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Handicapping the House — The Final Edition

October 29th, 2010 - 10:50 am

This is it — the final countdown!

Sorry about that. But I’m still in shock that the Toss Up races have zoomed back up to 40. This close to D-Day is when the center should be emptying out to both sides, as voter preferences become clearer.

But this just isn’t that kind of year.

Where the Action IsFirst, let’s look at the races that shifted to the left since we last checked in.The GOP is showing some weakness in the Midwest (IA01 & IA03) and in Pennsylvania (PA07 & PA11), where they are expected to make some big gains. Nobody is quite sure what’s going on in IA01, due to a lack of polling. And in IA03, Republican Brad Zaun has stumbled pretty badly in recent weeks. Both races went from Toss Up to Leans Dem. Data is thin in PA07, but I think the GOP’s Patrick Meehan will take this one — Pennsylvania’s districts aren’t as competitive as they could be for the Dems, thanks to the last round of redistricting. And PA11 slipped due to one pretty outlandish poll result. Both races went from Leans GOP to Toss Up, but I have them colored red on my private map.

Three other races exited the Tossers to Leans Dem. They are KY03, NH02 and NM01. All three are looking solidly blue to me, absent a wave even bigger than the one I’m expecting.

WA03 slipped from Leans GOP, but I honestly don’t know why. Jaime Herrera has held nice margins since August, but I’m not coloring it in yet.

And our last left-mover is FL25, from Likely to Leans GOP. No incumbent in this race, but I still like David Rivera’s chances. Enreddenate it already.

That’s nine left-movers — the most we’ve seen in a single week. Bad news for the GOP? Perhaps. But if so, then the Democrats have even worse news — only one of those seats (FL25) is currently held by a Republican and that one is likely to stay red. So the Donks are, at best, treading water.

And for the really bad news for the Democrats: A total of 16 races red-shifted — and every single one of them is currently a blue seat.

Five of those went Leans GOP from the Toss Up. They are:

•CA20, where farmer Andy Vidak is showing great strength against Jim Costa. Despite the weakness at the top of the GOP ticket in California, I’m calling this one for Vidak.

•GA08 has Austin Scott doing well against Blue Dog Dem Jim Marshall, who voted against all key elements of the Obama agenda. I’m withholding judgement on this one.

•NJ03 has an incumbent (John Adler) who can’t break 50% against a GOP challenger (Jon Runyan) who has shown up best in the most reliable poll. Also I’m thinking there might be a Christie Effect in New Jersey, giving a helping bump to the GOP’s chances. Mark it red.

•NY23 could very easily go red, but I have it on good authority that having Carl Paladino at the top of the ticket is doing very rude and unlubricated things to candidates down-ticket. So I’m not ready to give this one to challenger Matt Doheny just yet.

•SC05. I don’t even have to look at the latest data from this one — Mick Mulvaney will almost certainly take this R+7 district for the GOP.

The Democrats also lost nine Leaners to the Toss Ups. That’s too much to cover race-by-race in the scope of this column — but I promise to have them all colored in for you by Monday. And they are: ID01, IN02, KY06, ME01, MS04, NC02 (Go, Renee!), NY20, NY24 and RI01.

The last two movers were MO05, where Jacob Turk is gaining some traction against Emanuel Cleaver in a D+10 district, and WA06, where Doug Cloud is doing the same in a D+5 district. RCP has them rated as Likely Dem, and so do I.

So forget the horse races, and take a look to the numbers that will blow your mind.

Set aside not just the Safe seats, but the Likelies, too, so we can concentrate on the Leaners and the Toss Up races — where control of the House will be decided.

Do that, and you see that the Democrats start with a base of 148 seats, and the GOP starts with 176 — leaving us with 113 seats to play with. Most years, somewhere between 25-40 races are contested. In a wave election, those numbers can double, to 60-80 seats. This year, it’s 113 — almost doubled yet again, albeit from the low end. That’s huge. And the magic number is only 218.

Of the 46 seats currently leaning the GOP’s way, 40 of them belong to Democrats today. Of the 25 seats leaning towards the Democrats, 23 of them already belong to Democrats. Obviously, the Donks are on defense. Let’s go ahead and award each side all their Leaners. Sure, there’ll be some surprises on Election Day — some of them nasty. But I suspect that will cut both ways.

Leaners included, the Democrats have a pretty solid hold 173 seats. And the GOP? Right now, RCP averaging gives them 218+4… er… 222, and the speaker’s gavel.

But what about the middle, the Toss Ups? Let’s play a game called Pretend There Is No Wave. And why not? The Democrats have been playing it for months now. If we Pretend There Is No Wave, we’ll take those 40 Toss Up races and just split them down the middle. That’s right, give each side an equal share.

And that gives you a Republican majority of 242-193 — a mere 13 seats shy of the supermajority the Democrats have enjoyed these last two years. That’s a pickup of 64 seats, and as decisive a repudiation of a ruling party as any of us are likely to see in our lifetimes.

But that repudiation isn’t something you can watch on TV or read about on the web. It’s something you have to make happen, your very own self. That means voting on Tuesday. That means bringing friends with you, so they can vote, too. Look, we all know someone who is out of work. They might not have gas money — but they sure have plenty of free time. So give ‘em a lift and let ‘em vote.

And bring your iPhone, Flip cam, whatever you have that takes pictures or video. See something iffy? Make a record of it. And then start making phone calls.

You’ve seen the numbers: We can do this. But it still must get done.

You’ve seen what the other side is capable of — intimidation and fraud. But they haven’t seen what we can do — not yet they haven’t.

Show them on Tuesday.

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