When asked which party should control Congress, Democrats win 52-33, which is the largest lead any party has had in 13 years and is a larger lead for the Democrats than they had two years ago. Anyone who cites the high disapproval numbers for Congress as proof that the public has wearied of the Democratic majority is kidding himself. We are probably looking at another year of a net gain of 30 seats for Democrats, and perhaps more than that depending on how the public mood changes over the summer with gas prices continuing to rise. Since the GOP is likely to suffer through another horrible election, how bad will it be and where will they suffer losses?
Looking over CQ‘s race ratings and the latest news, we can start with VA-11, Tom Davis’ seat, which is now considered a toss-up. This isn’t entirely surprising, as it is a northern Virginia suburban district that has been trending towards the Democrats for some time along with the rest of northern Virginia. Eleven other seats are extremely vulnerable or leaning towards the Democrats: Young’s At-Large district in Alaska, MN-03, NC-08, NJ-07, NM-01, NY-25, OH-15, OH-16, and WA-08 are all toss-ups, and the AZ-01 and IL-11 open seats are very likely to flip. All except for Young and the North Carolina district held by Hayes are open seats that have been vacated for reasons of retirement, running for other offices or indictment, and Young is vulnerable because of the haze of corruption that has been hanging over Alaskan Republican politics for the last several years and threatens also to drag down Ted Stevens in the Senate. Hayes’ seat seems to be in jeopardy (again) because of the same shift away from the GOP that elected Heath Shuler two years ago and may push Liddy Dole out of the Senate this year. Of course, Hayes barely survived last time and faces a re-match against Larry Kissell, whom he defeated by 329 votes. It seems quite likely, especially given Republican weakness even at the presidential level in N.C., that Hayes will be defeated.
Since its creation in 1968, New Mexico’s 1st District has never elected a Democrat. As an open seat in a Democratic-trending district, NM-01 may finally flip, but the dynamic may have changed to the extent that alienated Republicans and independents who refused to vote for Heather Wilson and who even voted for Madrid last time may be inclined to support the Republican, Darren White. Wilson won by the narrowest of margins, but White might be able to improve on her showing because of his local popularity as county sheriff. I assumed Madrid would win last time, but this year I am not so sure that the Democrats can take it over.
The Ohio, New York, New Jersey and Minnesota open seats listed above are probably going to be lost to the Democrats. In addition to the 25th District, the 26th, vacated by Tom Reynolds of Foley scandal and failed NRCC chairmanship fame, is also very vulnerable despite its official ranking. The open seat vacated by Fossella on
Long Staten Island is unusually vulnerable as a suburban district in the Northeast where the GOP label is in particularly bad disrepute (thanks in part to the news about Fossella’s extra family). Florida’s 13th District only very narrowly went for Buchanan last time amid much controversy about vote-counting (as usual), so it is likely quite vulnerable. Schmidt and Chabot in Ohio and Gerlach in Pennsylvania will be hard-pressed to survive another Democratic wave. I assume that at least two out of these three lose. Idaho’s 1st is never guaranteed, considering how unlikeable Sali is, and Wyoming’s At-Large will probably once again be more competitive than Wyoming should ever be. Cubin was the candidate, as you may recall, who derided and mocked the wheelchair-bound Libertarian candidate after a debate. All of the competitive Illinois districts –6th, 10th and 18th–are probably going to be even more competitive this year. The open seat in MD-01, brought about by the short-sighted tactics of the Club for Growth, is likely going to be vulnerable, and the same goes for FL-15 and NM-02. The incumbents in Michigan and the ever-embattled Chris Shays in Connecticut will have great difficulty resisting another wave. Safer than most of the others, but still at risk are Kuhl and English, who faced stiff challenges last cycle but who were able to put together solid wins.
All of this is subject to change, but it is easy to see how the Democrats can get to a 30-seat gain this year in the House. the best chances the GOP has are the open seat in Alabama and FL-16, Mark Foley’s old district. Nancy Boyda’s endorsement of Obama may come back to haunt her in her district, partly because she succeeded against Jim Ryun because she kept her distance from national Democrats last cycle. It may be a mistake for her to associate herself with the national party now that she is an incumbent, but it’s not clear that the Republicans will be able to recover that seat.