1. Republicans got nothing. Typically, the law that passes at the end of these standoffs could never have passed at the beginning. The process exists to get one or both sides comfortable with concessions that, at the beginning, they wouldn't have accepted.
Not this time. The bill, which cleanly funds the government, suspends the debt ceiling and creates a bicameral budget committee, passed with mostly Democratic votes. It's a bill that could have passed both the House and Senate with these same vote counts on September 30 -- and that would've meant no interruption in government services, no forced vacation for hundreds of thousands of workers, no needless hit to the economy, no tremors in the markets.
But it's not just that Republicans didn't win anything. It's that they lost so much.
2. The GOP's Obamacare boomerang. The shutdown was meant to stop Obamacare. Instead, it provided crucial aid to the struggling law. If not for the drama in Washington, HealthCare.gov 's disastrous launch would've been the top news story in the country. Instead, it was knocked off the front pages. Many assumed, reasonably but wrongly, that the flaws were attributable to the GOP's shutdown. And Obamacare actually gained in the polls. Rarely has a strategy failed so completely.
3. The Republican Party is horribly unpopular. Multiple polls found that the Republican Party is less popular than it's been since pollsters began asking the question. Gallup found its favorability at 28 percent. The NBC/Wall Street Journal disagreed: The GOP's favorability was actually 24 percent, they reported.
4. The Republican Party devalued hostage taking. Republicans took the wrong lesson from 2011. They thought they won major policy concessions because they were willing to take the debt ceiling hostage. In fact, they won major policy concessions because they'd won the 2010 election. The hostage taking was perhaps a necessary strategy to effectuate their mandate, but it wasn't sufficient without the electoral win.
By unwisely deploying the same strategy this year, after they lost an election, they proved its weakness -- and they let Democrats establish a principle that they won't negotiate policy under these terms. Going forward, Republicans will be more afraid of this kind of brinksmanship, and Democrats will be far less afraid of it.
5. They split their party. The shutdown began with a schism. Republican leaders thought Sen. Ted Cruz's defund-and-shutdown strategy was lunacy. They tried everything they could think of to get out of it. They failed. And so the shutdown began with top Republicans, and perhaps most Republicans, opposed to the strategy. It ended with a wide swath of Republicans furious at their more confrontational brethren for leading them into this disaster. The party is as split as it's been in memory.
But there's one silver lining for Republicans: They held their spending number. Even though Democrats won the 2012 election, Republicans have managed to keep sequestration's spending levels. The continuing resolution that Democrats agreed to before the shutdown, and the CR they agreed to in order to end the shutdown, both keep spending far below what Democrats think is necessary.
By making this about Obamacare and the legitimacy of hostage taking as a routine political strategy, the GOP lost terribly. But in terms of what fights over bills to fund the government are supposed to be about -- spending -- Republicans didn't give an inch. Sequestration is still there, and it still gives Republicans real leverage in the coming budget negotiations with Democrats.