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Off to the races: New lows for GOP

“The budget confrontation that led to a partial government shutdown dealt a major blow to the GOP’s image and has exposed significant divisions between tea party supporters and other Republicans, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.” The public blames Republicans by a wider margin than during the 1995-96 shutdown, 53-29. Back then it was 50-27.

But Charlie Cook notes: “Those who already are saying that the House of Representatives is now “in play” are getting a little ahead of their skis—forgetting a few key factors. At the same time, however, it’s no longer fair to say that there is virtually zero or at most a minimal chance that Republicans will lose their majority. Recent actions and behavior during the shutdown make that an equally risky argument to make. While it is still not likely, a discussion of what specifically would have to happen to make a Democratic majority a reality is in order.”

The Hill: “Senate Democrats have emerged from the government shutdown more confident about holding control of the upper chamber in 2014 — with some polls fueling hopes the party could pick up a seat or two currently held by the GOP. The sentiment marks a shift in attitude even from this summer, when partisans on both sides viewed control of the Senate as a toss-up. The optimism is being tempered by concerns that a botched rollout of ObamaCare could cloud the electoral horizon and nullify shutdown gains made at the expense of the GOP.”

Giving them the business… “At a time when the business community’s ties to congressional Republicans have been strained by recent fiscal crises, Democratic political operatives are trying to move into the breach,” the Wall Street Journal reports. “Two leaders of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Monday sent a letter to business leaders reminding them that House Democrats last week voted unanimously for legislation to raise the debt limit and avert potential default while a majority of House Republicans voted against it.”

In a USA Today/Princeton Survey Research poll, “just 4% of those surveyed — equal to the margin of error — say Congress would be changed for the worse if nearly every member was replaced next year. Nearly half say it would work better. About four in 10 say a wholesale overhaul wouldn't make much difference. Those findings are similar to the public's views in previous years when voter dismay cost one side or the other control of the House. In 1994, when Democrats lost their majority, 40% said Congress would be better off if most members were replaced. In 2006, when Republicans lost control, 42% held that view. Now 47% say Congress would work better if nearly every seat changed hands next year. (The question wasn't asked in 2010, when Republicans regained control.)”

A CNN/ORC poll finds that 71% think most members of Congress do not deserve reelection (a point higher than August 2011), including 75% who think most Republicans should be booted from office, the highest ever recorded by a wide margin; 54% say most Democrats should be voted out. Just 39% say their member does not deserve reelection.

MSNBC's Jessica Taylor & Suzy Khimm look at how "establishment conservatives are in an uproar, too, since they watched Sen. Ted Cruz drive Republicans through budget negotiations that ended in a 16-day government shutdown and left the party tanking in the polls.The Chamber of Commerce has had enough of Cruz’s antics and so has a big money group linked to Karl Rove, American Crossroads–and they’re both gearing up to play in Republican primary races across the country."

ARKANSAS:NBC's Jessica Taylor: "In a surprising political move, Rep. Tim Griffin, R-Ark., announced Monday morning he was retiring after just two congressional terms, opening up a potentially competitive seat for Democrats in the Razorback State.... According to a Democratic source, former North Little Rock Mayor Pat Hays will announce his candidacy Tuesday. ...Early Republican names include Delta Trust CEO French Hill, a wealthy businessman and former George H.W. Bush White House aide who could self-fund a bid and could quickly emerge as the GOP's favored candidate" 

Nathan Gonzales: “Barack Obama received just 39 percent of the vote in Arkansas in the last presidential race, but that’s not stopping Democratic optimism in the Razorback State in 2014. Even though next year’s midterm elections began as a referendum on the president, Democrats believe they can re-elect Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor, hold the open governorship and take over at least one House district — particularly now that GOP Rep. Tim Griffin has announced his unexpected decision not to seek re-election.” More: “In spite of the midterm dynamic, Democrats may have a better chance in a non-presidential year in Arkansas, when races have been more competitive. Recent history shows Democrats consistently do well in the 2nd District in state races.”

FLORIDA: Tampa Bay Times: "If U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young's retirement announcement upended Tampa Bay's political landscape, his death Friday makes it unrecognizable....Now his death turns Pinellas County into the ultimate bellwether of the national mood heading into the 2014 midterms. A handful of congressional districts nationwide are as politically competitive as Young's. Seeing such a seat open up with no incumbent favored to win is rare, which is why so many local politicians and would-be politicians started gearing up as soon as Young announced his retirement less than two weeks ago."

More from the Times: "A host of dignitaries from Washington, D.C., to Tallahassee to Tampa Bay will be on hand to honor" Young "at his memorial service Thursday. But one particularly prominent politician won't be welcome at First Baptist Indian Rocks: Charlie Crist. Young's widow, Beverly Young, emailed the former Republican governor and likely future Democratic gubernatorial nominee, instructing him to stay away."

KENTUCKY: Stu Rothenberg: “So now we know. The single most important election in the country next year won’t take place in Louisiana, Arkansas, North Carolina or Alaska. And it won’t occur next November, when voters across the country pick the next Congress. It will take place in Kentucky on May 20. While the general election in the commonwealth — and in other states — could decide which party controls the Senate for President Barack Obama’s final two years in office, the GOP primary will go a long way in determining whether the Republican Party continues its evolution toward uncompromising utopian purity and, eventually, possible irrelevance.”

MISSISSIPPI: Roll Call: "The Club for Growth will hit the Mississippi television airwaves Tuesday to boost a GOP primary challenger to Sen. Thad Cochran. The conservative group’s ad — which comes from its political action arm — declines to mention Cochran, who has not yet announced whether he is seeking re-election. Instead, it introduces his challenger, state Sen. Chris McDaniel, to the state and sells him as 'the new strong, conservative leader Mississippi needs in the U.S. Senate.'"

NEW JERSEY: Los Angeles Times: "New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie backed away from a court fight over same-sex marriage Monday, a move that further staked his place near the political middle ground at a time the country seems irretrievably divided into warring camps of right and left. The Republican governor's decision not to appeal a state Supreme Court judgment represents a gamble for his expected presidential effort: that in 2016 — after successive losing campaigns and a politically disastrous government shutdown — a majority of Republican primary voters will be willing to forsake ideological purity for a more pragmatic (and, some suggest, winning) approach."

Newark Star Ledger: "While Democrats in New Jersey rejoiced over" Monday's "decision by the governor to drop the state's legal opposition to same sex marriage, some national social conservative leaders lashed out at the governor."

VIRGINIA: Planned Parenthood Votes is up with a new TV ad hitting Ken Cuccinelli on the issue of abortion. “He'd force a survivor of rape or incest in Virginia to carry a pregnancy caused by her attacker,” the ad goes. “He even opposes the emergency contraception they need to prevent pregnancy.”

Ken Cuccinelli yesterday could not say whether he would have voted to reopen the government. “I don’t know whether I would have voted for it,” he said, per NBC’s Ali Weinberg, at an event designed to excite the base. A group of red-state attorneys general hailed him as the man who “led the fight” against Obamacare. But Cuccinelli has so far struggled to wage a campaign that strikes a balance between appealing to conservatives -- necessary in a low-turnout election -- and attracting the large number of Northern Virginia moderates and independents needed to win in this state Obama carried twice. And there’s no better example than how he has handled his response to the shutdown.

Politico: "Michael Bloomberg’s pro-gun-control super PAC will drop $1.1 million on ads for Democrat Terry McAuliffe in the final two weeks of the Virginia governor’s race. The billionaire New York City mayor’s money will be siphoned through Independence USA PAC into broadcast television commercials in the D.C. market, according to two sources tracking the air war."