While most Americans just want to know whether the government will be open or not next week, the congressional committees for both parties are hard at work looking at What This Means For The 2014 Elections. And sure, that makes sense: it's part of the job. The campaigns from both parties should be obvious at this point: the Democrats are leveraging a House Republican-initiated shutdown that nobody likes, while Republicans are trying to blame the whole thing on Democrats. What's less obvious is whether any of those efforts will actually do anything substantial, as a handful of recent pieces have outlined.
Slate's Dave Weigel took a pretty thorough look at the campaign from the National Republican Congressional Committee on the "mini" CR votes to fund popular parts of the government pushed by the house. Those votes put House Democrats in the uncomfortable position of voting against, say, veterans' services and national parks, in favor of opening the entire government again. Weigel writes:
Will the heroic mini-CRs and the Democrats’ cowardly votes against children/troops/et al have more oomph in 2014? Assuming the shutdown does eventually end, and the government runs again after every member of Congress has cast some vote for or against funding, the piecemeal attacks will fly into the buzzsaw of the fact-checkers.
While Republicans might be thinking of the ads they can run against Democratic incumbents in 2014, Democrats are thinking about the candidates they can recruit to run against Republicans. Rep. Steve Israel, who chairs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, told the Washington Examiner that the DCCC is already expanding the number of "vulnerable" districts for 2014 currently held by Republicans as the shutdown continues. Israel said:
"There were a number of districts that were pretty red, that didn’t seem winnable, where top-tier Democratic candidates told us that they didn’t see a path and therefore they did not run. As a result of this environment, the terrain in those districts has changed fundamentally, and there is now strong, renewed interest in those districts, like top-tier Democratic candidates, in running."
Previously, Democrats indicated that they'd go after some members in vulnerable districts by linking them to Senator Ted Cruz, who still believes that his shutdown strategy means good things for the GOP in 2014.
Just because Democrats think that certain districts could go up for grabs doesn't mean they actually will. For one thing, it's likely that the memory of the shutdown will change by 2014. Jonathan Chait argued earlier this year in New York that even a shutdown probably wouldn't cost the Republicans its House majority. For one thing, Americans don't pay attention to Congress in the same way that political writers or party operatives do. Second, the midterm voting pool won't come with the Democratic boost of Obama supporters showing up to the polls. The New Republic adds that many of the candidates in districts that Democrats, on paper, should be able to challenge, aren't the types of Republicans most vulnerable to attacks on the national party. Their local identities as incumbent representatives are just that: local.