Spotlight

A Zero-Sum Game

Attorney General for Virginia and Republican candidate Ken Cuccinelli speaks during a debate with former DNC Chair and Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe on September 25, 2013 in McLean, Virginia. Voters go to the polls November 5 to decide which candidate will replace incumbent governor Bob McDonnell, who has reached his term limits.
National Journal
Josh Kraushaar
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Josh Kraushaar
Oct. 2, 2013, 7:45 a.m.

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.

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