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Markos Moulitsas: New year, new politics

Greg Nash

If the public polling is any indication, public opinion has been extremely volatile the last several months, from the GOP’s post-shutdown nadir to the Democrats’ own post-ObamaCare-rollout collapse. 

But with the holidays pushing politics out of people’s minds, we’re about to see a resetting of sorts in the new year, as people reassess their political views with both the shutdown and (now vastly improved) 

HealthCare.gov in the rearview mirror. So now is as good a time as any to get an end-of-year baseline from which to evaluate numbers in 2014. 

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One of the most closely watched metrics over the coming year will be the generic congressional ballot. While members of the House of Representatives aren’t elected by national ballot, there is close correlation between the national House vote and the balance of power in that chamber. Given the heavily gerrymandered nature of the House, Democrats would have to win the national House vote by anywhere between 6 and 9 points to take the chamber. Anything above a 1-point Democratic advantage — the 2012 margin — should deliver Democratic seat gains.

In early November, in the aftermath of the GOP government shutdown and brinkmanship over the debt limit, Democrats enjoyed a House lead of 7 points, according to The Huffington Post polling composite, putting them well within striking range of taking the House. However, problems with the ObamaCare rollout eroded those gains, and the current composite gives Republicans a roughly 1-point lead. Still, there is great variance, even among the various pollsters. For example, Pew Research’s latest gave Democrats a 4-point advantage, while Quinnipiac’s latest was a GOP 3-point edge. It all averages out to that near-tie, slight GOP edge. 

On the Senate side, Arkansas’s Mark Pryor is clearly the most endangered incumbent in the nation, with polling showing the Democratic incumbent in the low 40s, far from the 50 percent he needs to reach — particularly tough in this now-solidly red state. North Carolina Democrat Kay Hagan is tied in the mid-40s, also in the danger zone. We don’t have recent polling out of Louisiana, the other tough Democratic hold, though it looked surprisingly safe post-shutdown. 

Republicans are currently easy favorites to pick up seats in Montana, South Dakota and West Virginia. Also, there’s nothing recent out of Kentucky or Georgia, two Southern Republican-held states Democrats hope to challenge. Post-shutdown, both states featured tied races in the low-40s, though in red states like those, undecided voters will trend Republican. 

If one was to make a forecast based on the current numbers, Republicans would win five seats to tie the Senate (leaving Democrats still in charge with the vice presidential tiebreaker), while few seats would change hands in the House. But of course, a lot can and will happen in a year. This is just a baseline. 

With another looming vote on the debt limit, the last thing Republicans need right now is a public reminder of their nihilistic governing instincts with yet another round of terroristic threats to the nation’s fragile economy. And if Republicans think that “ObamaCare canceled your insurance policy” is political gold, wait until Democrats run with “Republicans want to cancel your ObamaCare insurance policy” in the fall. Meanwhile, Democrats need ObamaCare to actually work. 

If the election does come down to ObamaCare implementation versus GOP nihilism, the victor might be the one who ends up making the least number of mistakes. At this point, it really is anyone’s game. 

Moulitsas is the founder and publisher of Daily Kos.