Men walk past a reflected image of the Capitol inside the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center in Washington October 16, 2013.
Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

A tarnished brand is hard to overcome

Updated
New York City mayoral candidate Joe Lhota participated in a debate the other night and was eager to distance himself from his unpopular party. “Do not lump me with the national Republicans,” he said. “It’s unbecoming.”
 
The nation’s largest city, of course, is a pretty progressive place, so it stands to reason that Republican candidates don’t want voters to associate them with, say, Ted Cruz. But the comment nevertheless struck me as interesting because it got me thinking more about the electoral consequences of the crises Republicans imposed on the nation for no reason in recent weeks.
 
Public Policy Polling published some interesting results yesterday.
New PPP polls of 6 key Senate races that will determine control of the body after next year’s election finds voters extremely unhappy about the government shutdown. As a result Republicans trail in 5 of the 6 key races and are tied in the 6th. Republicans need to win 6 seats to take control of the Senate.
 
We find voters strongly opposed to the shutdown in every state we polled, even though most of them voted for Mitt Romney last year.
 
In one case anger over the shutdown is helping to put a Republican held seat on the table.
In Georgia, where a Republican is retiring, Democrat Michelle Nunn is well positioned at this point to compete and possibly win. In five seats that are currently “blue” – Michigan, Iowa, Louisiana, Arkansas, and North Carolina – Democratic candidates are ahead, thanks in part to public opposition to the shutdown.
 
What’s more, there’s increasing evidence that Democrats are also getting a recruiting boost. We talked a bit about this on Monday with a prominent Nebraska Democrat, who didn’t intend to run for Congress, changing his mind in response to outrage over the shutdown, but Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), chair of the DCCC, told Greg Sargent this week that similar examples are on the way.
 
“Conservatively, you will see another three – it could be as many as five,” Israel told Greg, referencing the number of soon-to-be-announced recruits. “In a number of districts we had top-tier, all-star potential candidates who several months ago didn’t see a path to victory. They reopened the doors. These are competitive districts. They tend to be moderate and have large concentrations of independent voters. Those voters are now seeing the Tea Party implement their agenda.”
 
Also watch to see how Dems use the unpopularity of congressional Republicans as a key campaign issue. In West Virginia, Secretary of State Natalie Tennant (D) is arguably an underdog, but almost immediately after getting in the race, went on the offensive in her U.S. Senate race against Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R). The message: Capito is in Congress.
 
All of the usual caveats certainly still apply: a lot can and will happen in a year, the public often has short memories; the president’s party routinely suffers in sixth-year midterms, gerrymandering severely limits the number of competitive districts, etc.
 
But if Democrats are going to keep their Senate majority and reclaim the House majority, they’ll want to see certain developments take shape at this point in the process. Right now, the pieces – recruiting, polls, fundraising, activism – are falling into place in ways that were hard to predict when the year got underway.
 
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A tarnished brand is hard to overcome

Updated