Focusing on how the handling of the shutdown affected, or did not affect, the vote this week ignores a more potent way in which it is impacting Republicans: making voters less likely to be Republicans in the first place.
Pre-election measurements strongly favor Gov. Christie's re-election despite that party ID favors his opponent in a state which has trended Democratic for 30 years, and which Christie won with less than 50 percent of the vote in 2009.
Forget his personality. Those pesky voters ultimately want to know what you are planning to do in that public office to alleviate their perennial misery. In this sense, Christie's conservative message is the right kind at the right time: fiscal.
Christie jumped on each news story, using it as further evidence that the legislature couldn't be trusted with taxpayer's money. With no one trying to defend the indefensible, Christie's had an appreciative audience to himself.
NPR and Jon Stewart's Daily Show came out on top as the most informative, making the schadenfreude all the more delicious for Fox-haters, and the twisting of the liberal knife-in-the-back all the more painful for Fox fans. But how did it come to that?
Only small segments of the public pay substantial, sustained attention even to high-profile cases like this one, never mind the particulars of the full reach of the interstate commerce clause, or whether requiring health insurance is akin to mandating consumption of broccoli.
Gingrich evokes the same emotional reaction in the Republican base as do the right-wing pundits. In psychology this is called a Pavlovian Response. It could be one of the underlying reasons for Newt's surge.