Democrats Poised to Take House?

Al Hunt reports that smart observers of both parties believe the Democrats will retake the House and quite possibly the Senate.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Chairman Charles Rangel and Chairman — again — John Dingell. Those titles will soon sound familiar. Barring an unexpected and big event, Democrats will win control of the U.S. House of Representatives in November and conceivably the Senate, too. Whether it’s a tsunami or just a powerful wave, the political dynamics are moving in that direction, or more accurately, against the Republicans and President George W. Bush.

Democratic insiders, who months ago thought their chances of winning a majority in the House were no better than even, and that the Senate was a lost cause, have become far more optimistic. Now, they say, winning the House is a lock, and the Senate is within reach. “We have to go back to 1974 (during Watergate) to find such a favorable environment,” says James Carville, who ran Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign. “If we can’t win in this environment, we have to question the whole premise of the party.”

More telling is that the smartest Republican political minds agree. “The issue matrix and political dynamics are not good for us,” says Representative Tom Davis, a Virginia Republican. “Only some big national or international event before the election can change that.”

Bill McInturff[*], the pre-eminent Republican pollster who sees survey data from all over the country, isn’t any more sanguine. “The national mood is like that of sweep elections,” he says. “People are angry about Iraq, about gas prices, about health care.”

Privately, Republican congressional leaders are bracing to lose 20 to 30 House seats — more than the net 15 gain that Democrats need to take control of that chamber — and to barely hold on to their Senate majority.

Chris Bowers has released the “MyDD House Forecast 2006” and projects “Democrats to take 15-25 seats, which would give them a narrow majority of between 218-228 seats.” The Rothenberg Political Report [via Taegan Goddard] has the Democrats taking 15-20 seats.

Strategy One’s Rob Moran, a Republican pollster for the past 11 years, agrees: “Everything I see suggests to me that we will be graced with Speaker Pelosi in the next Congress.” He does see a silver lining, though, in what that means for 2008.

One of the few dissenters from this view is Michael Barone, who sees a “change in the political winds” stemming from last month’s foiled London terror plot.

Polls since the London arrests suggest what has been happening. Bush’s job approval was up significantly in the Gallup Poll, usually the most volatile of national polls, and the Democratic margin in the generic question (Which party’s candidate for the House would you vote for?) was sharply reduced. There was a similar trend in generic vote in the Rasmussen poll, which is ordinarily much less volatile than Gallup.

Glenn Greenwald disagrees with this sentiment, though. He contends that the pundit class seems to think that, “No matter what the controversy is — even if it arises from the President’s getting caught breaking the law — the more it’s talked about, the more political benefits will accrue to the Republicans, because most Americans are on their side.” He sees no evidence of a terrorism bounce for the GOP. I tend to agree with Greenwald in this, although Barone’s conclusion strikes me as right:

Earlier this summer, I thought that voters had decided that the Republicans deserved to lose but were not sure that the Democrats deserved to win, and that they were going to wait, as they did in the 1980 presidential and the 1994 congressional elections, to see if the opposition was an acceptable alternative. Events seem to have made that a harder sell for Democrats.

While it’s clear that the public is tired of the Republicans and there are enough Republican incumbents in trouble that a turnover is quite possible, there may be just enough doubt as to whether the Democrats can handle the fight against terrorism to stave off defeat.

Bush Polls and Gas Prices Chart A tangential issue that had never really occured to me may also bode well for the Republicans. Gerry Daly points to a chart showing an uncanny correlation between Bush poll numbers and gas prices.

Given that gas prices are already going down and will certainly go down much further after Labor Day, that could bode well for the Republicans. That would be ironic indeed, as the president has virtually no effect on gas prices. But that’s politics.

*Disclosure: Bill McInturff is a partner at Public Opinion Strategies, which employs my wife as VP and Director of Operations.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2006, Public Opinion Polls, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Greywolf says:

    Let the Dems take the House.
    Two years of their antics and treason might just put them out pemanently in 2008, OR……
    as de Tocqueville said:
    “people receive the government they deserve”.

  2. Christopher says:

    Gotta hate those republicans:

    The economy is doing great. No attacks on America. Deficit is falling.

    Yea, we need democrats alright.

  3. Greywolf says:

    You’re dead on.

    The problem is:
    Are the Republicans smart enough to pound home this simple theme?

    That’s the quandry: Socialist, surrender-to- anyone Democrats or weak, stupid Republicans

  4. Triumph says:

    Given that gas prices are already going down and will certainly go down much further after Labor Day, that could bode well for the Republicans. That would be ironic indeed, as the president has virtually no effect on gas prices. But that’s politics.

    Well, this is not entirely true. He has repeatedly tapped the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to boost supply–something he vowed not to do during his first campaign for president.

    Whether his hypocracy and lack of resolve in this regard will be translated into congressional races is unclear.

  5. James Joyner says:

    Tapping the reserve has a neglible effect on prices, since they’re global. The main rationale, as I understood it, for doing so was to cope with short-term shortfalls in refining capacity post Katrina.

  6. GOP Election Speculation…

    The latest in speculation on the GOP’s chances this fall…what will impact the odds and what they should do… Fred Barnes talks about how to avert disaster in the coming elections and suggests what other conservatives (including myself) have suggest…

  7. madmatt says:

    Hey chris where can I get some of the koolaid you are drinking…deficits are falling…site a source….preferably not the heritage foundation! The economy is doing great?…maybe if you are a thieving CEO but not if you work for a living! America has not been attacked? well 911 took place on gwb’s watch after he received a briefing titled “Bin Ladin determined to strike US” and nobody with any practical experience in terrorism thinks we are safer…unless they are on FOX of course and they are a bit biased to the rethugs.

    And gosh isn’t it handy that bush’s biggest contributors control gas prices and how according to your chart, prices drop before elections!

  8. A Change in the Winds?…

    Secondo Michael Barone, su Real Clear Politics, il “vento” delle elezioni di mid-term sembra essere cambiato. Buone notizie per il GOP. Albert R. Hunt, invece, su, analizza le speranze democratiche di strappare ai Repubblicani almeno il…

  9. Anderson says:

    I just don’t think the Dems will actually retake either house. There aren’t enough seats likely to switch. We’ll see this paper tiger built up, and then, when the Dems make serious gains but don’t retake the House or Senate, the media will spin it as a Dem loss.

    In fact, I suspect there are Republican memos out there URGING their pundits to say “we’re gonna lose the House and Senate.” Besides the above-mentioned effect, it also motivates the base and the swing voters who lean Republican.

    What would you expect the Repubs to say? “Not to worry, all fine here, no need to vote”???

  10. Anderson says:

    The economy is doing great.

    Of course, the more Republicans we can get saying this in public, the better the Dems’ odds are.

  11. Bithead says:

    Given the recent death of the “Bush Lied” meme, seems to me a matter of timing, now. The lies of the Democrats on that matter, serve as a pattern for any claims they might lay now… and the general electorate…. the undecideds… simply will not trust them.

  12. legion says:

    And as far as making the US safe from terrorists, let’s look at the trend:
    First, they bombed Bali.
    Then they bombed Jakarta. Twice.
    Don’t forget Madrid.
    Then they bombed Bali again.
    And of course, there was London.

    And don’t forget that the airline attacks the UK police foiled just recently were on aircraft bound for the US.

    That ‘fighting them over there’ concept? Not working out so much. Just like every other PR-based policy Bush has used on terrorism.

  13. madmatt says:

    The latest US census results….let me guess liberal bias huh?
    — In 2005, 46.6 million people were without health insurance coverage, up from 45.3 million people in 2004.

    — The percentage of people without health insurance coverage increased from 15.6 percent in 2004 to 15.9 percent in 2005.

    — The median earnings of men declined 1.8 percent to $41,386. The median earnings of women declined 1.3 percent to $31,858.

    — In 2005, 37.0 million people were in poverty, not statistically different from 2004.

  14. Michael says:

    Given the recent death of the “Bush Lied” meme, seems to me a matter of timing, now. The lies of the Democrats on that matter, serve as a pattern for any claims they might lay now… and the general electorate…. the undecideds… simply will not trust them.

    The general electorate doesn’t trust any politician (except maybe their own). That’s about the only constant. The reason the Dems dropped the “Bush Lied” meme, and why Republicans would be wise not to pick up a “Dems lie” meme, is because whining is a powerful subconscious sign of weakness, and nobody will vote for a weak candidate.

    The GOP has always been more successful vilifying the left than complaining about them. The left on the other hand, is just now starting to understand why that worked so well and are adjusting their tactics. See Lieberman Vs. Lamont, Lieberman complained about Lamont while Lamont vilified Lieberman. Now Lieberman finally gets it and, with help from the right, is vilifying Lamont with the “Al Qaeda candidate” meme. I’m not sure if it’s too late in the game for Lieberman to make any gains off that or not, we’ll have to see, but it’s definitely what is keeping him above water in the polls at this point.

  15. andrew says:

    “well 911 took place on gwb’s watch after he received a briefing titled “Bin Ladin determined to strike US”

    We knew that bin Laden wanted to attack us before Bush was President so any briefing saying so is no great revelation. This has always been one of the dumbest Leftie talkng points.

  16. just me says:

    I think barring some huge event taking place, the dems are living in la la land, if they think they will retake either of the two houses, much less both.

    I do think the dems will pick up some seats, but they need to pick up a lot of seats in order to take control, and there aren’t enough competitive seats hanging out there, and a take over would require that they pretty much run the table and take all of them. I just don’t see it as plausible at this point in time.

    Also, I think the dems still have the problem that they are still running against republicans, rather than running with a real message-I think they need to give the voters a reason to vote for them, rather than encouraging protest votes-most voters right now seem apathetic-they want a reason to vote.

  17. Doug says:

    I wonder if the median income falling and the % of people without health insurance has anything to do with the amount of illegals that are coming into the country????

  18. G.A. Phillips says:

    YEA they always win, even when they lose lolololol

  19. McGehee says:

    Al Hunt? Al Hunt???

    Are they still letting him write?