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Analysts: Walberg's hold on seat loosens after shutdown

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On Thursday, two political analysts revised their ratings of next year's contest for Michigan's Seventh Congressional District. Both of them thought that Republican incumbent Tim Walberg retaining his seat against Democratic challenger Pam Byrnes was less likely after the just-finished government shutdown.

In the morning, Stuart Rothenberg announced in Roll Call that he had moved Walberg's seat from "Safe Republican" to "Republican Favored."

That afternoon, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) passed along Cook Political Report's assessment of the race, which moved the seat from "Likely R" to "Lean R."

Both changes in ratings came after two polls showing Walberg in trouble. Two weeks ago, a poll came out showing Walberg losing to generic Democrat by nine percent. Later that week, the DCCC released a poll showing Walberg and Byrnes in a statistical dead heat, with Walberg ahead by one percentage point 43% to 42% with 14% undecided.

Rothenberg cited the strength of the likely Democratic nominee in his renewed estimation of the contest. He called Byrnes "a credible nominee in a competitive district" and wrote "Democrats believe Byrnes will keep this seat in play."

After noting that "Walberg never seems to get too far above 50 percent" and "next year shouldn’t be an exception," he concluded "the race could get even more competitive."

While Rothenberg concentrated on the candidates, the Cook Political Report looked at the big picture. In the organization's report, as quoted by the DCCC, it highlighted the effect of the shutdown.

“Mostly as a result of the damage House Republicans sustained during the 16-day government shutdown, we are making changes to our ratings in 15 House seats, all but one in Democrats' direction. Democrats still have a very uphill climb to a majority, and it's doubtful they can sustain this month's momentum for another year. But Republicans' actions have energized Democratic fundraising and recruiting efforts and handed Democrats a potentially effective message.”

The poll released by the DCCC supported this analysis. It showed that voters disapproved of shutting down the government 59% to 33% and that 50% of voters were less likely to vote for Walberg once they learned that he supported the government shutdown.

Only 27% of voters planned to reelect Walberg in November 2014, while an overwhelming majority (73%) were open to considering someone else.

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