Maxing Out in the House

Since I didn’t have much info on the overall picture of House races earlier, here’s a full cup o’ woe from Cook Political Report‘s David Wasserman:

There are fewer than ten races where the outcome is in some doubt, but Republicans appear headed for a 250-seat majority, give or take three seats, for a gain of between 13 and 19. A net gain of 13 would give them their largest majority since Herbert Hoover won the presidency in 1928.

As of 4am Wednesday morning, races that appeared too close to call were Democratic Reps. Ron Barber (AZ-02), Jim Costa (CA-16), Julia Brownley (CA-26), Scott Peters (CA-52), Louise Slaughter (NY-25), and GOP Rep. Lee Terry (NE-02).

Plain and simple, the story in House races was an epic turnout collapse and motivational deficit. Democrats’ surprisingly large losses are attributable to “orphan states” where there was little enthusiasm for top-of-the-ticket Democrats. For example, in New York, the lack of a competitive statewide race caused Democratic turnout to plummet, and Reps. Tim Bishop (NY-01) and Dan Maffei (NY-24) suffered surprisingly wide defeats.

Even Rep. Louise Slaughter’s normally safe Rochester seat (NY-25), which neither party had on their radar screen appears headed for a recount. In Maryland, where Republican Larry Hogan pulled off an upset in the gubernatorial race, Democratic Rep. John Delaney (MD-06) appears to have barely hung on. And in Iowa, the final insult to Democrats was the loss of failed Democratic Senate nominee Bruce Braley’s 1st CD.

The overwhelming share of Democratic incumbents in the Toss Up column lost, including Reps. Joe Garcia (FL-26), John Barrow (GA-12), Brad Schneider (IL-10), Bill Enyart (IL-12), Carol Shea-Porter (NH-01), Tim Bishop (NY-01), Dan Maffei (NY-24) and Nick Rahall (WV-03). With Barrow’s defeat, there will no longer be a single white Democrat holding a House seat in the Deep South. And with Rahall’s defeat, Democrats no longer hold any seats in coal country.

Republican gains even reached into the Lean Democratic column, where the GOP captured Maine’s open 2nd CD and defeated Reps. Steven Horsford (NV-04) and Pete Gallego (TX-23). Abysmal Hispanic turnout cost Democrats both TX-23 and NV-04, where raw votes appear to have fallen from 2010. And in California, the virtually non-existed Hispanic turnout nearly caught Democratic Reps. Jerry McNerney (CA-09) and Jim Costa (CA-21) by surprise.

Wasserman goes on to suggest there really aren’t too many signs of successful Republican persuasion; it’s nearly all about turnout. And he also notes that Republicans have pretty much maxed out on the House seats they can harvest without a pretty significant enhancement of their party’s popularity. Indeed, the House GOP caucus should be as “over-exposed” in 2016 as the House Democrats were in 2010. No degree of gerrymandering will protect them from noticeable losses then if Democrats succeed, as they did in 2012, in winning the national House popular vote.

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.