GOP House At Risk?

It’s been safe, not to say superstitious, to discount the occasional happy-talk from Democrats this year about the possibility of retaking control of the U.S. House. After all, GOPers were able to do some significant work via redistricting to strengthen the marginal seats they won in 2010, and with a very close presidential election, there’s only so much juice Dems could get from “over-exposure” of recently won seats and changes in turnout patterns (which regardless of the presidential horse-race numbers, naturally switch from strongly-pro-GOP in midterm elections to a much better situation for Democrats in presidential years).

But now comes Sam Wang of the Princeton Election Consortium with a careful and credible analysis projecting that if the election were held today, Democrats would win back the House by a 16-seat margin.

The main issue with this analysis is that it does not use district-level data. In the coming weeks, those surveys will become more abundant. In 2008, district polls did a very good job of estimating the outcome – on Election Eve. Six weeks out, the generic ballot preference is the week-to-week indicator that is available….

It should be noted that current conditions emphasize the post-convention bounce, which could be transient. Conversely, if the Democratic lead increases, that would take House control out of the knife-edge territory that I defined previously.

Wow. November 6 is still more than six weeks away, and as Wang notes, generic ballot numbers are not always precisely predictive. But gotta ask, if you think conservatives are going to be insanely frustrated if Barack Obama is re-elected, how freaked out will they be if John Boehner has to hand the gavel back to Nancy Pelosi? Talk about blame-shifting and endless recrimination!

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.