From a historic perspective, a five- or six-seat gain would be a disappointment for the GOP. Since 1950, the party out of the White House during the sixth year of a presidency has gained an average of 25 seats. In the most recent midterm election, Republicans swamped Democrats across the country en route to a 63-seat gain.
And it would fall well short of the 11-seat pickup some top Republicans have set as their goal.
The GOP could still achieve its target if the environment for Democrats gets bleaker, strategists from both sides agree. Democrats say two incumbents, Shea-Porter and Enyart, face particularly tough paths to reelection. Additionally, Democrats have all but ceded seats in North Carolina and Utah where incumbents are retiring. They also say it will be difficult to retain an upstate New York seat that Democratic Rep. Bill Owens is vacating.
But Republicans concede it would take a dramatic shift in the political landscape against Democrats for the GOP to reach 245 seats, up from 234. Leisl Hickey, the NRCC’s executive director, said “the environment is favorable to us right now,” but stopped short of predicting a wave. Republicans, she said, have “a great opportunity to expand our majority.”