Cook Political Report: House Race Solidifying

The latest House race rankings (.pdf) from Charlie Cook, Amy Walter and the gang at the Cook Political Report are now available online and they bear a striking resemblence to the previous race rankings released on April 29. In fact, they are exactly the same as the previous set of ratings. Since the end of March, only as single seat -- that of Abramoff-pal John Doolittle of California -- has been added to Cook's list of competitive House seats held by either party.

With the field of play seemingly failing to grow in recent months, are the Democrats' chances of retaking the House for the first time in a dozen years diminishing? Put another way, are there enough seats in play for the Democrats to have a shot at picking up the House?

According to Cook, as of this point in the campaign, 68 seats have the potential of becoming competitive by election day, with Republicans defending 47 seats (69 percent) and the Democrats defending 21 (31 percent). Of these 68 seats, Cook sees 35 to already be competitive, with the Republicans defending 24 seats (69 percent) and the Democrats defending 11 seats (31 percent). Within the group of 35 seats that are aleady competitive, Cook eyes 11 tossups, with the Republicans defending 9 seats (82 percent) and the Democrats defending only 2 (18 percent).

Leaving aside qualms about some of the rankings -- I do not believe that the seat from which Tom DeLay is resigning should be labeled "likely Republican" nor do I believe that Ted Strickland's seat is still a "toss-up" given the strong write-in campaign of Charlie Wilson -- let's take a look at some basic mathematics based on the Cook rankings.

The Democrats cannot win back the House solely by winning the seats that are most competitive today, the "toss-ups." Were the Dems to sweep all 11 seats, they would still need six more pick-ups in order to retake the House.

The Democrats can win back the House solely by winning back seats that are competitive today, the "toss-ups" and "leans" categories, though it would be very difficult. For the Democrats to win back the House only in these two categories, they would have to win 25 of 35 seats -- or about 71 percent of the seats. This would be a possible, however less than likely task, even in a year in which one party has a general advantage in the double-digits.

By expanding the race to incoporate all seats that Cook views as possibly competitive at this juncture -- the "toss-ups,""leans," and "likely" categories -- the Democrats' path to victory would become slightly easier. To win back the House with only seats deemed today to be potentially competitive, the Democrats would have to win 42 of the 68 races, or roughly 61 percent of the elections in question. While this might be difficult, it is not impossible, either numerically speaking or politically speaking.

Clearly, it would still behoove the Democrats to continue to expand the field of play for this fall. Even if the traditional recruitment season is over, that does not mean that Democratic insiders still should not look for one or two -- or more -- new candidates across the country, nor does it mean that they should not help prop up less orthodox, and perhaps more grassroots, candidates who might have a shot at victory with institutional help from the party.

That said, it appears that there are enough seats in play, or potentially in play, at this time for the Democrats to have a shot at retaking the House of Representatives this fall -- particularly given the fact that the Dems have maintained a double-digit generic congressional ballot lead in every poll in the last month (with the surprising exception of the most recent Fox News poll).

Tags: House 2006 (all tags)



Re: Cook Political Report: House Race Solidifying

It is likely that more seats are in play, although not neccessarily with a high likelihood (at least by Cook's standards).  The Detroit Free-Press, for example, mentions three Republican seats in Michigan which Democrats consider in play (MI-8, MI-9, MI-11).  None are listed here.  McCotter, for one, should be on this list.  The WY-At Large seat is within what 3 or 4 points in the last poll.  Put barbara Cubin on the list.  I could probably put at least a half dozen more without much effort/

Overall, I believe the establishment is underplaying the possibility of what is out there.  No certainty but a possibility.

by David Kowalski 2006-05-12 06:08PM | 0 recs
Re: Cook Political Report: House Race Solidifying

I'm not buying his analysis. I think if we delved deeper into many of these races, we'd find a lot of them up for grabs. I think many challengers suffer from lower name id at this point. That will change once the election draws near.

An important test would be to see how many republicans are actually polling below 50% and 45%.

by JackBourassa 2006-05-12 06:34PM | 0 recs
I don't buy it
I know the Cook report is fairly favorable to Dems right now, but I think it shold be moreso. Outside of one Texas seat, two Georgia seats (all three redistrcting related), and two Katrina related Louisiana seats, there isn't a single vulnerable Dem seats. Even Wilson will win OH-06 by at least 12 points.

Seriously--does the Cook report at all compenstate for the 20 piint national swing that has taken place? Dems are up 15, after losing by 5 in recent years. What Dem held seat could Reps posssilbe win? VT-AL? Don't make me barf. That's the biggest political forecaster lie since the NJ-Gov race being close.

Cook isn't a bad writer or analyst, but I don't see enough macro impact here.
by Chris Bowers 2006-05-12 06:50PM | 0 recs
Re: I don't buy it

But the same polls that favor generic Democrats also say that they give high marks to their own Congressmen.

The incumbent is always tough to beat and Dems are making a serious gamble trying to nationalize these elections...when they really need to find states and regions where there a bunch of swing districts and concentrate there...just like the GOP did in the South in 1994.

by risenmessiah 2006-05-13 12:51AM | 0 recs
Re: I don't buy it

"But the same polls that favor generic Democrats also say that they give high marks to their own Congressmen."

This is unfortunately (and undeservedly) quite true.

I haven't seen anything recent on this, but it's not much different than if you ask people what they think of the state of education in our country.  The scores were low.  

But if you ask people about their kids' teachers, you get higher marks.  

Generic Dem vs. GOP numbers are interesting to look at, but at the end of the day, they aren't terribly predictive of what's going to happen in individual districts... particularly in May.

It's still too early to see if there will actually be the kind of 'macro impact' that Chris spoke of.  

If the environment continues as is through the summer, that's when we're be more likely to see these the races in the Likely GOP column start to slide into the Lean or Toss-up category, or see more races added to the potentially competitive race.  

There might be a handful of districts that we could quibble about not being included at all, or districts that might not be ranked as more competitive, but in general, this seems like a pretty logical look at where things stand today.

by Politicalhack06 2006-05-13 09:08AM | 0 recs
Re: I don't buy it

Well, as for Katrina turning LA into a Republican bastion, I think that that may be somewhat premature. I read that 100,000 blacks have moved to Baton Rouge and other parts of the state. If so, even though NOLA may have less Democrats than before, have the other surrounding districts picked up more Democratic voters? On top of that, given that conservative parishes also lost people, will that balance out some of what has been lost in NOLA?

by jiacinto 2006-05-13 07:58AM | 0 recs
Re: Cook Political Report: House Race Solidifying

Strange.  The fact that he has OH-18 (Ney) as a toossup and OH-1 (Steve Chabot) and OH-15 (Deborah Pryce) as "Lean Republican" strikes me as odd.  Chabot and Pryce face similar situations, representing marginally Democratic districts (50-49 Kerry) that are become more Democratic as conservatives move out of them to the exurbs.  If suburban Republican turnout is depressed significantly and Democrats are energized, I can see these seats being in play, but otherwise I don't think it will be easy to take out these well-established incumbents.  I also don't know about calling Ney's seat a tossup.  It's a pretty Republican district.

by asearchforreason 2006-05-12 07:10PM | 0 recs
Re: Cook Political Report: House Race Solidifying

Do you know how steeped in slime and corruption Ney is?

The answer is very.

That said, this seat may end up being like the seats of Dan Rostenkowski and Jack Brooks in 1994, which is to say, flipping for exactly one cycle.

Which is fine, as long as we take it in 2006.

by brownsox 2006-05-13 12:33AM | 0 recs
Re: Cook Political Report: House Race Solidifying

but this seat isnt as red as those were blue.  ney's district is only PV R + 5 or so

by yomoma2424 2006-05-13 06:28AM | 0 recs
Re: Cook Political Report: House Race Solidifying

I do know that Ney seems to be quite proud of his corruption.  I just don't think Republican voters care much.

by asearchforreason 2006-05-13 08:21AM | 0 recs
Re: Cook Political Report: House Race Solidifying

Polling vis-a-vis name ID is utterly useless at this point.  And that's ALL old guard political analysts have at their fingertips so that what they report and analyze.  But of course challengers are behind in polls at this point because campaigns have not begun in earnest.  The average person (not mydd readers) does not yet know who's running in most of these races.

It is said (and it's true) that Congress is won or lost by the end of the month of April when most states' filing deadlines have come and gone.  It's all about recruitment.  We've had great success at recruitment and they have not.  Here's the importance of what I am talking about:  We've done so well recruiting in the Senate and, more profoundly, they have done so poorly that it's almost impossible for our side to have a net loss of any seats even though we are defending more no matter what the national mood is or where the polls are.  

Because of recruitment alone, at this point it would be complete failure by our side to not pick up the 15 seats in the House we need for control.  And failure if we don't pickup at least 2-3 in the Senate.  And everyone in Washington knows this whether they want to report it or not.  It is in their best interests to portray a horserace because they want suspense.

by jgarcia 2006-05-12 08:25PM | 0 recs
Re: Amy Walter

Was watching a bit of PBS' Newshour the other day and Amy Walter, although I'd never seen her and had no idea who she was for most of the time I was watching the segment, was on talking about the Cunningham/Abramoff stuff with another guest.

When I heard her talking about how "Democrats are involved, too" in corruption and then citing Jefferson (who is) and Alan Monahan(sp?)(who may or may not be), as the two examples, and then continuing on in that vein, I figured she was a GOP shill. Boy, was I surprised when she was identified as Amy Walter of the Cook political report.

Cook and Rothenberg, IMO, are just two run-of-the-
mill pervayers of the conventional wisdom. I honestly don't know why anyone would pay for their

by phillydem 2006-05-12 09:24PM | 0 recs
Re: Amy Walter

yea i watched that too...  It was totally bogus how she was digging to find someway to list the deomcrats in the scandal category.  the problem is that it is just not as widespread.  This is just one more example of the media trying to be "fair and balanced".  Even though scandal is widespread in the Republican party (deserving most of the attention), it is portrayed as equivalent to some small local scandal with the Democrats.  I am all for fairness, but this is not it!

by phemfrog 2006-05-13 06:38AM | 0 recs
Someone tell me Virgil Goode's seat isn't in play

He's the Democrat from VA-05 who switched to the elephant party in '02 and started voting 96% Republican. There are so many independents in the area that his 65% of the vote kept up during and after the switch. Before Virgil's defection (for a spot on appropriations) and after, Warner and Kaine won the district.

So what do you think happens in a district full of independents, now that the country is going to hell in a handbasket and their representative now has his hand on the wheel? What do you think happened to Virgil Goode's "incumbency advantage" when Mitchell Wade confessed to giving him $88k in illegal campaign contributions while MZM was pursuing a contract which he helped secure? (Virgil is "Representative A" in the Mitchell Wade confession, and on TPMMuckraker's Midterm Muck list.)

The challenger, Al Weed, is a 42 year veteran, a 33 year farmer, and a progressive with an active volunteer base. He ran in 2004, and in a rural district like this where personal contact is difficult and necessary, I think it's a good thing that he ran before, has his name reco up, has already made first-time mistakes, and knows the district really well. He's basically been campaigning for three years -- often with a thinktank he founded to promote switchgrass and healthcare in rural Virginia -- and I think he'll even be helped by the low turnout of a mid-term election. Any way you slice it, this race has "the potential of becoming competitive by election day" as the post said.

Full Disclosure: I'm working for Al Weed this summer, but I didn't post this under the campaign screen name on purpose; I'm looking at this as the 20 y.o. blog reader, and I hope this comment is written that way too.

by msnook 2006-05-12 11:41PM | 0 recs
Re: Someone tell me Virgil Goode's seat isn't in p

I second this. The only thing Virgil has going for him is personality (not that it's my cup of tea...). He's perceived as a good-natured local guy, trusted by local voters. If we can bombard local media with reminders of the incredibly seedy underworld into which he has immersed himself, that can't possibly survive unscathed. He has become the classic Washington wheeler-dealer, consorting with bribers and enjoying illegal kickbacks. I don't care if he does drive a car with 250,000 miles on it (one of the most frequently repeated statements about the guy.)

Remember that in happier days Mitchell Wade bragged that he "owned" Virgil, together with his other clients. People in the 5th district can easily be reminded of that many times before November.

I think there is a great deal of scope to turn this one around, and I hope to spend a good chunk of the summer working on it.

by jem6x 2006-05-13 03:38PM | 0 recs
Re: VA-05

Virgil Goode wants to be the "good old country boy" with duct tape on his car and the run-down office in Rocky Mount (although he has a very nice office in Farmville and probably in Charlottesville as well). This makes him more like us, he feels. But then he ruins the picture at times. For example, he showed up in Buckingham County today with his big rented limousine--handing out the same old pencils as always. Where are the people with the erasers when you need them?  : )

Well, Virgil's not like me or like most of the people I know. I don't go around with my hand out hoping that money will fall in my hands because of favors I do or do things for other people in response to money I receive. You can't tell me that he didn't know that the donations were not a bribe for a job well-done or one being planned. Maybe he didn't know they were illegal, but he knew why he was getting the money. He's not like me--he's all about rewarding the rich (including himself) and following/supporting the Bush initiatives. He's part of the corruption in Washington and not part of the solution to that problem.

Virgil's also a racist, in my view, for the positions he's taking on illegal immigration. I disagree with lots of things about the House proposal--especially the part about building a fence along the border. How is that going to benefit the 5th District?

If Virgil put half as much effort into working for his district as he does in following Tom Trancredo from CO around, maybe Danville and Martinsville wouldn't be in such a bad shape. He brought MZM/Athena to Martinsville, but I hear that's not working out as well as everyone thought it would. Something to do with the shakeup in Washington, I bet.

When the voters in the 5th District hear about these disasters over and over, perhaps the truth about his work in Washington will finally sink in. He's all about himself and shows that by his actions over the past few years--in the mix-up with Mitchell Wade, the conditions in his own district, and his embarrassing position on immigration.

It's long past time for a change--and Al Weed is definitely not a cookie from the same mold.

by Fed Up in Southside 2006-05-13 06:14PM | 0 recs
Re: Cook Political Report: House Race Solidifying

Cook and CQ competitive US House Races
B)Leans Democratic
C)Likely Democratic/Democratic Favored
  1)North Dakota-AL(Pomeroy-D)
  2)South Carolina-5(Spratt-D)
  3)South Dakota-AL(Herseth-D)
  5)West Virginia-1(Mollohan-D)

Republican Seats
  7)New Mexico-l(Wilson-R)
  8)New York-24(OPEN-Boehlert-R)
B)Leans Republican
  9)North Carolina-11(Taylor-R)
C)Likely Republican/Republican Favored
 11)New Hampshire-2(Bass-R)
 12)New Jersey-7(Ferguson-R)
 13)New York-19(Kelly-R)
 14)New York-20(Sweeney-R)
 15)New York-29(Kuhl-R)

by CMBurns 2006-05-13 06:12AM | 0 recs
Re: PA-10/Sherwood

The folks up in Don Sherwood's district are not happy with his marital infidelity and the lying that went along with it. They are truly offended - a lot
like western Pennsylvanians were when Santorum ripped off Penn Hills for tuition reimbursement to a cyber school.

In addition to a Dem challenger in Chris Carney, Sherwood has a Republican primary challenger, Kathy Scott. Until this year, neither R nor D even bothered to oppose Sherwood he was so entrenched.
Right now, I'd say the odds are only 50-50 for Sherwood to make it out the GOP primary. If he does not, this could be a bellweather-type district.

by phillydem 2006-05-13 09:02AM | 0 recs
Re: Cook Political Report: House Race Solidifying

A good example of how a challenger can sneak up on an incumbent is Joe Donnelly (D-Granger) in Indiana 2.  In the 2004 election, the incumbent, Rep. Chris Chocola (R-Bristol), won re-election over Joe Donnelly but with only 54% WITH President Bush's coattails.  In December of 2005, a poll was taken that showed Chocola ahead of Donnelly 46-40%; that is a two term incumbent polled against the man he defeated the year before. Hardly overwhelming support for Chocola.

There are a lot of intangibles in IN-2.  Many in the Republican base are disgusted with Gov. Mitch Daniels and his two big problem policies: the switch from Central to Eastern time and his leasing of the Indiana toll road to a foreign investor.  The same base that gave Chocola just 54% is openly grumbling and openly considering either a protest vote or just not voting at all this year.  Joe Donnelly is a well liked moderate with good name recognition and a good reputation among independents and Republicans.  Karl Rove will have a hard time painting Joe as a limp wristed liberal.  

Indiana's 2nd district is definitely up for grabs.  It will not be easy, and it will take money, but it is in play and within reach.


by aguila del norte 2006-05-13 06:19AM | 0 recs
Re: Cook Political Report: House Race Solidifying

Well one thing the Democrats should do is HEAVILY target suburban districts. That is, they need to identify suburban districts that voted for Clinton, Gore, and Kerry (perhaps 3 out of the four elections of 1992, 1996, 2000, and 2004) that are held by Republicans. Or maybe they should even expand the universe to suburban Congressional districts that provided Democrats with at least an average of 45% of the vote in the last four presidential elections or more that have Republican Congressman/women. From there they should launch aggressive challenges.

by jiacinto 2006-05-13 08:02AM | 0 recs
Re: Cook Political Report: House Race Solidifying

Well one thing the Democrats should do is HEAVILY target suburban districts. That is, they need to identify suburban districts that voted for Clinton, Gore, and Kerry (perhaps 3 out of the four elections of 1992, 1996, 2000, and 2004) that are held by Republicans. Or maybe they should even expand the universe to suburban Congressional districts that provided Democrats with at least an average of 45% of the vote in the last four presidential elections or more that have Republican Congressman/women. From there they should launch aggressive challenges.

by jiacinto 2006-05-13 08:02AM | 0 recs
Re: Cook Political Report: House Race Solidifying

On the quibble side, I think Minnesota is highly underrated as a potential mother lode of turnovers this year (along with CT). The R's just nominated their weakest possible candidate in the open CD6, and there are two other potential turnover seats as well. W is as unpopular there as anywhere in the Midwest.

by ColoDem 2006-05-13 08:11AM | 0 recs
Re: Cook Political Report: House Race Solidifying

Anyone know KY politics? What the heck is this guy (Geoff Davis?) doing only in the "Leans R" category if his district is a +12 for his own party?

by ColoDem 2006-05-13 08:12AM | 0 recs
Re: Cook Political Report: House Race Solidifying

Davis-R-KY-4 Democratic Opponent is a popular former Democratic Congressman Ken Lucas.

Lucas keeps Kentucky-4 in the Leans/Tossup Collumn.

by CMBurns 2006-05-13 08:56AM | 0 recs
Re: Cook Political Report: House Race Solidifying

Do we have a top tier Candidate for Arizona-1(Renzi-R)- How about Steve Owens- the 1996 Democratic Congressional Nominee against J.D Hayworth. Hayworth's Old District(AZ-6)= New Arizona-1.

1)Florida-10(Bill Young)-Clinton carried the Florida 10 in 1992 and 1996, Gore carried the Florida 10 in 2000. Kerry lost Florida-10 by a 51-49. (St Petersburg).

2)Florida-16(Mark Foley-R)
3)Florida-18(Ilena Ros Lehtan-R)
4)Florida-24(Tom Feeney-R)
14)New York-3(King-R)
15)New York-13(Fosella-R)
16)New York-23(McHugh-R)

by CMBurns 2006-05-13 08:24AM | 0 recs
Re: PA-18

There are two Dems running in the primary, Kovach and Kluko(sp?). Neither are "top tier", but a contested primary is usually good for at least some free media for each man.

This could be another interesting area. If you look at the latest Quinnipiac Poll it asks a series of questions about how Pennsylvanians feel about the
direction of the state, etc. The "discontent" numbers in the SW are really high, much higher than anywhere else in the state. These folks are in a very sour, nasty mood. Keep your eye on Tuesday's primary results for a gauge on how much trouble incumbents might be in there.

by phillydem 2006-05-13 09:08AM | 0 recs
Re: I don't buy it

Perhaps but that makes it the responsiiblity of the LA Democratic Party to get them registered or for even volunteer groups like DFA down there to do that.

by jiacinto 2006-05-13 09:31AM | 0 recs
Re: Cook Political Report: House Race Solidifying

The poster who wonders if the political establishment is underplaying prospective Democratic gains may be on to something. There have been elections in this cycle (including some in the US) where the liberal-pregressive candidates have outperformed their pre-election polling.

by spirowasright 2006-05-13 01:32PM | 0 recs


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