Party Now Certain to Add Significant Number to Current Majority

Party Now Certain to Add Significant Number to Current Majority


The good news just keeps on coming for Democrats. As we discussed last week, presidential nominee Barack Obama is the clear favorite to win a substantial victory in the race for the White House (see updated Electoral College map, HERE). Democratic Senate candidates are doing so well that the party will add at least six or seven seats to its current narrow majority (see Senate update below and our earlier article from two weeks ago). And the third leg of the 2008 election, the contests for U.S. House of Representatives seats, has also tilted strongly Democratic.

Last December, when we first sketched out the upcoming House elections, we suggested that Democrats were likely to have a good year, adding at least half a dozen seats to its total of 236 (with 218 being needed for control of the chamber). When we updated our projections in June 2008, we suggested that up to a dozen new Democratic seats were in the forecast. With the international financial meltdown proceeding apace, and voters increasingly angry and fearful about their families’ economic future, Republicans are suffering disproportionately. Even though Democrats control Congress and were more supportive of the Wall Street bailout/rescue/credit restoration package than House Republicans, Americans are mainly blaming deeply unpopular President Bush. Bush’s party is paying the price, from the courthouse to the White House.

Therefore, we believe that Democrats have a solid chance to add 15 to 20 more House seats to their total, putting the party’s seat share at 251 to 256 of 435 members (up to 59% of the total House)-the party’s highest share since the first two years of the Clinton Administration (1993-1995).

This result is unusual because an election year like 2006, registering a big House gain (+30 D) for one party, is usually followed by a consolidation tion, in which the winning party sees just a few seats added or subtracted to its total. For example, in 1974, the Watergate election allowed Democrats to add 48 net House seats. Two years later, even though Democrat Jimmy Carter captured the White House, Democrats simply held steady in the House, gaining just one seat. Similarly, the GOP swamped Democrats in 1994, piling on 52 House seats in the anti-Bill Clinton midterm election, but the next five elections produced relatively little shift in the House. Republicans lost a few seats in 1996, 1998, and 2000, and gained a few in 2002 and 2004, but remained in control of the chamber.

Occasionally, a big election gain in one year leads to significant losses in the next. In 1980 Ronald Reagan’s initial election as President came with strong coattails, and the GOP added 33 House seats. Two years later, in 1982, a serious recession enabled Democrats to win back 26 of the seats they had lost.

It is already certain that 2008 will be more than a consolidation election for House Democrats. At the least they will add half-again as many new seats to their total as they did in 2006, maybe more.

The Democratic tide of 2008 is being augmented by a wide funding disparity between the congressional campaign committees of the two parties. As of August 31, and for the first time in at least two decades, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has out-raised the National Republican Congressional Committee, and by the sizeable margin of $52.3 million to $43.5 million (with cash on hand: $35.1 million D to $4.7 million R).

Furthermore, the open seat situation has helped Democrats all year. Out of 36 open seats for 2008–places where the incumbent member of Congress has decided to step down–over three-quarters (29) are held by Republicans and just 7 by Democrats. Open seats give the opposition party the best chance for a takeover in many instances. As of now, only one retiring Democrat (Bud Cramer of Alabama) is leaving a seat that is very vulnerable to a takeover bid by a Republican, while 14 GOP seats are clearly vulnerable and are rated as TOSS-UP or worse for the GOP.

Here is the current status of all open seat races as of mid-October:

State Dist. Incumbent Rating
AL 5 Bud Cramer Toss-Up
CO 2 Mark Udall Safe D
ME 1 Tom Allen Safe D
NJ 1 Rob Andrews Safe D
NM 3 Tom Udall Safe D
NY 21 Michael McNulty Safe D
OR 5 Darlene Hooley Likely D

State Dist. Incumbent Rating
AL 2 Terry Everett Leans R
AZ 1 Rick Renzi Leans D
CA 4 John Doolittle Likely R
CA 52 Duncan Hunter Safe R
CO 6 Tom Tancredo Safe R
FL 15 Dave Weldon Safe R
IL 11 Jerry Weller Leans D
IL 18 Ray LaHood Likely R
KY 2 Ron Lewis Leans R
LA 4 Jim McCrery Toss-up
MD 1 Wayne Gilchrest Leans R
MN 3 Jim Ramstad
MS 3 Chip Pickering Safe R
MO 9 Kenny Hulshof Leans R
NJ 3 Jim Saxton Toss-up
NJ 7 Mike Ferguson Toss-up
NM 1 Heather Wilson Toss-up
NM 2 Steve Pearce Toss-up
NY 13 Vito Fossella Likely D
NY 25 Jim Walsh Leans D
NY 26 Tom Reynolds Leans R
OH 7 Dave Hobson Safe R
OH 15 Deborah Pryce Toss-up
OH 16 Ralph Regula Toss-up
PA 5 John Peterson Safe R
TN 1 David Davis Safe R
UT 3 Chris Cannon Safe R
VA 11 Tom Davis Likely D
WY AL Barbara Cubin Leans R

And, without further ado, we present our current list (as of mid-October) of all competitive House races:

Republican Held Seats in Play: 55 (144 Safe/Solid R)

Likely R (17) Leans R (16) Toss-up (14) Leans D (6) Likely D (2)
AZ-03 (Shadegg) AL-02 (OPEN) FL-08 (Keller) AK-AL (Young) NY-13 (OPEN)
CA-04 (OPEN) CT-04 (Shays) FL-24 (Feeney) AZ-01 (OPEN) VA-11 (OPEN)
CA-50 (Bilbray) FL-21 (L. Diaz-Balart) LA-04 (OPEN) CO-04 (Musgrave)
FL-13 (Buchanan) FL-25 (M. Diaz-Balart) MI-07 (Walberg) IL-11 (OPEN)
ID-01 (Sali) IL-10 (Kirk) MN-03 (OPEN) NV-03 (Porter)
IL-18 (OPEN) KY-02 (OPEN) NC-08 (Hayes) NY-25 (OPEN)
LA-07 (Boustany) MD-01 (OPEN) NJ-03 (OPEN)
MO-06 (Graves) MI-09 (Knollenberg) NJ-07 (OPEN)
NE-02 (Terry) MO-09 (OPEN) NM-01 (OPEN)
NJ-05 (Garrett) NV-02 (Heller) NM-02 (OPEN)
PA-06 (Gerlach) NY-26 (OPEN) NY-29 (Kuhl)
PA-15 (Dent) OH-02 (Schmidt) OH-01 (Chabot)
PA-18 (Murphy) PA-03 (English) OH-15 (OPEN)
TX-07 (Culberson) VA-02 (Drake) OH-16 (OPEN)
TX-10 (McCaul) WA-08 (Reichert)
VA-05 (Goode) WY-AL (OPEN)
WV-02 (Capito)
TX-23 (Rodriguez)
PA-08 (Murphy)
PA-04 (Altmire)
OR-05 (OPEN)
WI-08 (Kagen) OH-18 (Space)
PA-10 (Carney) NY-24 (Arcuri)
NY-20 (Gillibrand) NY-19 (Hall)
MS-01 (Childers) NH-02 (Hodes)
KY-03 (Yarmuth) MN-01 (Walz)
KS-02 (Boyda) KS-03 (Moore)
TX-22 (Lampson) IL-14 (Foster) IN-09 (Hill)
PA-11 (Kanjorski) GA-08 (Marshall) IN-08 (Ellsworth)
NH-01 (Shea-Porter) CA-11 (McNerney) IL-08 (Bean)
LA-06 (Cazayoux) AZ-08 (Giffords) GA-12 (Barrow)
FL-16 (Mahoney) AL-05 (OPEN) AZ-05 (Mitchell) CT-05 (Murphy)
Likely R (0) Leans R (1) Toss-up (5) Leans D (11) Likely D (15)

Democratic Held Seats in Play: 32 (204 Safe/Solid D)

The most competitive seats are listed as TOSS-UPS, indicating that both sides have a good chance at victory this fall. Many of these are open seats, but some are districts where the incumbent has put him or herself in jeopardy. In total, 14 Republican seats and 5 Democratic seats fit in this category.

The next level of competition, just below the toss-ups, is for seats LEANING to one party or the other. In most of these contests, the incumbent party has a slight advantage, but it is not difficult to imagine the seat being captured by the other party. In other races, the candidate from the non-incumbent party already has a lead and, more likely than not, will win on Election Day. Currently, there are 17 seats leaning to Democratic and 17 which lean to the GOP.

Our final category in this mid-October sorting-out of 2008 House match-ups is LIKELY Democratic or Republican. There are 15 Democrats (almost all of them elected for the first time in 2006) and 17 Republicans (some of whom had close calls in 2006), plus two districts where Democrats are highly likely to switch the seat from Red to Blue. The probability is that a large majority of incumbent congressmen in this category will be reelected, but all the districts bear watching.

If your district is not listed in our toss-up, leans, or likely categories, then you can assume for now the incumbent party has a big leg up to hold it.

With a mere 19 days to go before Election Day, there is not much time left for major upheavals. Nonetheless, we expect at least a few seats to drift between categories of competitiveness. We will update our list each week until the election, with our final predictions for each seat appearing on election eve, November 3rd.