Cook: House Dems Favored to Pick Up (Only?) 2-7 Seats

Last month I picked a bone with the projection from the Cook Political Report's House race editor David Wasserman that the Democrats would pick up between two and eight seats next fall. Apparently this month Wasserman has become slightly more bearish on the Democrats:

The U.S. House: House Editor David Wasserman estimates today that Democrats will pick up between two and seven House seats next year.

Frankly I just don't see it. Now I don't put it past the House Democrats to screw up their great opportunity to blow past their current majority -- which, I might add, is already larger than any GOP majority in the chamber since 1955 -- and instead lose seats (or, God forbid, the majority). After coming of political age during this decade I certainly have learned not to get my hopes up too much. That said, this prediction seems to be quite a bit too conservative for my tastes.

To begin, as I noted in my last post, the National Republican Congressional Committee remains mired in debt less than a year out from election day while the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is as flush with cash as it has ever been with a net $29 million in the bank. This magnitude of this feat cannot be overstated; Larry Sabato has pointed out that this is the first time in at least two decades that the DCCC has outraised the NRCC. In other words, House Republicans haven't had to meet the Democrats on a level financial playing field in a long time -- and now they aren't going to either given the DCCC's lead of more than $30 million in cash-on-hand. Sabato also adds that individual Democrats' fundraising looks great on the micro level as well.

For example, during the first half of 2007, the 42 first-year Democrats out-raised their 13 Republican counterparts $21.8 million to $4.3 million, for an average of $520,000 per Democrat to $330,000 per Republican. (21 of these Democrats raised over half a million dollars during that time, while 4 Republicans did so.)

Not only are the Democrats enjoying a real advantage in the money race, the Democrats have also seen a lot more success in recruitment than the Republicans. I'm not going to go district-by-district here (you can look through the recruitment tag here on MyDD to get a bit of a gauge), but suffice it to say that the Democrats have been recruiting more and stronger challengers than have the Republicans. There have been some setbacks in this area, no doubt, but the overall trend is clear.

Now I would not say that I'm looking for the Democrats to pick up another 30 or so seats, as they did last cycle. That said, and I've said it before, I'd be surprised if the Democrats didn't net a pick up of at least 10-15 seats in the House next fall. Maybe I'm too optimistic. But looking at the macro and even micro factors, I just can't help but think that it would be a terrible disappointment and even a great surprise to me were the House Democrats to net only a gain of two seats come November 2008.

Tags: charlie cook, House 2008 (all tags)



All we need to know about Cook's prediction is how

many he predicted last time.  My guess is less than 10, which would seem about right--- add 20 to his prediction and you've got a good idea of what the Dems will gain this time.

Nothing has improved for the Republicans this time, aside from the fact that the lost many of the close seats last time.

But there were another dozen or so that were still very close, and they don't have the monetary advantage this time that they had last time.

I see the Dems picking up at least 15, probably closer to 25.

by verasoie 2007-12-20 09:51PM | 0 recs
Re: All we need to know about Cook's prediction is

Very little has improved for the dems, this time... They've abandoned their mandate and look like fools up there..  There will be no impetus to put them over the top... Look at how badly we've lost our special elections...  I expect to lose seats this cycle, actually...  The democrats can only blame themselves...

I hope I'm wrong, and I hope you are right... but, I am not optimistic.



by lordmikethegreat 2007-12-20 09:56PM | 0 recs
Re: All we need to know about Cook's prediction is

I'm not a buyer into that theory.

Real 2006 Democratic mandate was small- preventing further major damage- on everything except government ethics, where there was more.

I don't see any notably bad result in the special elections, either.  Those were no swing districts.

by killjoy 2007-12-21 12:11AM | 0 recs
Re: All we need to know about Cook's prediction is

Mayb eCook reads teh liberal blogosphere too much.
After a year with you guys and other sites like this, I'm surprised Cook is giving you that many.

BTW, it's always about loweered expectations.

by spirowasright 2007-12-21 09:32AM | 0 recs
Re: All we need to know about Cook's prediction is

I hope I'm wrong, and I hope you are right... but, I am not optimistic.

I don't believe you hope you're wrong. But then, I don't actually believe you're on our side, because all I've seen you do here is try to undermine our morale.

by epenthesis 2007-12-21 05:15AM | 0 recs
Re: All we need to know about Cook's prediction is

Now substitute Republicans where you have dems and democrats and you might have something in the realm of reality.

by msstaley 2007-12-21 09:27AM | 0 recs
Re: All we need to know about Cook's prediction

Cook had about +15 D in the House, with 10 tossups.  And +3 in the Senate, iirc.

I see Republicans losing 20 seats at this point with 30-35 possible.  The hard part is estimating Democratic losses, which seem likely to be 5 or under.

by killjoy 2007-12-21 12:04AM | 0 recs
Re: All we need to know about Cook's prediction

He said that Dems wont regain the House in December 2005..a gain of 10 seats at that point. He adjusted the predictions as the year went along.

by Boilermaker 2007-12-21 02:51AM | 0 recs
That's what happens when you write Bush a blank

check to continue the U.S. occupation of Iraq.  

by Stephen Cassidy 2007-12-20 09:53PM | 0 recs
Re: Cook: House Dems Favored to Pick Up (Only?) 2-

It will be about 8 years of Bush not one year with Dem Congress...
Any troop KIA or WIA is one too many. Any Iraqi death or imprisonment is one too many ....for that pretend GOVT.
Folks are paying their heating bill with credit cards...We ain't seen nothin on the economy.
I want Santa to bring me for Xmas 2008?
Edwards Prez..Obama VP
Dennis as Speaker
Dodd Majority Leader in Senate

...I promise to be very..very good.

by nogo war 2007-12-21 02:38AM | 0 recs
Re: Cook: House Forecast

Cook believes far too strongly in the PVI and last cycle he listed seats with entrenched Democratic incumbents as in play for the longest time.  North Dakota At Large springs to mind where Earl Pomeroy has not had much of a challenge in years but Cook listed it last cycle.

Second, he consistently believed rosy Republican assertions when there was nothing to back it up. In NY-24, NRCC Chair Tom Reynolds said, "I know New York and there is no way that we lose this seat."  Well, the polls said it and their state senator went down semi-easily.  Anybody could see it coming.  I sure saw it coming.  Cook did not.

Another case was South Dakota At Large where the GOP had a pathetic candidate.  He also bought Alan Mollohan's seat in WV and John Spratt's seat in SC as pretty much gone.

Beyond that, Cook got famous in an era when very few seats turned over.  He underestimated turnover.  Very gradually increasing his estimates pretty much each time for about a year but still underplaying it by about 14 seats (if tossups are split evenly and leans go with the favored party, Cook predicted Democrats would win 219 seats in 2006).  To his credit, Cook did discuss at length the possibility of a wave election for months before it happened.

My best guess right now is a gain of 15 to 20 seats but retirements (and unretirements like Jim Ramstad's) plus the Presidential race could effect that.  Republicans won a majority of the close elections in 2006 and Democrats have raised a lot of money for pretty much all of their freshmen.  Both good signs.    

by David Kowalski 2007-12-21 03:12AM | 0 recs
Thank the lunatic fringe

That have been attacking Pelosi and Reid since days one because they couldn't achieve world peace and end poverty instantly upon taking power.

I think we will have to settle for small gains with the far left of the party peeing inside the tent instead of out.

by dpANDREWS 2007-12-21 03:33AM | 0 recs
Re: Thank the lunatic fringe

Very true. All that complaining about being sold down the fucking river on Iraq does is make the voters aware that they're being sold down the river on Iraq.

We should just learn to be grateful that they aren't planning to reintroduce slavery until the 111th Congress.

by Englishlefty 2007-12-22 04:24AM | 0 recs
Re: Cook: House Dems Favored to Pick Up (Only?) 2-
it would be more useful if rather than fighting over the primaries, the netroots would go to bat for senate and congressional seats.  
I have no one to fight for locally, my congressman is so busy kissing republican ass he doesn't need nor will he get my help.  My senators are not running this year and my state reps are secure.  
by MollieBradford 2007-12-21 03:34AM | 0 recs
Re: Cook: House Dems Favored to Pick Up (Only?) 2-

I agree with your post and the one above that. Someday, the netroots will grow up.

by spirowasright 2007-12-21 10:04AM | 0 recs
Re: Cook: House Dems Favored to Pick Up (Only?) 2-

Why? The netroots' formation can largely be put down to anger over conservative mendacity and the supine nature of congress. Why should they go to bat for people who show no sign that they won't turn on us to get more time on Sunday talk shows? Why are they not allowed to try to get candidates who represent them? Especially when the positions they're running on are overwhelmingly popular?

Besides, why are they mutually exclusive? The primary and general elections do not take place on the same day. In point of fact, the netroots did "go to bat for senate and congressional seats". Try checking the archives of any major blog from October 2006.

I honestly can't see how you would be able to believe anything that you've written.

by Englishlefty 2007-12-22 04:29AM | 0 recs
Re: Cook: House Dems Favored to Pick Up 2-7 Seats

Personally I expect little change in the House this year, at best a Democratic pickup of no more than 6 seats.  I think it's a lot harder to gain seats in the House than in the Senate.  I also think the Democrats missed some opportunities in 2006.  Consider NC8.  The unknown, underfunded challenger got no help from the national party yet lost by only about 400 votes.  The conventional wisdom is that this year with more money he has a great chance.  However, this is a district with about 125,000 votes in off year elections and about 225,000 votes in Presidential elections.  The incumbant has had several close calls in off year elections but has generally won handily in Presidential year elections.  Instead of needing another 500 votes to win like last year, the challenger will probably need to pick up 15,000-20,000 votes next year.

Now, admittedly, some close calls last year were in Democratic-leaning districts where the extra voters will help.  But the majority were in Republican-leaning districts where the higher turnout will make things harder.  Of course, maybe this will be another "wave" election, but I think it is more likely that the Democrats will merely solidify their advantage rather than make any significant gains.

I'm much more optimistic in the Senate, where +3 appears to be an absolute minimum, +4-+6 likely, and +7-+8 not out of the realm of possibility.

by LanceS 2007-12-21 03:40AM | 0 recs
Some wins will return to the Repukes

KS-2 for instance.  Here we have a R+10 that went Dem. This will, very likely, return to R hands, since the previous R is running to regain his seat from the Dem.  Dems have made some gains in Kansas, but recently suffered a HUGE HUGE problem when the Attorney General, a Democrat who beat an anti-abortion theonazi, confessed to having an affair, and then seeking retaliation after the affair ended.  A TOTAL disaster.

by dataguy 2007-12-21 04:27AM | 0 recs
Re: Some wins will return to the Repukes
Uh, KY-2 is already Republican.
Are you thinking of another state?
by spirowasright 2007-12-21 10:05AM | 0 recs
2-7 sounds right

What will be the impetus to vote Democratic?

In 2006, we had a combo of corruption and Mark Foley.  These are now over.

What's left is the Iraq war.  How will we play this?

by dataguy 2007-12-21 04:23AM | 0 recs
What Impetus to Vote Democratic ?

Besides an Iraq that has been ethnically cleansed into a temporary lull?

How about the subprime mortage "shitpile", 400,000 home foreclosures in 2008, and an economy teetering on the brink of recession, if not falling in?

How health care with about 47 million uninsured, 30 million under-insured, and kids dying because insurers will not pay for needed care -- to say nothing of SCHIP?

How about a corrupt and politicized system of justice?

How about about congressional obstuctionism, especially by filibuster, of the Democrats' "mandate", limited though it was -- that is a good argument for extending the Democratic majorities?

And, on and on.....

by Arthurkc 2007-12-21 05:22AM | 0 recs
Re: 2-7 sounds right

Look at polls on right track/wrong track.  Newt Gingrinch was right when he said that there was room in the race for the Republican nomination for President for a candidate who criticized Bush.  Fortunately for Democrats that Republican is Ron Paul (although Huckabee tried a little bit recently).  Ron Paul is raising tens of millions of dollars from people fed up with Republican talking points.  Since the mainstream Republican nominees are not distancing themselves from Bush and his 24% of the country they will represent status quo.  This is going to kill Republicans with Independent voters.  Furthermore, should we see an independent run by Bloomberg it will really increase voter turnout which will help Democrats in Congressional races.  We only have a small handful of vulnerable seats, one Senate and maybe two House seats.  Combine that with the incredible money advantage and quality of candidate advantage and the interest by Democratic voters in the 2008 election and we have another wave election year.  Democrats will win between 20-30 seats in the House and 6-12 seats in the Senate.  

by msstaley 2007-12-21 09:39AM | 0 recs
Re: Cook: House Dems Favored to Pick Up (Only?) 2-
  I think he has a point.  They will lose some of the pickups from 06.  They have done a horrible job of sustaining message.  I think the republicans have done a good job in tarring congress.
  The news today that Shaheen is trailing Sununu after enjoying a early 17 point lead should be of great concern.  Much to my dismay, the victory dances might be premature, especially if the dems keep up with the horrid PR job.  Money edge doesn't always produce results.  If it did, there would be no democrats in office.
by moondancer 2007-12-21 05:27AM | 0 recs
Re: Cook: House Dems Favored to Pick Up (Only?) 2-

The country wants a new direction and it does not blame Dems for congressional inaction. Look at the latest party favorability numbers:

USA Today/Gallup
Dems 54/37 favorable
GOP 50/40 unfavorable

ABC News/Washington Post
Dems 51/45 favorable
GOP 56/39 unfavorable 2/21/10046/847/969/425164

I think we are looking at losses of up to 5 seats with gains anything up to 15, maybe more.

The Senate should be a minimum of +3 with anything up to 7 or 8 possible.

by conspiracy 2007-12-21 06:11AM | 0 recs
Re: Cook: House Dems Favored to Pick Up (Only?) 2-

I would take everything with a grain of salt now.   Cook's predictions evolve with events.    In the year leading up to November '06, there was a steady progression of changed assessments, from Safe Republican to Republican Favored, from Republican Favored to Republican Lean, from Republican Lean to Toss-Up.  And remarkably few previously Republican seats to even Democratic Lean.

Cook's methodology puts a heavy weight on both incumbency and PVI, which is pretty rational actually, except that it doesn't work when the national mood is very pronounced one direction or another.

by InigoMontoya 2007-12-21 06:00AM | 0 recs
Re: Cook: House Dems Favored to Pick Up (Only?) 2-

PVI also doesn't work when there are population shifts and identifiable voting groups shift.  We have a huge gender gap that favors the Democrats and women will be an even larger portion of the vote then men in 2008 even if Hillary is not on the ticket.  The Latino vote has also sifted heavily towards Democrats as have the votes of registered Independents.  I would as a rule of thumb shift all PVI's at least 5 points in the Democrats favor.

by msstaley 2007-12-21 09:43AM | 0 recs
Re: Cook: House Dems Favored to Pick Up (Only?) 2-

You're getting a little carried away here, buddy.

I would as a rule of thumb shift all PVI's at least 5 points in the Democrats favor.

Population and ideological changes I can understand and do see, but there's no evidence that a shift at least 5 points in the Democrats favor has occurred - especially looking at the results of the recent elections in Ohio and Virginia.

by MORawn 2007-12-21 09:56AM | 0 recs
Re: Cook: House Dems Favored to Pick Up (Only?) 2-

As you may recall, at the end of 2005 there was a special election in CA-48 and in 2006 another in CA-50.  Both were strong Republican districts and both Democratic candidates had enough money to be considered serious candidates.  The Republican candidates had a lot more money with Republicans realizing that they couldn't afford to lose any special election in a strong Republican districts.  Losing would set up a narrative that would damage their ability to recruit candidates and raise money.  The Democrats lost both special elections despite hopes that a miracle would occur.  The OH and VA don't tell us anything.  

If we want to look for a sign about what's going to happen in November I would suggest we look at state legislative races like the one that happened recently in TX.  In 2005 and 2006 Democrats were winning Republican legislative seats in special election after special election all over the country.

Another point on PVI, it is based on the last Presidential election results which mean that the further we are from those results the less useful it is as a guideline.

by msstaley 2007-12-21 10:24AM | 0 recs
Re: Cook: House Dems Favored to Pick Up (Only?) 2-

Two things - first, PVI is calculated by using the the last two Presidential elections.  It's mean to measure the historical leanings of a congressional district.  Because it measures the vote from Presidential years (not off-year elections), I'd say that's it's actually a lot more useful in '08 than it was last year.

Secondly, because the results in both OH and VA essentially matched up with the historical Dem. performance, I'd say they do tell us something - specifically, that the five point Democratic shift you posited as a "rule of thumb" in your earlier post is a bit unfounded.

Sure you can point to races like the legislative special in TX, but I can pick some, too.  Indianapolis mayoral from November, maybe?

Look, I hope I'm wrong.  I'd love for there to be a landslide victory for us next year, I just don't see it as the most likely scenario, right now.

I guess that's my basic point.  We really need to strive to be realistic and go with facts, figures and historical precedent.  Sure, we should also go with our gut instincts.  Mine, for instance, says that your and Jonathan's predictions are closer to overly optimistic dreams than reality.

by MORawn 2007-12-21 11:44AM | 0 recs
Seat margin in 1996

Actually, the Republicans DID have a larger majority once.  Going into the 1996 House elections, they had 236 seats, to the Democrats' 198 (+ Bernie Sanders, so really 199).  The 1994 elections resulted in 230 Republican seats to the Democrats' 204 (+ Sanders), but all the party switchers to the GOP over the following 2 years resulted in the larger majority by fall 1996.

Source: es_House_of_Representatives_elections,_1 996

by alphaaqua 2007-12-21 06:57AM | 0 recs
Thanks alphaqua, I was about to... the same thing.  When I first read Jonathan's story I thought I vaguely remembered the Rethugs having 236 seats at one point before the 1996 election due to party-switchers, and I looked it up and found sure enough that was right.  We were sub-200 then, the worst it's ever been.

Thank God we've since regained the majority with fewer white Southerners and other DINOs than ever before.

by DCCyclone 2007-12-21 09:11AM | 0 recs
Jonathan, you should prepare to be disappointed

moondancer put it well:

They will lose some of the pickups from 06.  They have done a horrible job of sustaining message.  I think the republicans have done a good job in tarring congress

First of all, we're going to lose some seats that we picked up last time.  I don't see how candidates like Boyda or Lampson win in the districts they represent, especially with a presidential race activating those Republicans that stay at home in off years.

Plus, look at what we had to work with last year: The Iraq War, Foley's follies, congressional corruption and Bushco's ineptitude/arrogance.  The war is the only one of these issues that has a chance to be as influential next year as it was in '06.

Finally, the math just doesn't make sense.  There's simply not enough Republican districts that are +-3 PVI (where the bulk of pickups occur).  While I feel good about Democratic enthusiasm, recruiting/fundraising successes and Republican retirements, if the math doesn't make sense, it doesn't make sense (see OH-5).

I live in Missouri, and you'd have to lay me about 5/3 before I'd place a bet on Kay Barnes to unseat Sam Graves (MO-6, PVI R+5).  It's probably our best bet in the state, but that doesn't mean it's a good one.  There's just not a strong chance we can take districts like these.

While I'm a bit more bullish about our prospects in the Senate (where we can really demonstrate Republican obstructionism and the need for 60 Democratic seats), I think Cook is spot on about his predictions for the House.

11 months out, I'm thinking 3-5 Dem pickups in the house and 4-6 in the Senate.

by MORawn 2007-12-21 09:29AM | 0 recs
Re: Jonathan, you should prepare to be disappointe

Democracy Corps released a battleground poll in August titled House Battle Moves to GOP Territory.  They polled the 70 most competitive House districts split evenly between R and D.  They found that the D Incumbents held an average 18 point lead over the R challengers while the R incumbents were actually behind their D challengers an average of 5 points.  In the most vulnerable Democratic seats the D's were ahead by an average 10 points.  In the least competitive of R seats in this survey the D challengers were still ahead by 3 points.

Now, this poll was done at the end of July and well before the 2008 elections however, at this point the Bush approval rating was also at a lofty 36%.  In addition, since this poll a number of Republicans have resigned from Congress, additional Republicans have had ethical problems revealed and Democrats have even more candidates challenging Republican incumbents which further strains Republican resources.

I just don't see a mere 5 seat gain for Democrats as being realistic given the overwhelming micro and macro factors that favor the Dems going into 2008.

by msstaley 2007-12-21 10:11AM | 0 recs
Re: Cook: House Dems Favored ...

Charlie Cook responds:

First, to answer the question raised about what The Cook Political Report predicted in 2006, our final predictions were for a 20-35 seat gain in the House (the final was 30), 4-6 in the Senate (final 6) and 4-6 in governors (final 6) ( /110106.php).  In fact our predictions didn't change much over the last 60 days of the campaign.  We were the first major analysts/journalists to predict the House turning over, back in the first week of August of 2006, indeed before the consensus in the netroots that the House would turn.  Anyone going on our website can see that over the course of the year before the election, as the political climate worsened for Republicans and as the situations in individual races got tougher for the GOP, our projections of Republican losses increased as well, such projections are dynamic, not static, they change as the circumstances change.  Had the midterm election been held a year earlier, Republicans wouldn't have lost the House.

For those who haven't been following Congressional races for a long period of time, the Cook Political Report was founded in 1984, thus this is our 13th election cycle analyzing these races, though my own political experience preceeded that by 12 years.  Our analysis is based on having watched races in every single state and Congressional district for going on 24 years now, meeting with candidates from both parties as well as off-the-record conversations with campaign consultants, managers, party strategists from both sides as well as monitoring the local press coverage.  That's why the New York Times referred to the Cook Political Report as "a newsletter that both parties regard as authoritative."

Our House Editor David Wasserman's latest projection of 2-8 seats was based on a careful analysis of each district, the recruitment and development of campaigns in each district, analysis of money, the voting patterns in that district and, to a small extent this early, the national political climate (as the election draws closer, the climate becomes more important).

Many seem not to appreciate the difficulty of picking up large numbers of House seats in consecutive elections.  Only once since the end of World War II, a period covering 31 elections, has a party picking up 20 or more seats in one election and ten or more in the next (in 1950 Republicans picked up 28, then 22 in 1952).  In fact only two other times did a party pick up double digit House seats in consecutive elections, again Republicans in both 1978-80 and 1992-94. To put it differently, in eight elections starting in 1946, a party picked up 30 or more seats.  None managed a double digit seat gain in the next election.  In a big election, the lowest hanging fruit is picked, making it harder to pick as many easy seats in the next election.  

Only eight Republican-held House districts won by John Kerry in 2004, but there are 60 Democrats in districts carred by George W. Bush in that election. This isn't to suggest that Democrats will lose seats, only that there aren't that many Republicans sitting in districts in enemy territory.

This is not to say that Democrats cannot pick up ten ore more seats next year, but it is really hard to do that and at least today, the seats aren't there to predict it.

Today we have eight Republican House seats in the Toss Up column, all open seats, with another 14 Republican seats in the Lean Republican column, all incumbents.  Conversely, we have no Democratic seats in the Toss Up category, but have 14 Democratic seats in the Lean Democratic column.

Early on in election cycle we try to be very conservative about putting incumbents in the Toss Up column, even those who appear to be very vulnerable.  The simple reason is that with incumbent re-election rates of 95 percent, and even quite a few of the most endangered incumbents managing to survive, we would rather wait until into the election year to push incumbents into that highly endangered column.  We like to watch the challengers and their campaigns develop, see how they perform and how their money is going.  Over the next few months we expect that the ranks of Toss Ups will expand, we just don't want to do that prematurely.

One word of caution.  Many of the Democratic gains in 2006 came in districts in the South and Border South, in districts with strong small town and rural flavors, and most were won by Bush in both 2000 and 2004.  It is unlikely that any of the most probable Democratic presidential  nominees would carry many of these districts, and if they did, not likely by enough of a margin to be an asset.  In some of these districts the top of the ticket will be a liability.  I would not expect the hot house environment that Democrats enjoyed in 2006 to be replicated, notwithstanding the excellent polling done by the Democracy Corps that shows a favorable environment for Democrats today.  If the environment is good for Democrats, then enjoy it.  But I wouldn't count on it.  As suggested earlier, big years rarely come in pairs.

by Charlie Cook 2007-12-26 09:49AM | 0 recs


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