With the likelihood of an extended government shutdown increasing, it's time to take stock of political winners and losers.
-- Most at risk is Ken Cuccinelli, campaigning alongside Ted Cruz this weekend. He's out with a new radio ad, a preemptive strike declaring his opposition to a shutdown and turning the tables on McAuliffe. But that only underscores how vulnerable he is. Mitch McConnell can't win, facing fire from his right for privately floating a compromise and from Dems for looking helpless as the shutdown goes on. Paul Ryan, the GOP's Congressional flavor of 2012, has been virtually invisible, eclipsed by a more confrontational cadre of conservatives.
-- Dems face problems, too. There's been a Democratic divide, between those in conservative House seats and those representing Republican states. Maintaining a united front, Senate Dems have stood together. But for the red-state Dems up (Pryor/Landrieu/Begich) in 2014, their votes against short-term funding could backfire, and will be used as fodder in GOP challengers' campaign ads. There's a reason swing-district House Dems "“ even Dan Maffei and Steven Horsford -- voted with Republicans.
-- There's a bipartisan list of winners. Harry Reid's chances of remaining Majority Leader ticked up a bit. Ambitious GOP governors like Christie, Jindal and Snyder can run against Washington dysfunction without costing them conservative bona fides. In the wake of Ted Cruz's activism, Rand Paul now looks downright pragmatic. Democratic challengers from competitive suburban House seats, like Andrew Romanoff (CO-06) and Kevin Strouse (PA-08), are now looking more credible.
One final winner: Incumbency. Despite the "throw the bums out" sentiment, it's unlikely 2014 will be a wave election. Cook rates only 67 of 435 House seats (15%) as potentially competitive, a product of the ideological realignment that took place over the last several elections.