Jun 14, 2012
Math to the Majority
Intense buyer’s remorse among independent voters has driven House Republicans numbers down. In 2012, the head wind House Democrats had faced in 2010 has corrected and Democrats now have a neutral political environment. With this better political environment, favorable redistricting results, and excellent candidates running strong campaigns there are two questions that will determine whether Democrats win the House in November: Do Democrats have messages that work? Are there enough seats in play to win? The answer to both questions is yes.
Democrats Benefiting From Tail Wind
Speaker John Boehner admitted Republicans have a challenging political environment when he recently said that the Republican majority is at risk and that at least 50 Members of his caucus are in serious jeopardy. Speaker Boehner is particularly concerned about “blue” states where Democrats made significant redistricting gains and where President Obama will win with comfortable margins – California, Illinois, and New York.
Speaker Boehner is rightfully concerned about Republicans ability to hold the majority.
At worst, redistricting is a wash for House Democrats. At best, redistricting will result in a 1 to 3 seat pick up for House Democrats.
Of the marginal seats that were weakened in redistricting, 17 are Democratic and 24 are Republican. Weakened Republican seats are in disproportionately Democratic-leaning states like New York, California, and Illinois, which will favor Democratic House candidates. Conversely, weakened Democratic seats are disproportionately in battleground Presidential states, where Democrats will have a superior ground game.
Races that have been taken off the table for Democrats have been offset by newly endangered Republicans or brand new seats the Republicans have virtually conceded. Even in states where Republicans supposedly shored up their members, it came at a cost – Republicans made another of their incumbents more vulnerable.
Ultimately, the playing field contains as many opportunities, if not more, for Democrats to pick up seats now as it did before redistricting.
Voters Prefer Democrats
Democrats are leading the generic ballot test and Democratic incumbents are stronger than Republican incumbents.
According to a Reuters/IPSOS poll released this week, Democrats lead congressional Republicans in the generic ballot by 3 (47-44). For perspective, leading up to the November 2010 election Republicans led the Reuters generic by 6 points (50-44). This 9 point swing spells trouble for House Republicans.
A recent Battleground poll by Democracy Corps surveyed the 28 most vulnerable Republican and 23 most vulnerable Democratic districts across the country. It found the most vulnerable Republicans are -2 (30–32 percent) in favorability while the most vulnerable Democrats are + 20 (43-23), meaning that threatened Democratic incumbents are in a much stronger position to win than vulnerable Republicans are.
Democrats Have Winning Messages
The paid advertising campaign in AZ-08 was a preview of the 2012 message battle between Democrats and Republicans – and Democrats won. Democrats ran on the Republican candidate’s plan to end Medicare and privatize Social Security. In response, Republicans rehashed 2010 messaging with misleading attacks on Obamacare, gas prices, and national Democrats.
Republicans’ stock ads from last cycle were unable to overcome Republicans’ biggest liability: when the election is framed as a choice between Democrats, who will protect the middle class and seniors, or Republicans who will protect big corporations and millionaires – Democrats win.
This reflects polling that Geoff Garin of Garin, Hart, Yang Research did in 58 of the most competitive congressional districts in April and May 2012. Garin found:
“Democrats have a significant advantage over Republicans when it comes to ‘looking out for the interests and concerns of the middle class.’
- “Half (49%) of all voters give the edge to Democrats when it comes to looking out for the middle class, whereas just one-third (33%) says Republicans would be better.
- “Independent voters trust Democrats over Republicans to look out for the middle class by a 19-point margin (37% to 18%).
“On Social Security and Medicare, by 48% to 40% voters agree more with Democrats that the priority should be to protect guaranteed benefits for seniors, now and in the future, than with the Republican statement that we need to modernize entitlement programs and give consumers more choices to ensure the long-term survival of Social Security and Medicare and balance the budget. Seniors (who are even in the Congressional vote) prefer the Democratic position by a 26-point margin.”
Democrats Have Enough Seats in Play to Win
House Democrats are on offense and we have a clear eyed, realistic plan to win the Majority. We need to pick up 25 seats to win the Majority, although the DCCC’s strategy is to win more than that to offset any potential surprises.
Let’s take a look at the math that gets Democrats to the Majority:
Type of District
Democrats Win %
Districts Win #
Open Strong Democratic
Open/Republican in Democratic leaning
Open/Republican in toss-up
Total districts goal
The battle for the House comes down to 68 Republican leaning and Republican toss-up seats.
25 Open Strong Democratic (win 25)
31 Open/Republican Seats that Lean Democratic (win 23)
39 Open/Republican toss-up seats (win 15)
CA-36 Bono Mack
160 Democratic Incumbents (win 160)
IL-02 Jackson Jr.
MD-08 Van Hollen
TX-18 Jackson Lee
TX-30 Bernice Johnson