Last week, we discussed the doomed prospects of Mexican-American presidential candidate Willard M. Romney and a Republican takeover of the U.S. Senate. Not much has been written about the other takeover prospect, the idea that the Democrats will take the House. This is because it has been greeted with the appropriate dismissiveness, though that hasn’t stopped Democratic leaders from continuing to make the claim. Less than a month ago, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was saying a Democratic majority in the House was “very doable.” The chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Rep. Steve Israel, has made similar claims. But no one takes that sort of talk seriously. Republicans have 240 House seats to the Democrats’ 190, with five vacancies. That means the Democrats need to pick up a net 25 seats to throw control of the House to the Dems. Bloody unlikely, that.
The DCCC keeps a list of districts that it’s concentrating on, Republican-controlled districts that are targets in this election, called the Red to Blue List. Currently, there are 53 districts on the list, more than twice what the Democrats need to takeover the House, assuming they defend all of their own districts. But, first, that’s a huge assumption, even in a year that’s looking better and better for the Dems. And second, anyone whose follows these things knows that a great many of these 53 seats are going to be very difficult to take over. Just look at Florida, which includes five of the red-to-blue districts, more than any state but two (California and Illinois). Do the Dems really stand a chance of picking up all five of these districts? Or even one? District 2′s not bloody likely. Just because it’s a freshman Republican and includes more-Democratic-than-the-rest-of-the-panhandle Tallahassee doesn’t mean Al Lawson has enough votes in the panhandle to win. Districts 16 and 26 are represented by two Republicans, Vern Buchanan and David Rivera, who are consistently listed as among the most corrupt members of Congress by organizations like CREW. And yet the voters of those districts still don’t seem to have a throw-the-bum-out mentality. The other two on the list, District 10 and District 18, are tough wins too, though tossing Allen West out in a new district shouldn’t be hard.
So, here we have five districts, about 10 percent of the DCCC’s total list, and the Democrats will have to fight tooth and nail for every win. Keith Fitzgerald and Joe Garcia taking out Vern Buchanan and David Rivera, respectively, seem the most likely, but only because both Buchanan and Rivera appear to be hideously corrupt — Rivera even has a brand new investigation against him into how he may have tried to influence this year’s Democratic primary, which has made this easily the most likely Democratic pickup in the state. But one out of five in Florida is not going to translate to a Democratic majority nationwide.
I expect the Dems to pick up more seats than the prognosticators expect — maybe 15-20 — but not enough to take the House. Blame gerrymandering for a lot of that. State Legislatures draw up new congressional districts, and just did so after the 2010 census. But even in the case of ostensibly swing states, Republicans dominate state Legislatures. Virginia and Florida, two of the most toss-up states in the country, have state Legislatures that breakdown 67-32-1 and 81-39, respectively, in favor of Republicans. With lopsided state Legislatures like that, it should come as no surprise that those states, despite their supposed purplish nature, turn out Republican-majority U.S. House delegations again and again.