Nightly News   |  October 18, 2013

For Republicans, a crisis in the polls

As the national parks and federal buildings reopen, political analysts are already measuring the damage the shutdown has inflicted upon the Republican Party. The Cook Political Report has identified a dozen GOP districts in mostly blue states where incumbents are considered weaker for next year’s election. NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell reports.

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>>> back to washington and the other big story there. the government shutdown is over. there are lingering questions about what happens next. tonight several members of congress are back in their home districts facing constituents as many americans wonder whether we will go through this again in january. here's nbc's kelly o'donnell.

>> reporter: the unbearable weight finally ended today at the national zoo . [ cheers and applause ]

>> reporter: this was re- opening day for a jewel of the national park system .

>> welcome to yellowstone.

>> reporter: getting back to normal is more complicated for some house republicans. facing questions and constituents back home. south carolina 's mark sanford was on local tv today.

>> what i would say is i'd say in different ways both sides probably overplayed their hands.

>> reporter: republican adam kinslinger chose to visit a new cancer treatment center.

>> we bought ourselves three months. from the bigger scale from the d.c. scale, three months to have grown-up conversations about the difficulties we face and ways to get it done.

>> reporter: while all is quiet on capitol hill until the house returns tuesday, political analysts can already measure damage from the shutdown done to the gop . what is the biggest risk?

>> the biggest problem is for moderate republicans and republicans in swing districts and democratic-leaning districts.

>> reporter: the cook political report identified a dozen gop districts in mostly blue states where incumbents are considered weaker for next year's election. not only congress. in virginia, home to federal workers and government contractors the governor's race shows democratic terry mcauliffe extending his lead over ken cuccinelli with just over two weeks left. democrats in congress are wary knowing they are under prosecute sure, too. the president has been cautious not to claim political victory. today a tea party pac vowed to topple the gop senate leader mitch mcconnell , endorsing his primary opponent.

>> conservative movement is spoiling for a fight and see mcconnell as a top target.

>> reporter: for republicans the shutdown is over but their own crisis is unresolved. kelly o'donnell, nbc news, washington.