Democrats are entertaining the prospect that Republican intransigence over the budget and debt ceiling could put the House in play for 2014. So with the possibility of these crises worsening, it's worth examining what would need to happen for them to net the 17 seats necessary to pull off a historic upset.
-- The critical number for Dems is 45, the number of GOP-held House seats with a Cook PVI of R+4 or better. They need to recruit credible candidates in at least 25 of them to have any hope of competing. Even in a wave election, not every competitive race goes one party's direction. And remember: these include battle-tested members now running in gerrymandered seats (Gerlach, Reichert, Dent) and ones unlikely to draw much opposition (Paul Ryan, Randy Forbes).
-- If the Washington gridlock is giving Democrats a decisive edge, expect to see it on the recruitment front in those districts. Right now, most of those incumbents aren't even facing opponents, and pundits aren't rating the races as potentially competitive. There's time for that to change, but filing deadlines in key battleground states aren't far away (Feb. 2014 in Pa. and Ohio).
-- Pay close attention to the GOP-friendly suburban House districts. The big bellwethers if a wave is emerging: David Joyce (OH-14), Mike Turner (OH-10), Erik Paulsen (MN-03), Reid Ribble (WI-08), Pat Meehan (PA-07), and John Kline (MN-02). If they're in trouble next summer, the House could be in play.
Finally, a reality check on the PPP/MoveOn.org polls: They tested GOP members against generic Dem candidates, results designed to give overly-optimistic readings of any race. And they didn't survey any of the nine Dems in Romney CDs, who would have shown similar vulnerabilities. Take their conclusions with a big grain of salt.