Looking at national polls, it may seem like a rough year ahead for Republicans in the U.S. House. But looking at the data, you can come to only one conclusion regarding the 2006 elections: The U.S. House will doubtless remain in Republican hands.And as the lone OregonCatalyst blogger in Washington, DC, I’m going to tell you why: There is no place left in America for the Democrats to grow, while there is plenty of room for GOP growth.
Republicans now hold 231 seats in the U.S. House, with 202 Democrats, and one left-leaning independent. (One seat in Southern California is open with a special election likely in April.) Of the 435 House districts, President Bush won 255. Republicans won congressional elections in 18 districts won by John Kerry, but Democrats hold 41 seats won by President Bush.
As these seats open up over time, and as Republicans knock out old-school liberals like John Spratt, who represents a conservative district in South Carolina that Bush carried by 15% in 2004, the Republican majority will trend toward a 255-180 majority.
The incumbent advantage shared by Republicans doesn’t hurt, either. Because of high name identification and the ability of members to contact their constituents concerning policy issues, incumbents win overwhelmingly in House elections. Only two races in the 2004 election cycle (outside of those redistricted in Texas) saw challengers knock out incumbents.
That incumbent advantage is illustrated by the limited number of seats labeled “competitive” by Washington insiders. According to political analyst Charlie Cook, who publishes the Cook Political Report, there are only 28 competitive seats in the U.S. House. (Five of those are open seats — three currently held by retiring Republicans, and two by Democrats.)
For Democrats to take back the majority, they would not only have to defend all of their own seats (including folk like Illinois freshman Democrat Melissa Bean, who will be challenged from the Left, and Georgia Democrats Jim Marshall and John Barrow, who lost tens of thousands of Democrat voters in their districts due to redistricting), they would also have to win 15 out of 16 of the competitive “Republican” seats.
Good luck with that — especially considering that the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) currently has roughly a 2-1 cash-on-hand advantage over the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC).
The national news may sound bad. But there is almost a year until the elections, and the data, money, and members will keep us in the majority.
Some races to watch for a GOP pickup:
Democrat Ted Strickland is running for Governor. Republican state Rep. Chuck Blasdell holds an overwhelmingly Democratic house seat in this congressional district and is raising a lot of money for his race. What about Democratic candidate, Charlie Wilson? Let’s just say the Democrats won’t be talking about the “culture of corruption” when they run ads in this race.
This is the seat held by independent Bernie Sanders, who’s running for the US Senate. As Sanders is a self-avowed socialist, the true leftists in this district don’t want to see the seat go merely Democrat, so a far-left candidate is running as an independent, and is running and is guaranteed a 15% showing at least, votes that will come from whichever Democrat is nominated. Republican Martha Rainville, the state’s national guard commander, is one of the best GOP candidates in America.
Democrat Melissa Bean won this Republican seat last year by ousting an aged Republican who had severely neglected his district. Bean voted for CAFTA, which angered organized labor, and a third-party labor candidate has announced. Three well-financed Republicans are in the race to take her on in the general election.
Republicans redistricted after a Democrat redistricting plan drew some of the strangest-shaped, most gerrymandered districts in the country. Democrats John Barrow (GA-12) and Jim Marshall (GA-12) lose thousands of democrats under the new map, as both seats are now split approximately 50-50 in voter registration.