September 19, 2004


Democrats Reassess Prospects to Win House : As Kerry's Momentum Lags, Hopes of Regaining Majority of Seats Dim, Analysts Say (Charles Babington, September 19, 2004, Washington Post)

Many GOP leaders say that their House majority is safe, and that it might even expand on Nov. 2. They point to statistics suggesting that the Democratic goal is extremely difficult. Republicans control 229 House seats, while Democrats have 206 (including a friendly independent). With Democrats failing to contest a reconfigured Texas district they now hold, they will have to pick up 13 seats in November to gain a bare majority. (Two Democratic gains in special elections this year -- in Kentucky and South Dakota -- were offset when lawmakers elected as Democrats in Texas and Louisiana switched to the GOP.)

Analysts say there are fewer than 35 competitive House races this fall, with each party defending 15 to 17 at-risk seats. For Democrats to regain the majority they lost a decade ago, "they would have to win everything in the open seats and hold all their own," said Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds (R-N.Y.), chairman of the GOP's House campaign committee. They do not need a breeze, he said, "they need a monsoon."

The Democrats' task is more daunting than Reynolds suggested. They could win all eight of the competitive open seats (Republicans now hold five of those), and reelect each of their endangered incumbents, and still fall well short of the majority. To control the House, Democrats must do all of that, plus topple several GOP incumbents.

Political insiders and local reporters do not see that happening -- for now, at least -- in part because there is no national mood remotely resembling the anti-Democratic fervor of the 1994 elections or the deeply anti-Republican sentiments that sprang from the Watergate scandal in 1974.
A prime target is first-term Rep. Rick Renzi (R-Ariz.), who won a three-way race in 2002 with less than 50 percent of the vote. Democrats crowed this year when they recruited Paul Babbitt, brother of former interior secretary Bruce Babbitt. But a new poll by the Social Research Laboratory of Northern Arizona University shows Renzi still leading Babbitt by 11 percentage points, virtually identical to an April poll's findings.

And there's no way an incumbent Republican can lose while the President is winning his state by double digits.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 19, 2004 4:28 PM

The juiciest thing about this is just imagining how teeth-gritted furious the WaPo was to have to write that headline.

You can also see them thinking, "Hopefully the Kerry campaign will understand our warning." Too late, guys.

Posted by: Tom at September 20, 2004 8:48 PM