Do the Democrats Have a Realistic Shot at Retaking the House in 2014?

Shorter Stu Rothenberg: Not really. Not if you go by the 2012 totals plus drill down to individual districts that Democrats have targeted as opportunities for them.


Democratic operatives identify 30 House Republicans who won by less than 10 points last year and assert that the margin makes them vulnerable in 2014. But the GOP incumbents who won by less than 10 points didn’t start, or end, at the same place last cycle.

For example, Republican Rep. Tom Latham of Iowa defeated another incumbent, Democrat Leonard L. Boswell, running in territory very different from the Republican’s district last decade. Because of that, Latham’s 8-point victory — in a district that President Barack Obama won by more than 4 points — is a sign of strength, not vulnerability.

Similarly, Republican Rep. Steve King’s 8-point victory in another Iowa district over a highly touted Democrat isn’t a sign of vulnerability. King beat Christie Vilsack, wife of the former governor and current secretary of Agriculture, by almost the identical margin that Mitt Romney beat Obama in the district, suggesting a polarized electorate with a clear Republican bent.

And so forth.

In addition, Rothenberg writes that several current Democrat seats are vulnerable. So when the dust clears, Republicans are likely to hold the House and have a decent shot at re-taking the Senate — if they don’t do anything stupid between now and then.


Unfortunately, the likelihood of Republicans doing something stupid between now and then increases by the minute.

The clearest chance to do something stupid is “comprehensive” immigration reform. Democrats have been smart in one respect over the past couple of years. After they suffered a beating in 2010, they had a choice: Stay on the left or move to the middle to go after independent voters. They decided to build out from their base and bring out new leftwing voters rather than risk losing any of their base by moving to the center. Granted, with Obama at the helm there was never a realistic chance of them moving right. It’s not in his DNA. He has stayed over on the left on policy while feigning centrism in soft pop culture settings, which had the effect of energizing his base and motivating them while presenting the hard left’s smiley face to low-info voters. A confident base can do wonders for a political party; a dispirited base can kill one off. The GOP had a confident base in 2010. It was less confident in 2012. With Democrat success stories like Detroit and California available, the GOP is donning sackcloth and ash. Where is this party’s offense?

The GOP looks like it’s going the route of surrender to the left on immigration. Sen. Rand Paul will say today that he will demand security first before any legal status or pathway to citizenship will be available to those who broke and continue to break the law. Security-minded Republicans and independents could be persuaded to support that if it had any chance of passage, but we’ve seen this movie before. He won’t get security first, or at all. Even his filibuster ended with Brennan getting confirmed to head the CIA. The porous, dangerous border is just too useful to too many people for it to be secured in any permanent way. It’s an evergreen, like the minimum wage. Democrats will want it as an issue again in another couple of decades.


Some in the GOP are also looking to make deals on gun control. It’s hard to think of better ways to destroy the party ahead of a solid opportunity to recapture Congress and render President Obama irrelevant for his last two years in office. Maybe they’ll add some tax hikes too, just for grins, and clear the field for Chris Christie ahead of 2016.



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