In Election 2012, how much is the House in play? Three sides to the story.
Steve Israel outlines his scenario for the Democrats winning back the House. Pete Sessions says the GOP could actually increase its hold. Analysts say the reality is somewhere in between.
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“I know of not one Republican candidate who would not appear publicly with Mitt Romney and I know of many Democrats that don’t even want to be in the same city, forget the same stage, with President Obama,” Sessions said.Skip to next paragraph
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Israel didn’t exactly push back hard on the idea.
“We've told our candidates if you agree with the president, state your agreement. If you disagree with the president, state your disagreement,” Israel said. “It’s that simple.”
But it isn’t as if House Republicans are gleeful about Romney’s candidacy.
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R) of Texas, a frequent dissenter from mainline Republican talking points, jabbed Romney thus in April:
“If you are not sure about wanting to support Mitt Romney, whether you are liberal, whether you are very conservative, you ought to be excited because he’s been on your side at one time or another,” Mr. Gohmert said in a conversation with reporters.
He followed that up with some tepid praise of Romney: “I’m not as excited as I am desperate.”
Israel flips the dynamic, saying unpopular congressional figures could easily do damage to their up-ballot nominee.
“The question is whether Mitt Romney wants to appear with any House Republicans,” he said. “Has Pete taken a look at the polling on House Republicans lately? I think Mitt Romney probably has.”
Republicans look to lock-in gains
Whatever the presidential impact, Sessions concedes the closeness of the race, but thinks that Republicans are going to come out even or with a small net gain.
That’s for two reasons, chiefly. First, Sessions sees economic headwinds for Obama as a gust at the backs of congressional Republicans.
“The feeling out in the field … is that I believe that our Republican candidates have an effective message and that Democrats are on the defensive because of the stunningly bad [economic] numbers that keep arriving,” Sessions said.
That's in part because Republicans feel they've consolidated their hold on at least 14 GOP-held districts by stuffing them with right-leaning voters through redistricting.
The hope, they said, is to bake in strong Republican majorities for the next decade.
Israel argues that Democrats have avoided the redistricting buzz-saw many predicted for their members.
“Adding any further advantage to an already-safe Republican will have no net effect on the number of seats Republicans win,” wrote Democratic Congressional Campaign Committtee Executive Director Robby Mook in a recent memo on redistricting. “What matters is whether the playing field has stayed strong for Democrats – and it has.”
While Democrats may have avoided getting ripped asunder by redistricting as some early estimates forecast, the redistricting process has not been totally kind, Wasserman wrote in a recent article on the overall state of House races.
“Because redistricting's effect was largely to reinforce the status quo (with the major exception of California), there's no question that Democrats would have a slightly better chance of winning the House if the 2012 elections were still held under the 2010 lines,” Wasserman wrote.
Taken together, then – electoral math, the impact of the presidential race, and redistricting – which party is more likely to be holding the gavel in the 113th Congress’ lower chamber?
As one might expect, the nonpartisan consensus is somewhere between the two parties. A gain by Republicans is, in the opinion of expert House watchers like the Cook Political Report and the Rothenberg Report, very unlikely.
Wasserman estimates that Democrats will likely net a gain of five to 15 seats. The Rothenberg report foresees a “single digit” gain for Democrats as “most likely.”
Sessions, with a wry nod toward his deputy, noted “there are only two people in Washington who believe” the GOP could pick up House seats in November.
Making a Difference