Why Democrats can’t win back the House

8/11/14
 
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from USAToday,
8/11/14:

Congressional approval ratings hover at historic lows. The Republican Party’s brand has tanked. More people than ever think their own congressman should be sent packing. And the most notable act in one of the most unproductive legislative periods on record was shutting down the government for 16 days.

Yet Republicans are forecast to pick up as many as a dozen U.S. House seats this November, strengthening their grip on the House majority. “I’d rather be us than them,” crows Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., who chairs the House GOP’s 2014 campaign operation.

Democrats say they expect to make gains in the House, but Republicans have a host of built-in advantages this year, including:

• Recently redrawn districts have resulted in fewer competitive seats.

• Historical midterm-election-year trends indicate a limited Democratic turnout.

• President Obama’s waning popularity is part of a political climate suggesting that Democrats cannot expect a “wave” election to turn the tide in their favor.

Democrats and Republicans are locked in a competitive struggle over who will control the U.S. Senate next year. But barring a seismic political event between now and Election Day, the GOP’s control of the U.S. House is not in question. Here’s why.

If it ain’t got that swing

It’s hard to win the hand when the deck is stacked.

Today, roughly 50 districts in the 435-member House make up the entirety of the 2014 battleground.

The non-partisan Cook Political Report ranks just 16 of those districts, 13 held by Democrats and three by Republicans, as competitive enough that neither party has a clear advantage with fewer than 100 days to go before Election Day.

The current House makeup includes 234 Republicans and 199 Democrats, and there are two vacant seats that are safely Democratic. That means Democrats need a net gain of 17 seats for a takeover. They’d have to pick up 17 Republican seats and lose none of their own, or make even greater gains in GOP territory to make up for any losses.

The downside for Democrats?

They won’t have a chance to run in new, redesigned districts until the 2022 elections.

To Democrats’ advantage, their long-term future includes a broader, more diverse and expanding base of young people, women and minorities.

To Democrats’ detriment, their voters are less likely to show up in midterm elections than Republicans’ older and whiter base.

To Democrats’ 2014 peril, this year is on track to maintain that trend.

“I don’t believe Democrats can get control of the House. I do believe they might pick up some seats,” he says. In a recent detailed analysis, Gans found that primary turnout has been low throughout the first 25 states to hold those contests. Only 18 million of the 123 million voters eligible to cast primary ballots did so thus far this year.

Low primary turnout isn’t necessarily indicative of low turnout come November.

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