BAYHAM: Blue Wave Or Blue Ripple In The House?

There’s been a great deal of speculation about the potential (or considering the news source probable) loss of control of the US House of Representatives by the Republican Party.

And to be fair, the speculation has a great deal of validity.

The 2018 midterm congressional contest is the same period of the election cycle when the GOP threw out the Democrats in 1994 and 2010, as the party in power (a fancy way of saying the party that occupies the White House) generally suffers losses in Congress, due to a highly motivated and angry voter base by the party that was on the short end of the previous presidential election.

As the first two years of a presidential administration tends to be the ideal time push their agenda through, the enactment of those policies and programs are considered repugnant to the party out of power. Consider the Brady Bill and tax hike by Bill Clinton during his first two years and office and the passage of ObamaCare by Donald Trump’s predecessor in 2010.

In politics there’s an adage that while a man will walk a mile to vote for someone, he will walk five miles to vote against someone.

Thusly the historic trend is rooted to a large degree in human nature.

Now the trend is not absolute as George W. Bush scored a windfall of 2 US Senate seats and 8 House seats in 2002.  The circumstances of the surprising Republican gains were unique, being in the aftermath of 9-11 and the correction of an unusual Missouri US Senate election where a sympathy-driven campaign led to a dead Democrat defeating the Republican incumbent.

However the dynamics of 2018 are closer to those of 1994 and 2010 as there is no shortage of white-hot rage by a Democratic Party still hilariously traumatized by the election of Trump.

The retirement factor is a big help to the Democrats, as only 8 members of their House caucus are leaving Congress while 26 Republicans are calling it quits.  The last time a comparable number of Republican US Representatives opted to retire was in 2008 when 27 Republicans left Washington on their own volition and the Democrats scooped up a net of 21 seats.

Retirements are significant because while the electorate tends to think lowly of Congress they generally like their congressman, as so many are regularly elected.  Also unless faced by a self-funder with deep pockets, the incumbent is usually able to out-fundraise a challenger.

As of right now Republicans hold 240 seats (I’m including the five vacancies that were held by GOP congressmen who resigned) while the Democrats hold 195 (once again, counting the two vacancies in their caucus that were previous held by members of their party), giving the GOP a majority of 45 and requiring a Democratic net pick up of 23 to wrest the speaker’s gavel from a departing Paul Ryan by a single vote.

While I would like to see the GOP retain control of the house, imagine the fun of watching Nancy Pelosi trying to win her own caucus and then a roll call for speaker with a majority of one!

Now a pick up of 23 or more seats would not be that groundbreaking – Republicans netted an astounding 63 House seats in 2010 while Democrats took back control of the House in 2006 with a balance of 30 pick ups in 2006.

Flush with rage and cash, Democrats have the potential to do that and better next Tuesday.

And they got some help by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, which threw out the legislatively-drawn congressional district map from 2011 and took it upon itself to create their own map – a map that political observers believe will result in the Democrats scoring at least three new seats and potentially as many as five.

It should be noted that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court consists of five Democrats and two Republicans.  Some resistance members wear black masks, others wear black robes.

So what’s really in play?

Real Clear Politics has classified 14 GOP seats as likely lost to the Democrats and projects there are 32 decisive congressional seats that are up for grabs, with a Democratic basement of 202 and a Republican basement of 199.

The GOP must win 19 of the 32 to maintain control, unless the voters of the “lost” districts in Pennsylvania and New Jersey have not been tipping their hands to pollsters.

The good news is that 29 of them are currently Republican seats and only 3 Democratic seats (2 in Nevada- home to a tough GOP Senate defense and a southern Minnesota district).

The big question for Republicans is how great is the enthusiasm gap with the Democrats.

Are the disgruntled Democrats truly larger than the motivated Republican voters or are they just louder (and more insufferable)?

While there’s not questioning that Trump is the most polarizing figure in America, Rasmussen has Trump’s approval rating is underwater by a relatively small 3% while YouGov has Trump in Davy Jones’s Locker. It should be noted that YouGov also gave Hillary Clinton the presidency and a minimum….let me repeat…A MINIMUM of 317 electoral votes in 2016.

My feeling is that the Republicans will lose seats in the House but not catastrophically, probably just enough to keep a slim majority.

But what do I know? I’m not a pro like the folks over at YouGov.

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