Off to the races: Paul owes Cruz a ‘big, wet kiss’?

Charlie Cook: “Next time Rand Paul sees his fellow Republican Senate freshman Ted Cruz, he should give the Texan a big wet kiss. … Cruz has redefined extremism in the Republican Party to such an extent that Rand Paul doesn’t come across as such a dangerous fringe candidate anymore.”

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is launching a paid grassroots campaign, targeting 63 vulnerable House Republicans to" end their government shutdown, a manufactured crisis they created. The DCCC’s automated phone calls connect Americans directly to their Member of Congress so that constituents can tell their representatives to 'stop the nonsense and focus on common sense solutions that protect our health care and grow our economy.'"

National Journal: "Comparing today's 232-seat Republican majority with the 236 seats Republicans ultimately held after special elections and party switches from 1995-96 underscores the extent to which GOP legislators have succeeded in fortifying themselves into homogeneously conservative districts. On every measure, Republicans today represent constituencies that lean more lopsidedly toward their party. On average, Clinton in 1992 won 46.6 percent of the two-party presidential vote in the districts held by congressional Republicans during the 104th Congress from 1995-96. (That two-party calculation excludes the share carried by Ross Perot in his independent bid that year.) President Obama last year carried only an average of 40.4 percent of the two-party presidential vote in the districts held by the current Republican majority. Back in 1995, 79 House Republicans represented districts that backed Clinton in the previous presidential election; just 17 House Republicans now represent districts that Obama won. Fewer Republicans now hold districts that fall into an even broader definition of competitiveness: In 1992, Republican President George H.W. Bush won 55 percent or less of the two-party presidential vote in 141 of the 236 House Republican districts. Now, only 71 House Republicans, roughly half as many, represent districts where 2012 nominee Mitt Romney won only 55 percent or less."

Politico: "Nearly everyone in the 2016 GOP presidential field agrees: A government shutdown is a no-good, very bad thing. Yet with the lights-out moment for federal agencies now under way, the leading Republican White House hopefuls have all but zipped their lips when it comes to calling out the Hill gamesmanship that is poised to shutter agencies across the U.S. government for the first time in nearly two decades."

ALABAMA: AP: "Republican Rep. Spencer Bachus, the longest-serving member of Alabama's House delegation, said Monday he will not seek re-election in 2014 after his current term, a decision that could set off a free-for-all in a heavily GOP district. The 6th District congressman said he is too worried about problems like the national debt to resign before his term ends, yet he also is frustrated by the climate in Washington."

Roll Call: Baucus's exit "will likely spark a crowded GOP primary in 2014 to succeed him. A host of GOP candidates are expected run — many of whom have been waiting for his exit for two decades. Alabama Republican operatives say the race is likely to include a wide array of candidates, from tea party stalwarts to popular state legislators in this heavily Republican district located in suburban Birmingham."

NEW JERSEY: Politico: "Democrat Cory Booker is launching his first negative spot today against Republican rival Steve Lonegan in the New Jersey special election for U.S. Senate, calling his rival 'too extreme' for the state. The spot comes two weeks out from the Oct. 16 special election. Polls show Booker, currently the Newark mayor, leading by over 10 points. But that margin is far slimmer than the lead Republican Gov. Chris Christie holds over little-known Democratic rival Barbara Buono, a fact that Booker critics have taken note of."

Newark Star Ledger: "Christie will seek to delay the Oct. 21 start date for same-sex marriages in New Jersey and wants the state Supreme Court to fast-track an appeal in the case, according to a letter sent to the justices today by acting state Attorney General John Hoffman. If Christie gets the delay he is seeking, known as a stay, same-sex couples would not be able to marry until the appeals process is concluded — and if they win the case."

VIRGINIA: AP's Bob Lewis: "Democrats, including gubernatorial nominee Terry R. McAuliffe, sought to tie Republican nominee Ken Cuccinelli to the tea party leaders who insist on using Monday's vote to defund the Affordable Care Act. Chief among them is Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who waged a 21-hour, 19-minute filibuster against continued funding for conservatives call Obamacare. Cruz will campaign with Cuccinelli on Saturday. Cuccinelli says he opposes a federal shutdown, but neither he nor his campaign will say — as McDonnell clearly did — whether Cuccinelli supports House Republicans' continued demand that funding for the health reform law be stripped as a condition for passing legislation to keep the government open."

Cuccinelli is "targeting federal employees and Northern Virginia voters on Terry McAuliffe's untenable position on the government shutdown.