The government shutdown in the 1990s helped the GOP maintain control of the House, according to Newt Gingrich (R).
"The shutdown worked," the former House speaker said at the Christian Science Monitor breakfast Thursday.
Gingrich was pushing back against long-held convention wisdom, which says that the partisan deadlock over the budget helped President Clinton win reelection in 1996. In the House that year, the GOP lost several seats but maintained its majority.
Gingrich said that growth in government spending slowed during that time, which helped his party craft an image as fiscal conservatives.
"We were the first reelected House Republican majority since 1928. Part of the reason was our base came to believe that we were serious," Gingrich said. "That bought us 12 years majority status in a party that had not had that experience in 70 years."
Democratic strategists have also warned that stalling techniques have worked for Republicans in the past. In 1994, congressional opposition led by Gingrich and Bob Dole was creating an "improved perception of the Republican Party," Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg said recently. "As they opposed [Clinton], their numbers went up."
Republican pollster Bill McInturff said a similar phenomenon may be happening this cycle.
"We are heading towards a very sharp mid-course correction in terms of people's concern about the role of government and people's concern about the pace of spending," he said Thursday.
As a bi-partisan health summit gets underway on Pennsylvania Avenue, McInturff noted there's strong support for Republicans to hit the so-called "reset button."
"In terms of where we are at the moment, a majority [of voters] said they'd support Republicans in terms of starting over," McInturff said, citing his Public Opinion Strategies survey. In that February poll, 54 percent of GOPers and 42 percent of Dems said they agree with starting over with smaller pieces of legislation. "I still believe people want substantial change in healthcare," " he said. "They simply have decided that the current plan in Congress is too much and goes too far."
Updated at 1:56 p.m.