USA Today: Democrats Can't Best GOP for House Control

Sunday, 10 Aug 2014 04:15 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Democrats have no hope of making the gains they're hoping for in the House this fall, according to an analysis by USA Today, because Republicans have "a host of built-in advantages this year."

While President Barack Obama's popularity is at an all-time low in the latest polls,  that's not the only issue hampering Democrats as the November midterm elections approach.

Redrawn districts are resulting in fewer competitive races, and historical midterm election trends show that Democrats often have a limited turnout.

The congressional district lines, redrawn in 2012 under a constitutional requirements that they be redrawn every 10 years, gave Republicans the lead, after the GOP took governorships and statehouses nationally after the 2010 tea party sweeps.

This resulted in fewer competitive races, USA Today reports, with only 50 districts in the 435-member House being part of the midterm elections. And according to the Cook Political Report, only 16 of those districts are really in question.

As the House now has 234 Republicans and 199 Democrats, the Democratic Party would have hang onto its existing seats and win 17 more to take the majority.

But New York Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., who chairs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, claims voters are frustrated with the GOP House, and while he would not predict Democrats would win, he also would not concede Republicans would take control, the paper reports.

He called for Democrats to "be smart and better going into the 2020 redistricting."

Even that won't help anytime soon, as the next chance to run in new districts will not come about until 2022.

Democrats are also less likely to vote in midterm elections than Republicans, historical trends show.

"I am absolutely sure (turnout) will be lower than 2010 or 2006," Curtis Gans, an expert on voter turnout, told USA Today. And while he believes Democrats "might pick up some seats," he doesn't believe "Democrats can get control of the House."

Turnout in primary elections has also been low, Gans said, with only 18 million of the 123 million eligible voters coming out to vote so far.

In addition, the paper says, there likely will be no "wave" election in favor of Democrats because Obama remains unpopular.

Wave elections, in which a party makes double-digit gains in seats have happened just four times in the last 20 years — in 1994, 2006, 2008, and 2010 — and all resulted from a backlash against the incumbent president's party.

The six-year itch phenomenon also works against Democrats, the newspaper analysis said. In an election during the sixth year of a presidency, the incumbent's party typically loses seats. While the Democrats bucked the trend in President Bill Clinton's sixth year in 1998, it was not enough to gain control in the House.

Meanwhile, Oregon Republican Rep. Greg Walden, chairman of the GOP campaign committee, says the party hopes to gain 11 seats this fall in the House, which would give it a majority of 245 votes and the largest GOP majority since Herbert Hoover was president.

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