Yesterday, Nancy Pelosi told Christiane Amanpour that she was “not nervous at all” about Democrats keeping control after the upcoming midterms. ABC’s Rick Klein says that her fellow Democrats don’t share that sense of calm — and for good reason. Stuart Rothenberg puts the number of seats at risk in this election at 88, with only 12 of those belonging to the GOP. That gives Republicans 64 chances (net) to get to 39 seats, and in this environment, all of those numbers may be conservative, especially with two ethics trials pending in the House:
Democrats now hold a 39-seat edge in the House. Yet the playing field continues to expand: The Rothenberg Political Report currently lists 88 seats as “in play.” Seventy-six of those seats currently are held by Democrats.
Many of the same places that helped build the president’s winning coalition in his race against Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. — states such as Ohio, Indiana, Virginia, and Pennsylvania — could be the places where Republicans rack up the gains they need to take back the House.
In many of those districts, the Obama agenda has been widely unpopular. House members are left defending votes on items including the stimulus, bailouts, health care and cap-and-trade that have grown more unpopular with the passage of time.
It means that the president and his agenda will very much be on the ballot — while the president himself won’t be the best position to help Democrats play defense.
Not only will the President not be on the ballot to drive turnout, he may not be on the stump much, either. In Texas, for instance, the Democratic incumbents have declared him persona non grata for now:
When President Barack Obama visits Texas on Aug. 9, the state’s top-tier Democratic candidate, gubernatorial nominee Bill White, will likely be miles away, reaching out to voters in Johnson County near Fort Worth.
Another Democratic hopeful for statewide office, Austin attorney Hector Uribe, says he’ll be focused on his bid to unseat Republican Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson. Barbara Radnofsky, the Democrats’ nominee for attorney general, says she too will be preoccupied with campaigning and has no plans to attend an Obama event.
In red-state Texas, many Democratic office-seekers don’t seem inclined to cozy up to Obama when he makes his third presidential visit to the state — and some, in fact, may feel more comfortable moving away from him.
Obama turned box-office boffo to box-office poison in a record amount of time. That’s no accident, as Rothenberg argues, nor was it inevitable, but the result of the failure of Democrats to properly attend to the economy:
Let’s be clear about where we all would be if unemployment were actually at 4 percent right now.
Most of the hand-wringing about jobs and the economy would be gone, stronger employment numbers would mean a more vibrant economy (which almost certainly would mean higher federal and state revenues and lower deficits) and polling undoubtedly would show the president with better numbers, Congress with a higher approval rating and the Democratic Party more popular than it is now. Because of that, the huge enthusiasm gap that now exists and is likely to fuel GOP gains in November would be much smaller or nonexistent. …
Actions, indeed, do have consequences. In this case, the combination of an aggressive Democratic agenda, a weak jobs recovery and a large deficit has created a political environment very different from the one 18 months ago, when Democrats won a special election in New York’s open 20th district by demonizing Republicans for waffling on, then opposing, Obama’s economic stimulus plan.
It’s very difficult to imagine Republican gains in the House of fewer than two dozen seats, and my own newsletter, after going race by race, recently placed likely GOP gains in the range of 28 to 33 seats, if not higher.
Anyone disputing that the House is at “great risk” of flipping to the GOP is “simply not worth listening to,” Rothenburg concludes. That’s certainly true of Nancy Pelosi.