If you're looking for signs that the House could be in play in 2014, there are plenty in the wake of the government shutdown. Between the macro trends (growing D leads on the generic ballot) and the race-by-race developments (a crop of new recruits running), Democrats have reasons to be cautiously optimistic. CuratedBlock object CuratedBlock object
-- The most encouraging news for the party is on the recruitment front. Party operatives now expect to land a number of recruits in both: a) swing districts where serious challengers usually don't run, even in good years; b) Republican-friendly seats where challengers only run in strong Democratic years, like 2006 and 2008.
-- To wit: Dems are closing to landing a former gubernatorial nominee (Alex Sink) to run in FL-13, and a former congressman's son (Bill Hughes, Jr.) to challenge Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ). Neither seat has been in play for decades. In solidly-Republican suburban seats around Omaha (NE-02), Little Rock (AR-02) and South Bend (IN-02), Dems expect to recruit moderate candidates capable of winning crossover voters. These races alone aren't enough to tip the majority, but if they're indicative of a trend, stay tuned.
-- This recruiting boomlet is a product of the more favorable national landscape for Dems. The latest ABC News/Washington Post poll shows Dems holding an 8-point lead on the generic, with Americans' approval of their own representative at an all-time low (43%/47%). The only silver lining for the GOP: Obama's approval remains mediocre, and even a D+8 isn't a guarantee of picking up the 17 seats necessary for control. Also: this is the GOP's low-water mark, and the Dem numbers will probably take a hit given Obamacare's implementation woes.
It wasn't long ago that there was talk about widespread voter dissatisfaction leading to permanent wave elections. That's still not likely this time, but the potential exists as voter approval continues to hit record lows.