Ah, sweet pessimism: Hotline explains why Dems will keep the House

Finally, eeyorepundit can breathe again. Reid Wilson explains:

[T]he Democratic apocalypse isn’t guaranteed just yet. In fact, senior Democratic strategists say they’re not only likely to keep the House, but they believe the GOP won’t come close to gaining the 39 seats they need to take over…

On both a macro level and a micro level, Republicans are seriously behind in the money chase. Most candidates enrolled in the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s Frontline program for endangered incumbents have huge cash leads over their rivals, and the DCCC has nearly twice as much on hand as the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Plenty of newly elected Democrats won in 2006 and 2008 while being outspent, but they weren’t outspent by much. Only Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, D-N.H., won after being outspent by more than a 3-1 ratio. Republican challengers will close the gap over the next few months, but they have a long way to go.

Money, money, money: As long as Democrats have more of it, Wilson argues, they can pay for more ads, more turnout operations, and more oppo research on fresh-faced Republican challengers. Toss in the fact/hope/expectation that the Democratic base will come home as fears of a GOP Congress ratchet up and you’ve got the makings for unprecedented heart-ache in red-state America.

But if all that’s true, who are the mysterious Democratic analysts who are telling Politico this?

They no longer believe the jobs and housing markets will recover — or that anything resembling the White House’s promise of a “recovery summer” is under way. They are even more concerned by indications that House Democrats once considered safe — such as Rep. Betty Sutton, who occupies an Ohio seat that President Barack Obama won with 57 percent of the vote in 2008 — are in real trouble…

“Democrats kept thinking: ‘We’re going to get better. We’re going to get well before the election,’” said one of Washington’s best-connected Democrats. “But as of this week, you now have people saying that Republicans are going to win the House. And now it’s starting to look like the Senate is going to be a lot closer than people thought.”

A Democratic pollster working on several key races said, “The reality is that [the House majority] is probably gone.” His data show the Democrats’ problems are only getting worse. “It’s spreading,” the pollster said.

Follow the link for choice quotes about how The One’s brilliant decision to weigh in half-heartedly on the Ground Zero mosque has them stuck in the position of playing defense. Some analysts quoted do echo Wilson’s point about money in noting that individual Democratic candidates with cash advantages seem more upbeat about winning than national strategists are. But how much of an advantage do they really have? Remember, Democrats are already panicking that the GOP will have a big lead in money spent on advertising by outside groups, and Jay Cost expects plenty of business-related PACs to chip in during crunch time to hammer at Obama’s agenda. Factor in the wide enthusiasm gap this year — and it really is wide, as the Florida and Arizona primaries proved this week — and how much will the Democrats’ lead in party money really matter? Could be key in saving some seats at the margins, but in holding back the entire red wave? I’m skeptical, as is Cost, which leaves me in good company.

So what explains the dueling Democratic narratives today that they’re simultaneously doomed and looking pretty good? Kaus suspects it has to do with managing expectations, which is probably right. The polling for Republicans, especially on the generic ballot, is now so rosy that a “mere” 30-seat pick-up in November will inevitably be spun as a de facto national vote of confidence in Obama. For conservatives to send a message, it’s the House or bust — and even then, a net gain of seats in, say, the low 40s will be treated by our friends in the media as a mixed bag in which the GOP returned to power but “underperformed,” etc. If you want to teach them a lesson that’s narrative-proof, I think maybe only matching 1994 will do it. And that’s a tall order, even in this climate. Perhaps we should start managing expectations too, yes? Police those dreams!