A bare majority. Actually, there are only 39 seats listed in the “lean Democratic” and “Democratic toss-up” columns, but as Taegan Goddard points out, if you toss in Bart Gordon’s retirement today in a very winnable GOP district you’re down to the magic number. But never mind that. Follow the first link to Cook and skim the column of “likely Democratic” seats, which are considered safe-ish, to see how many come from districts with a Republican-leaning PVI. If you see multiple retirements in that column — and the NRCC thinks you very well might — then suddenly a bunch of seats are in play on top of the 40 that are already shaky. Marc Ambinder looks ahead:
But the biggest psychological driver of congressional retirements is the perception that the next election won’t be worth the personal/political/ego rewards of the 2010-2011 congressional cycle. It’s not so much that Democrats expect to be in the minority, although it is possible. It’s that Democrats of a certain type — John Tanner, Bart Gordon, Brian Baird — expect to be in a narrower, more liberal majority that forces them to take harder votes — a majority where the new Republicans elected from open district seats are suddenly invested with major bargaining powers.
The downside of this? A Blue Dog who’s given up on being reelected is a Blue Dog with nothing to lose in voting for a liberal ObamaCare bill. Which, ironically, makes last month’s slight downtick in unemployment doubly good news, as it might convince enough centrist Dems that the economic recovery will save them next year that they’ll stick to their guns on O-Care.
Speaking of likely Democratic victories, here’s Paul Ryan on Captain B+ and his odds on being reelected. Sad to say, I think he’s wrong about this one, only because the GOP field right now is, shall we say, “a solid B-.”
Update: More Hope and Change for conservatives, this time courtesy of lefty pollster PPP:
Do you think Democrats in Washington have too much power right now?
50% Yes, 40% No
The GOP’s within two on their generic ballot.