OCTOBER 6, 2008
Some commenters asked what the Democratic prospects are in the House in November.
Well, just a month ago downticket Republicans were gleeful that Sarah Palin's reanimation of the GOP would boost their prospects. (One USA Today poll in early September, during the GOP convention, even showed Republicans with a generic-ballot lead of +5.) It hasn't turned out that way at all. Democrats have rebounded right back to around +10 in the generic ballot.
Democratic challengers running razor's-edge races in North Carolina, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, New Mexico (two here!), and Colorado just released promising polls. And Republican strategists are tearing their hair out over a potential disaster -- Chris Cillizza points out that the GOP is defending "at least 18 House seats" in the economically hard-hit states of Michigan, Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania alone.
What will this mean in sheer numbers? It's hard to say. The number 10 seems to be what's floating around as the conventional wisdom for the likely Democratic pickup in the House. But if you look at the list of competitive races more closely, that seems like a pretty low estimate. Take Congressional Quarterly's House race ratings. This isn't scientific, obviously, but if you give the races in the "No Clear Favorite" category a 50-50 chance of breaking Republican, the races in the "Leans D/R" categories a 75-25 chance of breaking in the slimly favored party's favor, and the races in the "D/R Favored" categories an 80-20 chance of breaking in the favored party's favor, you end up with a Democratic gain of ... 10 seats.
But, of course, the Democrats' advantage on the generic ballot and the worsening economic crisis means that the "No Clear Favorite" races are probably more likely, in the end, to break Democratic than Republican; the Democratic incumbents with a serious challenger are less likely to lose their seats than the GOP incumbents are, etc.