wisconsin congressman and 2012 vice presidential nominee stayed largely out of the limelight as other potential presidential candidates put themselves front-and-center in the debate. And when it came time to vote on the Senate deal Wednesday night, Ryan broke with party leadership and voted against the plan – a move designed more to solidify his standing as a top 2016 presidential candidate.

Moving forward, the key indicator for Ryan will be whether he brings himself back to the middle in light of Democrat Rob Zerban’s announcement that he will challenge Ryan in 2014. Zerban is the son of the Sikh temple president who was killed, along with five others, in a shooting rampage at their Milwaukee-area temple last year. Ryan’s role as the co-leader of the Budget Conference Committee developed out of the Senate plan will also have an impact on his future political aspirations.

4. Sens. Rand Paul, Mike Lee, Marco Rubio

Mike Lee Rand Paul Marco Rubio

The three Tea Party senators are grouped together because the shutdown had roughly the same impact on each of them. All three freshman senators supported Cruz’s 21-hour marathon speech last month to delay the vote on the continuing resolution that would have prevented the shutdown, and all three of them voted against both cloture and the official vote on the Senate’s plan Wednesday.

As a result, their standing both among the GOP base and within the 2016 primary race changed little. Like Cruz, they will likely be attacked by Democrats when the time comes for their so-called desire to keep the government shutdown past October 16. By remaining resolute in their decision to stop Obamacare from officially going into effect on January 1, however, they remain well-liked by the base, which is what they needed to do should they decide to run for president over re-election in three years.

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