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Off to the races: GOP hitting the self-destruct button?

Charlie Cook: “You would be quite believable if you were to suggest that the GOP has been making an active, masochistic effort to isolate itself from moderate, independent, and swing voters, further exacerbating all the problems with target constituencies that cost Mitt Romney the presidency and the GOP a national popular House vote victory.”

More: “At The Cook Political Report, we have always said, given their structural advantages, House Republicans would pretty much need to self-destruct to lose control of the chamber. Today, they seem to be flirting with just that possibility, but the election is still more than a year away, and it is far too early to say that the House majority is at risk.”

National Journal notes how quiet Paul Ryan has been in this whole fiscal debate. “Some say the onetime conservative darling—never too press-averse (he shared his workouts and the songs on his iPod during the election)—is simply lying low in an effort to avoid being tarred by the shutdown.”

NEW JERSEY: Gov. Chris Christie (R) and challenger Barbara Buono (D) debate tonight at 7 pm ET on local CBS. The Star Ledger: “With four weeks to go before Election Day, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Barbara Buono has precious few chances left to make her mark in a race dominated by Republican Gov. Chris Christie. Tuesday night’s televised debate at William Paterson University is one of them. Few believe Buono’s debate performance could turn around the race — she has been behind by at least 20 points in the polls for months. But it gives the veteran lawmaker an opportunity to create a contrast between herself and the famously cocky governor, who boasted that he would easily win any debate with Buono.”

To that point, the Daily Record brings back this quote from Christie: “The fact of the matter is that Barbara Buono’s worst days of the campaign will be the days that I debate her.”

AP: “Barbara Buono's debate against Gov. Chris Christie on Tuesday is one of the few opportunities for the Democrat to reach a large bloc of voters before the Nov. 5 election. … Buono could use the boost. She has less name recognition than the nationally known governor and significantly less money to spend on TV ads.” It also points out that Democratic registered voters outnumber Republicans by 700,000.