For all the reports of national Democrats drawing targets on enough Republican-held seats to recapture control of the House in 2014, the odds are strong that Republicans will hold on to their majority in the last mid-term election of the Obama administration.
The arithmetic favors the Republicans in the upcoming campaign, in which voters decide the fate of all 435 House members.
The current make-up of the House is 233 Republicans, 200 Democrats, and two vacancies. Upcoming special elections to fill the vacancies in Alabama and Massachusetts will almost give one seat to each party.
Democratic strategists frequently speak of "the magic 17" —the number of districts carried by President Barack Obama in 2012 in which voters also sent a Republican to the House. Victories in all 17 districts by Democratic candidates would mean a recapture of the Democratic majority in the House, with 218 seats to 217 for the Republicans.
In a memo marked "Please Do Not Share This List With the Press" but obtained by Roll Call
last week, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee named the 17 Republican-held seats they are targeting. Among those on the list were such narrow 2012 winners as Republican Reps. Mike Coffman of Colorado, Lee Terry of Nebraska, and Mike Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania.
But this strategy depends on Democrats winning everything they target and Republicans picking up nothing. That means, as House editor David Wasserman of the Cook Political Report said, "There's basically no margin of error for House Democrats."
On the other hand, Republicans will almost surely be targeting the nine districts that went for Mitt Romney for president but also sent a Democrat to the House.
These include the two closest races in the nation last year: North Carolina's 7th District and Arizona's 2nd, in which Republicans David Rouzer and Martha McSally will square off in rematches with Democratic Reps. Mike McIntyre and Ron Barber.
Widely considered the most vulnerable Democratic-held district in the nation is Florida's 18th District, where 30-year-old Democrat Patrick Murphy edged out swashbuckling conservative Allen West, by less than 2000 votes. Already four Republicans have filed for the chance to oppose Murphy in 2014.
Even though Murphy has voted "the right way" in conservative eyes by supporting delays in the Obamacare mandate for both businesses and individuals, his vote against repeal of Obamacare is expected to be a major issue for any Republican opponent.
Although the Republican primary is likely to grow more crowded because of the perceived vulnerability of the incumbent, the early favorite is Carl Domino, former assistant state house GOP leader, successful investments adviser, and U.S. Navy veteran.
For open seats, there is always greater competition and more "switcheroos" than attempting to dislodge incumbents. So far, there are 14 seats with no incumbents — five Democratic-held seats and nine Republican-held seats.
The West Virginia seat that Republican Shelley Moore Capito is leaving to run for the Senate could go Democratic, and the Iowa seat Democrat Bruce Braley is giving up for a Senate run could go the other way. For now, few of the other 12 are likely to flip.
Former Secretary of State James Baker once said "overnight is an eternity in politics." Much can change between now and November of 2014. But at this time, the best prediction is the House remains Republican next year — just do the math.
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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