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Off to the races: McAuliffe leads in Virginia

Charlie Cook: “Here’s a question for conservatives and Republicans: Going into the 2012 Election Day, or even in the last few days before Election Day, did you think Mitt Romney was going to win? A couple of months ago, did you think the strategy of threatening to shut down the government or prevent raising the debt ceiling, to force the outright repeal or defunding of Obamacare, would really work? Romney lost by 4,967,508 votes, 126 Electoral College votes, and 3.85 percentage points. That’s not very close. Obamacare isn’t going to be repealed this year, and it’s not going to be defunded. So the question is whether conservatives and Republicans should begin to worry if their instincts—specifically, their judgment on matters of politics and policy—are a bit off. Maybe “spectacularly wrong” would be more accurate. Does that worry anyone on the right or in the Republican Party? Are they concerned that continuing to follow such awful political instincts could lead to catastrophic consequences for their movement and their party?” Cook concludes: “It may be time for the GOP’s Non-delusional Caucus to stage an intervention. Otherwise the party may be headed for some voter-administered therapy.”

Stu Rothenberg: “The deal to open the government and raise the debt ceiling may be done, but the damage to the national Republican Party is considerable. … The political fallout from the confrontation is very real. Republicans got almost nothing out of the deal to re-open the government and raise the debt ceiling except, of course, that they lost another 10 percentage points in their favorable rating and looked less like an organized political party and more like a disorganized, confused rabble.”

More: “Ironically, the House Republicans’ suicide mission came at exactly the right time for President Barack Obama and the wrong time for the GOP. The president had divided his own party over issues like government surveillance and Syria, and for the first time polls showed Democratic support for Obama starting to soften. The normal second-term fatigue seemed to be developing, which might well have produced a more or less “normal” midterm political environment. But all that changed when Republican Sens. Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah egged on House conservatives to oppose anything short of complete surrender by the president and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Obamacare. Now, Democrats are united and energized, angry at Republicans’ attempts to destroy Obama’s most important success.”

A GOP strategist to David Wasserman: "The only thing we've gotten from a two-week shutdown is about five or ten more races we've got to pay attention to. More money spent defending people than expanding the majority. Hopefully folks are scared and are going to take their races seriously."

“Tea Party groups sought to raise money Thursday after their demands were virtually ignored in the deal to fund the government and avoid default,” The Hill reports. “The Tea Party Express and Tea Party Patriots blasted Washington's political establishment and accused both parties of ‘selling out’ the public. The Tea Party Patriots were particularly hard on Republicans, arguing that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) ‘refused to hold the line and fight ObamaCare.’”

Politico: “Republican donors were horrified in November after pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into losing campaigns for president and Congress with nothing to show for it. A year later they’re appalled by how little has changed, angered by the behavior of Republican lawmakers during a string of legislative battles this year capped by the shutdown, and searching for answers. In conversation after conversation, donors express growing frustration with the party and the constellation of outside groups they’ve been bankrolling. After getting squeezed last year by an array of campaign committees, party committees and disparate super PACs, many of them are still sitting on their checkbooks — a worrisome sign for the party with the 2014 midterm elections fast approaching.”

Rand Paul’s stock goes up with mainstream Republicans: “According to many moderate GOP observers, the Kentucky Republican and likely 2016 contender has deftly maneuvered the past several weeks of shutdown politics, toeing the conservative line without alienating the rest of the party — especially compared to his frequent sidekick, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas),” Politico writes. “A key challenge for Paul if he runs would be to make himself acceptable to — if not win over — traditional Republicans. His low-key approach to the shutdown and debt limit drama could help that cause.

But Jill Lawrence reports, leading with an anecdote he told medical school students about the importance of spreading “misinformation,” that while Paul has some promise, “there are the half-truths, cherry-picked factoids, and outright errors that Paul seems steadfastly unwilling to relinquish.”

The Hill: “Vulnerable Democrats and top Democratic candidates boosted their reelection bids with strong fundraising in the third quarter, but Republican challengers are picking up their own pace as 2014 campaigns intensify.”

NEVADA: “Former Nevada Senate candidate Sharron Angle’s super PAC is out with a truly bizarre video that likens Democrats’ rhetoric to the sound of screaming donkeys,” Politico writes.

“The one-minute YouTube video, which evokes echoes of Carly Fiorina’s 2010 ‘Demon Sheep ad,’ intersperses video clips of Democrats talking about major issues with short clips of donkeys doing the ‘Dean Scream’ — the WWE-style yell that helped tank former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential bid.”

NEW JERSEY: The Chris Christie-Cory Booker bromance continues. Christie teased him at an event yesterday, per USA Today: "I'm happy for the mayor today and his victory last night. It was the first win for the Giants all year. Little did Tom Coughlin (the team's coach) know he'd have to rely on a washed-up tight end from Stanford. Desperate times call for desperate measures, don't they, Cory?

VIRGINIANBC's Domenico Montanaro: "National Republicans may be glad the midterm elections are a year away after polls have shown the party’s favorability at all-time lows because of the federal government shutdown. But one Republican – in a swing state – is caught in the buzz saw. A new NBC4/NBC News/Marist poll finds Republican Ken Cuccinelli slipping further behind Democrat Terry McAuliffe, 46 to 38 percent in the race for Virginia governor among likely voters. That’s 3 points wider than McAuliffe’s 43 to 38 percent lead a month ago -- before the shutdown. Libertarian Robert Sarvis gets 9 percent.

Jessica Taylor notes at The Daily Rundown that "Cuccinelli’s woman problem is only getting worse." McAuliffe's "lead with women is now at 20 points–a two-point jump since last month’s NBC poll–with McAuliffe up among female likely voters 52%-32%. Cuccinelli still leads among men, 44%-40%, but that’s been cut in half since his eight point lead with likely male voters last month."