July 23, 2014
Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Rep. Joe Walsh is one of many Republican incumbents in a difficult re-election race.

Democratic Surge in House Races? Not So Fast

Conservative thinker William Kristol and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee usually don't see things the same way, but they seem to agree that the House of Representatives is "in play."

The Weekly Standard's Kristol raised that possibility, albeit with a few caveats, more than a week ago in a blog entry, and the DCCC and its chairman, Rep. Steve Israel (N.Y.), have been insisting for months that the party has a chance to win control of the House this year.

Advocates of the "House is in play" argument point out that GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney's prospects are sinking and Republican numbers in more than a few Senate contests have slid badly. By November, the House will be no worse than a jump ball for the two parties, they insist.

Kristol bases his conclusion on a cursory examination of the "generic ballot" poll question. He argues that it is possible that "an Obama +3 victory on Election Day would drag the Democrats to an edge in the Congressional vote - and control of the House."

After looking at all of the individual district polls, those made public as well as dozens that have not been released for public consumption, and talking with both Democratic and Republican insiders whose main interest is understanding exactly what is happening rather than regurgitating the party line, I see little evidence that Democrats are close to gaining the 25 seats they need to win control of the House.

True, some polling is contradictory, and I would not rule out the possibility that there could be a shift in public opinion between now and Nov. 6.  But there is no evidence of a wave at the House level.

As I always note, this doesn't mean that some Democratic challengers won't win or that Democrats won't net seats next month. Many Republican incumbents remain in difficult races, including Reps. Joe Walsh (Ill.), Brian Bilbray (Calif.), Roscoe Bartlett (Md.) and Ann Marie Buerkle
(N.Y.).

Reps. Chip Cravaack (Minn.), David Rivera (Fla.), Robert Dold (Ill.), Dan Benishek (Mich.), Charles Bass (N.H.) and Bobby Schilling (Ill.) face formidable Democratic challengers, and at least a dozen other Republicans have tough races.

But Democrats could win all of those contests, as well as a couple of long shots, and still come up short of netting 25 seats. Part of their problem, of course, is that they will lose a handful of their own open seats (Oklahoma's 2nd district, North Carolina's 11th district, Indiana's 2nd district and possibly Illinois' 12th district) and a few of their own incumbents. Among the most vulnerable are Reps. Larry Kissell (N.C.), John Barrow (Ga.), Leonard Boswell (Iowa) and John Tierney (Mass.).

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