Conventional wisdom among election watchers says the Republicans will maintain control of the U.S. House of Representatives, as they did last year, in the 2014 midterm elections when history generally shows that the party in the White House doesn't fare well in congressional races.
Democrats won wave elections in 2006—when Republicans lost 30 seats—and 2008—when they lost 21 more seats—but lost in 2010 to an energized GOP, whose ability to retake the House by a wide margin—Democrats lost 63 seats—was fueled by Tea Party energy and anger in response to the election of Barack Obama, his administration and most especially the passage of the Affordable Care Act, the signature legislation behind managed competition among healthcare insurance providers, passed in 2010, known as Obamacare, which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled constitutional last year.
House Speaker John Boehner [OH-8] said following last year's presidential election, in which President Obama won a second consecutive term by more than 50 percent of the national vote, that America wanted divided government by keeping Republicans in charge in the lower chamber. What the speaker didn't say, but others understood, is his majority got whittled down from its big gains two years prior. In 2012, Democrats collectively won more than a million votes more compared to Republican vote totals.
What was once thought a long shot—Democrats retaking the House next year—turns out to be far more doable than previously thought, now that reliable polling information, from a reliable polling outfit acclaimed for its accuracy last year, shows incumbent Republican candidates run the risk of being voted out of office based on their support for shutting down the federal government.
Speaker Boehner and his Tea Party wing, enabled and egged on by Texas evangelical Republican Senator Ted Cruz, have now shut down federal services, and the spending that produces them, for two weeks so far as Americans' confidence and trust in the GOP plummets to new modern lows.
Gallup polling shows the GOP's favorable rating is now 28 percent, the lowest measure for either party in its trend since 1992. The Democratic Party's favorability of 43 percent is down slightly from last month.
According to a memorandum last Friday from Public Policy Polling, 12 new surveys conducted this week in GOP-held House districts indicate that an even greater number of Republican incumbents are in danger of being voted out of office next year thanks to the government shutdown.
Public Policy Polling [PPP]—judge by the Wall Street Journal to be one of the most accurate in the nation—has now surveyed a total of 36 House districts in two weeks,and the results show Republican incumbents are in serious danger in 29 out of the 36.
Democrats must net 17 seats to reclaim the House.
The 12 surveys conducted this week and commissioned and paid for by MoveOn.org Political Action show Republican incumbents trailing generic Democratic challengers in five districts, and tied in a sixth, according to Jim Williams at PPP. "After respondents are informed that Republican incumbents supported the shutdown, Democrats expand their lead to eight districts.
This means, Williams said, that of 36 GOP-held districts surveyed over the last two weeks, generic Democrats lead in 22 before information about the shutdown is provided, and in 29 after respondents learn Republican incumbents supported the shutdown.
"Make no mistake: Republicans are in jeopardy of losing the House in 2014," Williams said, as he reminded interested parties that others caution that with 13 months still to go before Election Day next year, PPP's surveys are a snapshot of opinion at one point in time and hardly guarantee electoral outcomes.
The opportunity for Democrats, the surveys reveal, is that to win these districts, Democrats must recruit strong candidates and run effective campaigns in individual districts if they are to capitalize on the vulnerability revealed by these surveys.
"And they must maintain a strong national advantage to net 17 seats and win back the House," Williams concluded.
Given these results, and other national surveys that show more Americans now believe in Sasquatch than approve of Republicans, Williams opines that "one would have to almost be willfully ignorant of the facts to argue that a wave election in which Democrats retake the House of Representatives is out of reach."
Venerated political pundits like Stuart Rothenberg, however, caution on the surveys. "PPP isn’t your typical polling firm," Rothenberg writes, adding, "Its surveys often are intended to boost Democratic recruiting, fundraising or prospects." In this case, he says, the "polls" were almost certainly commissioned to create a narrative about the political repercussions of the shutdown and the nature of the midterms.
"The only thing we know right now is that the PPP/MoveOn.org polls are of little value in understanding the electoral landscape a year from now," Rothenberg, who believes the House is not in play now, concluded in dismissing the surveys as flawed and useless. Rothenberg reminds Democrats that nearly an equal number of their seats in play.
Other poll analysts, like Harry Enten at The Guardian, give short shrift to PPP's surveys. Outside a few diehards, Enten writes, no analyst gives Democrats much of a chance to take back the House of Representatives.
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