Political Animal


September 20, 2012 3:03 PM GOP House At Risk?

By Ed Kilgore

It’s been safe, not to say superstitious, to discount the occasional happy-talk from Democrats this year about the possibility of retaking control of the U.S. House. After all, GOPers were able to do some significant work via redistricting to strengthen the marginal seats they won in 2010, and with a very close presidential election, there’s only so much juice Dems could get from “over-exposure” of recently won seats and changes in turnout patterns (which regardless of the presidential horse-race numbers, naturally switch from strongly-pro-GOP in midterm elections to a much better situation for Democrats in presidential years).

But now comes Sam Wang of the Princeton Election Consortium with a careful and credible analysis projecting that if the election were held today, Democrats would win back the House by a 16-seat margin.

The main issue with this analysis is that it does not use district-level data. In the coming weeks, those surveys will become more abundant. In 2008, district polls did a very good job of estimating the outcome - on Election Eve. Six weeks out, the generic ballot preference is the week-to-week indicator that is available….
It should be noted that current conditions emphasize the post-convention bounce, which could be transient. Conversely, if the Democratic lead increases, that would take House control out of the knife-edge territory that I defined previously.

Wow. November 6 is still more than six weeks away, and as Wang notes, generic ballot numbers are not always precisely predictive. But gotta ask, if you think conservatives are going to be insanely frustrated if Barack Obama is re-elected, how freaked out will they be if John Boehner has to hand the gavel back to Nancy Pelosi? Talk about blame-shifting and endless recrimination!

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Mitch on September 20, 2012 3:19 PM:

    Remember all of that, "A Romney loss this year would end the GOP" talk that some of them were spouting off not to long ago? Losing the House would just about seal that deal.

    Recent history has taught us that the GOP only grows more extreme upon suffering a loss. They did it in the '90s, they did it after '08. Losing both the White House and the the House would push them into realms of madness not seen in American politics in more than a century. Guaranteed.

    This is both a reason to be cheerful, and a reason to be worried. After all, how much more extreme can they become?

    Still, I'm not one to act out of fear, so let's do what we can to kick the Repugs out of Congress. Vote, donate and get everyone you know to vote as well!

  • Josef K on September 20, 2012 3:30 PM:

    Talk about blame-shifting and endless recrimination!

    I disagree. Sure there would be the semi-customary blood-letting, but then the GOP would go back to its chosen role of revolutionary obstructionism (or try to, anyway; one holds out hope Senator Reid will go forward with his fillibuster reforms).

    Let's face it; these clowns only work well when they're the opposition. They couldn't produce a positive agenda to save their collective lives.

  • T2 on September 20, 2012 3:31 PM:

    I'm not too sure of Wang's prediction...nice as it would be. When Romney loses, no tears will be shed by either the Crazy wing or the Not So Crazy wing of the GOP. They'll finally be rid of a guy they didn't like anyway...his "turn" will be done. Having said that, however, who can they turn to in 2016 that wouldn't be actually worse than Romney?
    I sure can't name anyone. As it stands today, Romney would be the best choice they could make in 2016.

  • boatboy_srq on September 20, 2012 3:41 PM:

    And all I can think of is "oh, the grandness of the scale to which Conservatism can be failed."

  • Mitch on September 20, 2012 3:45 PM:


    "... who can they turn to in 2016 ..."

    My money is on George Prescott Garnica Bush, son of Jeb. Yes, he's a Bush, but that won't make much of a difference to any Republicans after 8 years of Democratic leadership. Especially since his is *only* Dubya's nephew. Read about him, if you are unfamiliar with him. He's tailor-made to represent the next generation of Republicans, for number of reasons, not the least of which being his mixed ethnic heritage.

    Assuming, of course, that the GOP doesn't collapse, split or become a pure party of theocratic Tea Pary madness. George P. will be one who can convince people that he's more moderate than GOP extremists. Why, you could even say that he's a compassionate conservative.


  • BillFromPA on September 20, 2012 3:48 PM:

    Perhaps their heads will literally explode as opposed to the figurative explosions Obama's election engendered. One can dream.

  • Ron Byers on September 20, 2012 3:55 PM:

    Talk about blame-shifting and endless recrimination!

    Let's do all we can to make that happen. I have a popcorn addiction.

  • T2 on September 20, 2012 3:58 PM:

    @mitch, I'm sorry, but the Republican Party is not going to nominate a hispanic.

  • bdop4 on September 20, 2012 4:04 PM:

    The public reaction to Romney's comments concerning the "47%" have been decidedly negative, but are they an outlier with respect to House incumbents and the the party platform in general? I don't think so.

    If Dems really go after all GOP candidates on this issue, a House majority is definitely a possibility. But it's not going to be handed to us.

  • Peter C on September 20, 2012 4:07 PM:

    We could absolutely have a wave election.

    First, the Congress' approval ratings are at RECORD LOWS (in the low teens). If there is a strong 'THROW THE BUMS OUT!' sentiment, the majority party has more to lose than the minority party.

    Second, while gerrymandering, if you are greedy, you often lump all of those likely to vote against you in one district and then distribute your voters so in all the other districts you have a 52% - 48% advantage. If only 2/3 or your voters show up and 3/4 of your opponent's voters go to the polls, you lose.

    Third, Romney, by picking Ryan, has tied the presidential race to the current Republican Congress. If Obama runs against both Romney and the Republican Congress which has been so obstructive (and has voted in lock-step) Romney's unpopularity could carry over to the whole Republican brand. If Obama is running against the Republican Brand, people are not going to split their ticket.

    Getting out front early will help us. I think the low-information Republicans have been programmed to tie their self-worth to the idea that they picked 'the winner' (They chant "USA!, USA!, USA! IN YOUR FACE!" at the hockey game, not because THEY are brilliant hockey players, but because wish to be associated with them). As Romney is seen as the obvious loser, I think many will melt away.

    It is time for a full-court press.

  • c u n d gulag on September 20, 2012 4:08 PM:

    If the Democrats take back the House, I hope someone has the forsight to give the people who answer the Suicide Hotlines that night and the next day, some time off.

    After all, THEY'RE part of the 47%.

  • MuddyLee on September 20, 2012 4:09 PM:

    Why can't the Dems take back the House? Jim Graves (unknown) is only trailing Michele Bachmann (too well known) by 2 points. Most of the obstruct the vote efforts by the repubs are failing. Media seem to be reporting on how radical the Romney/Ryan ideas and statements are. Ayn Rand gets mentioned almost as much as Paul Ryan's name - on the internet anyway. The repubs are living up to the worst stereotypes a liberal could come up with for them. The repub moderates hate the tea party types - the election might not destroy the GOP, but they will be wounded - maybe even a reverse of 2010.

  • Easter Lemming on September 20, 2012 4:15 PM:

    The American Taliban have seized control of the GOP and will not give it back. Defeats this year just mean they weren't zealous enough in promoting God. Expect to see Huckabee or Santorum in 2016.

  • N.Wells on September 20, 2012 4:22 PM:

    If there has ever been a time that merits a nation-wide wave elections, this is it. The Republicans have been in total lock-step to obstruct everything positive, so they justly deserve to implode in lock-step. Even if your Republican congress-critter or senate-slug seems like a reasonable person, he or she has been enabling some really atrocious political misbehavior, and so deserves removal, on the grounds of being unfit to serve the national interest.

  • Doug on September 20, 2012 4:54 PM:

    I, too, am hoping for a "wave" election for the Democrats.
    As to what happens AFTER? As noted, since 1992 the Republican "base" has gained greater control in the GOP and shifted the GOP further, all the while electing members of Congress who are more and more representative of that very "base".
    I think these people are about to find out why they were kept OUT of the public eye for so many decades...

  • smartalek on September 20, 2012 4:58 PM:

    @Easter Lemming:

    We should be so lucky.
    It'll be Nehemiah Scudder.

  • Mitch on September 20, 2012 5:17 PM:


    I'll take that bet, T2 (just not for $10K like Romney). George P. is a Bush and, well, he's only half-Hispanic. They are not too stupid to note demographics. Religious/Conservative Hispanics are fertile ground for the GOP, and they will be needed if the GOP hopes to survive.

    His (half) ethnicity won't matter to the GOP base as much as, say, Romney's religion matters today in the Bible Belt, and it will matter less and less as the years go by. Indeed it will help the "prove" that they are not racist; and they are definitely fond of "proving" such things, even now. This will become more important as demographics conitnue to change.

    Unless the GOP goes full-bore Tea Bag Zealot, or collapses/splits (as I hedged in my previous post), he's the best bet to expand their chances.

    Young, qualified and from a "good" Republican family. The Bush stigma will have faded 4 years in the future. And he's not Dubya's kid, so even that connection will be watered down. Jeb, after all, is still rather popular among the GOP.

  • Varecia on September 20, 2012 5:21 PM:

    I don't let myself go there, as tempting as it is. I just keep canvassing, and keep talking to as many people as I can. And keep urging people to VOTE EARLY!

  • Quatrain Gleam on September 20, 2012 5:32 PM:

    As Greg Palast reports, 23 million registered voters were knocked off the lists since 2008. Most of the polls probably haven't taken this decrease in eligible voters into account.


  • Mitch on September 20, 2012 5:34 PM:


    I've been re-reading some Heinlein lately. I'll never agree with everything that he wrote, but that does sound about right. Scudder would fit right in with the modern GOP.

    My suggestion of George P. Bush as the 2016 nominee is based on the GOP attempting to regain a "moderate" public image (but not actually moderate their platform at all), much like Dubya back in 2000. Dubya ran as a reasonable, practically centrist, candidate. And we all know how that turned out.

    It is very easy to believe that the GOP (or much of it anyway) will go right on to an out-and-out Theocratic Platform. But since I am very paranoid over theocrats, I try not to worry about that too much. I don't want to beat a dead horse (see the comments under http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/political-animal-a/2012_09/fire_in_a_crowded_theater039961.php if you want to hear me rant a bit too much about the dangers of theocracy), although it does seem to me that someone like Scudder could easily rise to power in our nation. FSM help us all.

  • Daniel Kim on September 20, 2012 5:49 PM:

    "Talk about blame-shifting and endless recrimination!"
    Oh, I can hardly wait!

    Of course, I stated years ago that the Republican party would be radioactive for a generation, after the shambles left behind by GW Bush, and look what happened then. I can hardly dare hope that the nation has finally learned its lesson.

    Still, if the forces of darkness . . . the GOP(oops) is in fact cleansed from the halls, I hope it will not be followed by a round of irrational exuberance and hubris on the part of the Democrats. There are reasons why so much of the country is sour on the "liberal" brand, and it's not all propaganda. I hope that a Democratic majority will conduct itself with due sobriety and restraint, lest it lose the mandate of the people.

    I also hope that enough civic responsibility will exist to make certain fundamentals a priority: campaign finance reform, financial regulation, lobbyist restriction, and restoration of civil rights and government accountability measures. (oh, and union-friendly labor relations and a top marginal tax rate of 70 percent. I can dream, can't I?)

  • John on September 20, 2012 6:04 PM:

    That would be so cool. I would love to see Nancy Pelosi back as Speaker.

  • Joemcph on September 21, 2012 7:58 AM:

    Why cede "conservative" to right wing authoritarians? Faux conservatism of R&R & "Republican" leadership are not conservative. The NY "Conservative" Party that opposes any candidate who dares support same sex marriage or abortion is authoritarian, not conservative.
    As former (Rep.)Senator & Episcopal minister John Danforth wrote in the NYT (03/30/05) on the need to rediscover conservative, republican principles:
    ”The problem is not with people or churches that are politically active. It is with a party that has gone so far in adopting a sectarian agenda that it has become the political extension of a religious movement." http://www.nytimes.com/2005/03/30/opinion/30danforth.html?_r=1&pagewanted=print&position=

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