I find Republican strategy in the recent Obamacare and budget fight to have been insanely aggravating, and that is coming from someone who hates Obamacare.
Yes, I understand why things are happening as they are. From a re-election strategy, their approach makes total sense. A lot of these House guys come from majority Republic districts where their biggest re-election fear comes from a primary challenge to the right of them. I live in one of these districts, so I see what perhaps coastal media does not. In everyday conversation Republicans are always criticizing their Congressmen for not rolling back Obamacare. Republicans need to be able to say in a primary, "I voted to defund Obamacare". Otherwise I guarantee every one of them will be facing a primary opponent who will hammer them every day.
But from the perspective of someone who just wants the worst aspects of this thing to go away, this was a terrible approach. Defunding Obamacare entirely was never, ever, ever going to succeed. Obama and Democrats would be happy to have a shutdown last months before they would roll back his one and only signature piece of legislation. They may have caved in the past on other issues but he is not going to cave on this one (and needs to be seen not caving given his recent foreign policy mis-steps that has him perceived as weak even in his own party). And, because all the focus is on Obamacare, we are going to end up with a budget deal that makes no further progress on containing other spending.
The Republicans should have taken the opportunity to seek targeted changes that would more likely have been accepted. The most obvious one is to trade a continuing resolution for an elimination of the IPAB, one of the most undemocratic bits of legislation since the National Industrial Recovery Act. Another strategy would have been to trade a CR for a 1-year delay in the individual mandate, a riskier strategy but one the Administration might leap at given that implementation problems in exchanges are giving them a black eye. Finally, an even riskier strategy would have been to tie a CR to a legislative acknowledgement that the PPACA does not allow subsidies in Federally-run exchanges. This latter might not have been achievable (and they might get it in the courts some day anyway) but if one argues that any of these is unrealistic, then certainly defunding Obamacare as a whole was unrealistic.
I think as a minimum they could have killed the IPAB, but now they will get nothing.
Update: This line from All the President's Men seems relevant:
You've done worse than let Haldeman slip away: you've got people feeling sorry for him. I didn't think that was possible. In a conspiracy like this, you build from the outer edges and go step by step. If you shoot too high and miss, everybody feels more secure. You've put the investigation back months.