Cunningly, Gingrich was able to change the narrative in South Carolina by making it about him. If, however, a general election between Gingrich and Obama becomes a referendum on Gingrich, the former Speaker probably loses.
Back in 1995 and 1996, a government shutdown actually happened -- twice. The debt ceiling was not raised, but the country did not default. President Clinton actively used his veto pen, as the Republicans sent him bills that they knew he would not sign.