House Outlook For 2006
While Democrats have failed to recruit the top tier candidates that they would like in places such as Arizona 1, Pennsylvania 15, Missouri 6 and Iowa 2, they have broadened the playing field elsewhere and recruited enough credible lower first-tier/upper second-tier hopefuls to win the House if the Democratic wave is big enough in November.
The national mood remains bleak for Republicans. President George W. Bush’s poll numbers have not rebounded, and there is no reason to believe that they will before the fall midterm elections. The public still gives low marks to Congress and tells pollsters that the country is headed in the wrong direction.
At the district level, voters are more critical of GOP incumbents than they usually are at this point in the election cycle. Democratic voters are already polarized against Republican House members, so Democratic challengers can focus their efforts at wooing Independents and disgruntled Republicans, rather than mobilizing their Democratic base.
The only bit of good news for Republicans has been the growing mention of ethically challenged Democratic congressmen in the media. That could dilute the impact of ethics as a purely partisan issue, but the issue is still likely to hurt Republicans disproportionately in the fall, especially since GOP congressmen and staffers will continue to get attention by being linked to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
We believe that the House definitely is “in play,” and the key to whether Republicans can maintain control is whether they can discredit individual Democratic challengers who otherwise would be positioned to win. We are increasing our estimate of likely Democratic gains from 5-8 seats to 7-10 seats (they need to net 15 seats for control), with a bias toward even greater Democratic gains.
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