Things aren’t looking too good for the House GOP. It turns out that shutting down the government is not a popular thing. When you take the position that over 70 percent of Americans do not support, it will generally have a negative effect on your political prospects. That’s the position that Boehner and Co. find themselves in going into 2014’s midterm elections.
As the Washington Post points out, it will take roughly a 7.5% Democratic advantage on the national Congressional ballot next year, due to gerrymandering, in order to win back the House. It may be a point or two less than that, depending on the outcomes in individual districts, but 7.5% will get the job done.
Democrats have a 6% advantage in national generic polls for the House of Representatives — and that was before the shutdown occurred. By taking the position that 70%+ of the country oppose in shutting down the government, Republicans have shot themselves in the foot. They’ve managed to take what was likely a slam-dunk majority in the House and possible one in the Senate (barring major screw-ups like a government shutdown or threatening default) and turned it into a competitive bid for control of the House while making a GOP Senate majority improbable (at best).
The generic ballot is useful to look at national trends but it doesn’t give a glimpse at individual House districts. PPP, which had the best track record of pollsters in 2012, went into the field after the shutdown and found that Democrats led in 17 of the 24 Republican-held districts sampled. As it turns out, 17 is the magic number for Democrats to win a majority.
But that doesn’t tell the whole story. Since several of these districts are in deep red territory, such as Steve King’s Iowa 4, it is quite possible that districts with similar compositions are also competitive but weren’t polled. It’s worth noting that Steve King has a penchant for saying outrageous things — something fellow Tea Party members seem to have in common — comparing DREAM activists to drug mules. The competitive nature of his district may have more to do with his mouth than anything else but it is good news for Democrats nonetheless.
This analysis has a lot of caveats: 1) several of these races sampled were within the margin of error 2) polling a year out is unreliable due to changing circumstances and fading memories 3) a generic candidate always sounds better than a real one. Nonetheless, macro trends matter for fundraising, retaining incumbent candidates and recruiting quality candidates to challenge incumbents or replace retiring members.