Handicappers: Shutdown Puts More Than 17 GOP Seats in Play

Republicans lose ground in 14 House districts, according to new rankings from Cook Political Report.

From left to right: Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT), Assistant House Minority Leader Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) and House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) listen during a news conference on Capitol Hill.
National Journal
Alex Seitz Wald
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Alex Seitz-Wald
Oct. 17, 2013, 2:47 p.m.

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.

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