The government shutdown and debt crisis has made 14 House seats more winnable for Democrats, according to new independent ratings released Thursday from The Cook Political Report. There are now—for the first time this cycle—more Republican seats "in play" than the 17 Democrats would need to win in order to take the majority in 2014.
The ratings from the highly regarded political handicapping group, whose founder, Charlie Cook, is also a columnist for the National Journal, is the latest sign that the shutdown has seriously damaged Republicans.
"Democrats still have a very uphill climb to a majority, and it's doubtful they can sustain this month's momentum for another year. But Republicans' actions have energized Democratic fundraising and recruiting efforts and handed Democrats a potentially effective message," Cook's David Wasserman explains. Ten Democratic seats remain "toss ups," meaning the party would probably need to win at least 20 seats to take back the speaker's gavel.
One West Virginia district, currently held by Democratic Rep. Nick Rahall, moved in the GOP's favor, from a rating of "lean Democratic" to "toss up." But 12 districts currently held by Republicans moved in the direction of Democrats, while two districts currently held by Democrats solidified.
It's way too early to know if these movements will hold until November of next year, but its unusual for Cook to move so many districts in one direction all at once. Democrats were losing altitude in generic ballot tests until the shutdown, only to see their numbers climb 5.5 percentage points over the past two weeks. But thanks to gerrymandering, analysts say Democrats need somewhere closer to a 7-point generic ballot lead to retake the House.