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Polls show opportunity for Dems in 2014

The polls show that the majority Americans will blame the GOP—not President Obama—for a federal government shutdown. The CNN/ORC poll out Monday shows that 46%

The polls show that the majority Americans will blame the GOP—not President Obama—for a federal government shutdown. The CNN/ORC poll out Monday shows that 46% of Americans would blame Republicans for a shutdown, compared to 36% who would blame the president.

The public's sentiment is similar to what was seen on the eve of the last government shutdown in 1995 when voters believed Republicans were to blame for impasse rather than President Clinton. Americans exercised their frustration two years later at the ballot box by re-electing Clinton by 9 points. Did the GOP not learn the lessons of history?

“Republicans know this is a loser for them,” said former Utah Gov. John Huntsman on Meet the Press. “So Republicans are going to have to learn the lessons of this whole episode and that will be you can't have an all-or-nothing approach,” he said.

Hillary Clinton even weighed in on the GOP’s tactics. She took her most partisan tone yet since leaving the State Department.

“I think they ought to go back and read history,” Clinton told a panel at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York last week. “Because I will just say that it wouldn't be the worst thing for Democrats if they try to shut government down,” she said. “We've seen that movie before."

The Republicans may have given the Democrats their only window of hope to take back Congress in the 2014 midterm election. The pattern of second-term midterm elections since World War II, in which five out of six times the party holding the White House has gotten clobbered in the House or Senate, or both. But, according to the latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, Democrats had a three-point advantage on a generic ballot prior to pre-shutdown hysteria, with 46% of voters favoring Democrats over 43% for Republicans. Democrats are quietly hoping they can  leverage anger at the Republicans into votes next November.

“The study contained a mountain of data, but what grabbed my attention were the results in each of the three groups on the generic congressional ballot question,” says Charlie Cook of Cook Political Report. “While this poll question cannot project how many seats each side will win, it is a useful—if rough—indicator of whether the partisan winds are blowing, and if they are, in what direction and with what intensity.”

Tuesday's new Quinnipiac University poll released more good news for Democrats. The poll shows Democrats have a 9-point lead in the congressional generic ballot (43% to 34%) taking the largest lead in the generic ballot so far this election cycle.

David Wasserman, editor for Cook Political Report, told Hardball Monday that Democrats will have to perform better than that if they expect to take back the House in 2014.

“We have calculated that Democrats would need to win all votes cast for House by at least 6.8% over Republicans in order to win the barest possible majority, 218 seats,” said Wasserman. “In other words, Democrats would need to win more than 53% of all major-party votes cast for House to take back control,” he said.

According to the Quinnipiac Poll, voters oppose Congress shutting down the federal government to block implementation of the Affordable Care Act by a 72 – 22% margin. American voters also disapprove 74-17% of the job Republicans in Congress are doing, their lowest score ever.

These are the kind of numbers Democrats are hoping will rally voters to their side come next November. Enthusiasm against what is going on in Washington is with Democrats for now, but the intensity at which voters will rally out of opposition to a shutdown and blame Republicans is still to be determined.

Democrats still face a massive hurdle in an off-year election when it comes to the turnout imbalance between the two the parties. The Obama coalition that was so successful in 2008 and 2012 is a combination of minority and youth voters, who – along with independents – tend to vote in smaller numbers in a non-presidential year. Democrats will need to provide the motivation for these groups to turn out next November in large numbers if they expect to overcome historical and gerrymandering disadvantages to win back control of the House. The next couple weeks will reveal if the shutdown is that motivating factor for voters.