Will Dems retake House? It's too early to tell, say campaign officials

Demographics and dislike for Trump work to Democrats' advantage, but congressional campaign officials are cautious with their predictions.

Michael Bonfigli/The Christian Science Monitor
At a Monitor breakfast June 13, Kelly Ward and Ben Ray Luján of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee see the growth of younger and more diverse voters as a plus for Democrats in November.

Leaders of Democrats’ efforts to win additional US House seats argue demographic trends are working in their favor along with Donald Trump’s controversial bid for the presidency. But they add it is too soon to predict whether Democrats will regain a House majority in the 2016 elections.

“The House battlefield is shifting and it is shifting in a way that will naturally benefit Democrats,” says Kelly Ward, executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC). She spoke at a Monitor-hosted breakfast for reporters along with Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D) of New Mexico, the DCCC chairman.

“The electorate is getting more diverse, the electorate is getting younger,” and migration patterns show movement from Republican House districts to Democratic ones, Ms. Ward said.

Democratic leaders also contend that Mr. Trump’s presence at the top of the Republican ticket will accelerate the improving outlook for their  House candidates. 

“The same voters who are creating those opportunities for us and are making … districts competitive are the voters that like Donald Trump the least,” Ward says. In addition to rocky poll ratings from young and minority voters, Ward notes that candidate Trump is viewed unfavorably by 59 percent of suburban voters, 62 percent of independents, and 65 percent of people with a college degree.

Ward and Congressman Luján were cautious in assessing the potential impact of Sunday’s terrorist attack in Orlando on the battle for control of the House. Republicans have traditionally had an advantage on national security issues. 

“Clearly the American people right now have real fears about national security at home and abroad,” Luján said. “They are also very concerned about how we approach these serious issues. Voters do not want a reckless national security policy centered around outlandish proposals. Sadly, that is what we are hearing from the GOP nominee, Donald Trump.”

Luján cited a tweet from Trump after the shooting that said, “Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism, I don't want congrats, I want toughness & vigilance. We must be smart!”

Luján’s response was, “Look no further than how Trump reacted yesterday to the Orlando shooting, focused on taking credit for being right and calling on President Obama to resign. These are not signs of a leader.”

While citing reasons for optimism about Democrats’ prospects for winning additional House seats, Ward and Luján avoided predicting whether Democrats could win control in November. Democrats would have to pick up a net of 30 seats to regain control. Of the 435 House seats, Republicans control 247, Democrats 188.

A complicating factor for Democrats is the prolonged battle between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. “Because it has taken so long to get to the general election debate, it has taken longer for the House battlefield to solidify…. It is several months later than we normally would want,” Ward said. “House races are a lagging indicator of the national dynamic.”

Katie Martin, communications director for the National Republican Congressional Committee, recently told The Washington Post that talk of Democrats regaining control of the House was a “far-fetched fantasy.”

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.