Why isn’t the Republican House majority already in immediate danger? First, the election is more than a year away, and all events, no matter how cataclysmic they may seem at the time, have shelf lives. Even the 9/11 tragedy, which had a profound impact on the course of American politics for years to come, eventually receded as a driving force. Like the shot in Jurassic Park of the rearview-mirror display advising that objects “may be closer than they appear,” political events may seem to have more of a lasting impact than they eventually have.
Second, the numbers aren’t quite there yet for Democrats to have a solid shot at the 17-seat net gain necessary for a majority. Democrats have 10 seats of their own that are teetering on the brink, including several in districts that both John McCain and Mitt Romney carried in the last two presidential elections. To grab those 17 seats, Democrats would, in effect, have to hold onto every one of their 201 seats, including 10 seats currently rated as toss-ups by The Cook Political Report, as well as 14 more that are rated as leaning Democratic—which we consider to be in the competitive-race category.
In addition to holding on to every one of their seats, Democrats must win the three seats currently held by Republicans that are rated as either toss-ups or leaning Democratic, then go on to win 14 out of the 16 GOP seats rated as leaning Republican, which now includes the open seat in Arkansas’ 2nd District, where second-term Rep. Tim Griffin announced his retirement Monday morning. Taking a look at the field, it would almost seem that Democrats need to completely run the table of competitive seats to wrestle away the GOP majority. Winning 41 out of the 44 competitive seats is a pretty tall order.