Certainly, the sheer magnitude of the deficit and debt and their related obligations make a failure to raise the limit extremely risky. In 1997, the last time the ceiling was raised, the deficit was a mere $163 billion. Today, it is $1.4 trillion or more.

On the backdrop of such a scenario and in the face of an entrenched GOP opposition on the issue, the president and his economic advisers are unlikely to want to make any concessions in terms of spending reductions.

But the GOP has much to gain from indeed playing the chicken game rather than merely playing chicken on the issue. Republicans, in fact, can pursue both reductions in spending and consolidate their leadership in the debate over the issue of fiscal discipline.

They must be disciplined and pursue their strategy along three crucial tenets.

First, the GOP must aim at relative gains in the confrontation with Obama. Republicans must aim at actionable spending cuts, even if that means settling for tens of billions rather than hundreds of billions of dollars in reductions. An all-or-nothing attitude along with a complete reluctance to budge would be seen as pursuing the chicken game’s worst pitfall – that is, mutual destruction. Such a strategy could lead to a repeat of the 1995 and 1996 disastrous government shutdowns – a scenario sure to backfire on the GOP now, as it did then, and one which would play into Obama’s hands.

Second, the Republican Party must define the debate and control the message. Republicans should take this opportunity to decisively assert their leadership on fiscal discipline and the discussion over deficit spending. But they should keep the focus of the debate on the country rather than being drawn into discussions involving the Tea Party or other internal GOP dynamics. Control of the message is possible right now thanks to the GOP newly acquired, but to be short-lived, honeymoon with the media.

Third and finally, the GOP must hold its ground firmly. It needs to play the game by running and not swerving. But it must know when to stop. Republicans must define their goal and position and be steadfast in their reasonable resolution in the eyes of the American people. They will then leave it up to President Obama and the Democrats to deal with the pitfalls of the chicken game – namely, to having to change their course, avoid a collision, and give in to Republican demands.

Achieving cuts in spending now is important. But exerting leadership over the debate on fiscal responsibility is just as crucial to Republicans in light of next year’s presidential election. A debate on extending tax cuts is looming once again on the political horizon.

Nino Saviano is president of Savi Political Consulting.