Nate Cohn

Staff Writer

The shutdown is over, but it lasted more than long enough to inflict significant damage to the Republican brand. A plurality of voters blamed the GOP for the shutdown, poll after poll shows the GOP’s favorability rating near record lows. And as a result, a once unthinkable Democratic takeover of the House is conceivable, even if it remains improbable.

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The choreography of the last few weeks—the tea-party triggered impasse, the Senate compromise, and the eventual capitulation of the House GOP—must have felt familiar to anyone with memory of last winter’s fiscal cliff fight. The final act of the shutdown-debt ceiling fight stayed true to the script. The roll call vote is eerily reminiscent of last January’s fiscal cliff fight: Last January, Republicans voted against the Senate compromise, 85-151; tonight, House Republicans voted against the Senate compromise by a 87-144 margin.

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Apparently, it’s become fashionable to wonder whether fissures in the GOP might eventually grow into a schism, with tea party candidates mounting independent challenges to the GOP in the 2014 elections. Last night, David Frum went a step farther, writing that a tea party exodus might actually help Republicans by freeing them of Sarah Palin and Ted Cruz, allowing the GOP to slide back to the political center. It's a centrist fantasy.

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Gerrymandering is ugly. But you can't blame it for all Republican lunacy.

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This evening’s NBC/WSJ survey was absolutely brutal for Republicans. The president’s approval rating is up, more voters blamed Republicans for the shutdown than did in 1995, and the GOP’s favorability slipped to its lowest level in the history of the NBC/WSJ survey. But there was one question where the numbers weren’t catastrophically bad for Republicans. Unfortunately for Democrats, it’s the single most important gauge of how the Republicans might fare in the midterms.

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Just because the Republican numbers are in the tank doesn't mean they can't bounce back soon. It happened in 1999 too.

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Democrats are getting excited about retaking the House.

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The public is angry. That much is clear after a week of polls since the government shutdown. But it’s harder to dissect how the public is apportioning blame between the two parties—let alone whether the GOP will suffer for it at the ballot box.

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There’s nothing Democrats can do about gerrymandering, so here’s a radical proposal: Let’s turn our attention to whether Democrats are poised to capitalize on the opportunities that do exist in the House. Because for all the talk about gerrymandering, there are still 17 House Republicans in districts carried by President Obama. And there are another 17 districts that Romney carried by less than 3 points, and still a handful more of even redder districts where weak GOP incumbents won reelection by a narrow margin.

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You don't have to look far to find people diagnosing gerrymandering as the source of all of our nation’s woes, including (but surely not limited to) the shutdown. From this perspective, Republicans are gerrymandered into districts so conservative that the GOP is held hostage by ultraconservative primary electorates. Even President Obama has blamed the GOP "fever" on gerrymandering.

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