GOP's Nonexistent Generic Ballot Lead

When Gallup released polling last week showing the Republicans jumping to their largest ever lead in the organization's generic congressional ballot polling -- a 49 percent to 43 percent advantage -- the talking heads were jumping all over each other in an effort to proclaim the nearing end for the Democratic majorities in Congress. Except, as it turns out, that polling was a mere blip, with the latest data showing a return to virtually the exact same numbers that had been holding strong in previous polling: a virtual tie between the two parties, at 46 percent apiece.

Gallup isn't the only pollster to find the race for Congress in 2010 continuing to sit where it has for a long time. Today marks the release of the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll, which shows the Democrats edging out the Republicans by a 47 percent to 44 percent margin -- more or less the same spread that has been seen since March.

But I'm sure this is all great news for the GOP...

Charlie Cook Unfazed By Election Results

Pennsylvania's 12th congressional district was the only district in the nation to flip from John Kerry in 2004 to John McCain in 2008. A quintessentially conservative district, the seat appeared poised to move from red-to-blue after the passing of its longtime Congressman, Jack Murtha.

But something strange happened on Tuesday. Instead of backing the Republican candidate in the race, Tim Burns, voters in the district did what was all-but-unthinkable not all that long ago: backing the Democratic nominee in the special election, Mark Critz -- and not even by a narrow margin, giving him a comfortable 8-point margin of victory.

What did this massive debacle of an election for the GOP, which poured a million dollars into the race (in addition to thousands more coming from conservative activists), do to Charlie Cook's assessment that Republicans are on the brink of regaining control of the House? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Here's the latest from the Cook Political Report, via Marc Ambinder:

Overall, our outlook of a 30 to 40 seat gain for House Republicans remains unchanged.

This is quite remarkable, if you think about it. Not only do the Republicans lose a race they are supposed to easily win (in Cook's words on the eve of the election, "Republicans have no excuse to lose this race") -- but they lose it badly. Yet this result has no impact whatsoever on the view of the Cook Political Report towards the race for the House in 2010? Even Republicans are beginning to second-guess their fortunes.

California Rep. Kevin McCarthy, who is in charge of candidate recruitment for the NRCC, conceded that the $1 million-plus spent on the Pennsylvania special wasn’t well-spent.

“That’s a couple different things we’re going to have to analyze, because why does the polling show that we were close the whole time and then it not be close on election night?” McCarthy said on ABC’s “Top Line” program. “That’s a mistake on our part; that’s a mistake on our investment that we have to make a correction to.” [emphasis added]

Former Congressman Tom Davis, who spent two terms as the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, was even more blunt:

“If you can’t win a seat that is trending Republican in a year like this, then where is the wave?” asked Tom Davis, a former Republican congressman from Virginia, who said Republicans will need to examine what went wrong.

If those at the top ranks of the House GOP's campaign apparatus are beginning to publicly question whether the polling is overstating the strength of the party's position, and a former campaign chief starts wondering "where... the wave" is, might not also one of the leading election prognosticators inside the Beltway do the same? Apparently not.

LATE UPDATE from desmoinesdem: On May 25 Cook published a commentary on the PA-12 special election and its implications for November.

Money and the 2010 Midterms

A bit of cold water for those who think the outcome of the 2010 midterms has already been decided, with the Republicans set to retake one or both Houses of the Congress.

The top 3 Dem campaign committees have outraised their GOP rivals, adding to a financial gap that some on the GOP side believe could rob them of opportunities come Nov.

The DSCC will report having raised $6M in March, barely higher than the NRSC's $5.14M raised. The DSCC also has a narrow cash on hand advantage, with $17M in the bank versus the NRSC's $15M.

Also this month, the DNC outraised the RNC by a $13M to $11M margin. Earlier today, the DCCC announced it would file reports showing it had outraised the NRCC, $9.77M to $8M.

Both the DCCC and the DSCC have paid off all their debt. The DNC still had $3.7M in obligations at the end of last month, though they have yet to report a debt figure this month. None of the GOP committees have showed a debt for months.

Looking deeper into the numbers, specifically into those relating to the House of Representatives, which is viewed as more tenuously in the hands of the Democrats than the Senate, the party in power now holds a $26 million to $10 million cash-on-hand advantage over the challenging Republicans. What does this mean? The national Democrats now have the capability to play in 2 1/2 times more seats than the national Republicans. While this financial disparity isn't assured to remain through November, the fact that the Democrats continue to raise more than their Republican counterparts suggests that all of the talk of the House already having been all but lost for the Democrats might be a bit overblown.

House GOP Recruitment Fail

House Republicans thought they had an excellent pick up opportunity when Democratic Congressman Marion Berry of Arkansas announced that he would not be seeking reelection. Indeed, considering that his district tends to lean about 8 percentage points more Republican than the nation as a whole, the Republicans were probably right to be giddy. That is, at least until they failed to recruit a strong candidate.

Arkansas' filing deadline passed Monday afternoon and while Republicans made a lot of noise about their chances in the 1st district in the days after Rep. Marion Berry (D) announced his retirement, all the sound and fury may have actually signified nothing....

Here's Swing State's take:

Republicans had sought to get one of several state legislators into the race -- state Sens. Davy Carter or Johnny Key. However, both said no, leaving the GOP without a backup plan. Meanwhile, top-tier Democrats piled into the race in this historically-Democratic district, including state Sen. Steve Bryles, former state Sen. Tim Wooldridge, state Rep. David Cook, and Berry's former CoS, Chad Causey. Like PA-12, here's a district where the Democratic tradition and the disparity between the two parties' benches may just save our bacon despite an ominous trend at the presidential level.

If the Republicans are to retake the House, they're going to need to win in districts like Arkansas 1 -- or at the least recruit a credible candidate -- as well as districts like the R+16 Alabama 2, where the freshman Democratic incumbent leads by margins of 24 percentage points or more against all Republican challengers. If they're unable to do such things, it's not at all clear to me just how they could possibly be a near-lock for gaining the majority in November.

House 2010: Staying on the Offense

As most readers of this site are probably aware, I'm not yet sold on the notion embraced by some that the House has already been all but lost by the Democrats. Part of the reason is that it's still very early, and we do not know how the political environment -- and even more so the economic climate -- will change in the next eight months. Part of the reason is that election prognosticators in recent cycles have fairly consistently underestimated Democratic performance. And part of the reason is that the Democrats do have some opportunities to stay on offense.

The DCCC is rolling out their roster of promising challengers, determined to stay on offense amid a harsh national political climate.

The party will target 7 GOP incumbents and 4 GOP-held open seats this year, armed with prominent challengers who have demonstrated their ability to raise money and build effective campaign organizations.


Inaugural Red-to-Blue members:

Candidate            Incumbent         District 
Ami Bera             Dan Lungren         CA03
Paula Brooks         Pat Tiberi          OH12
John Callahan        Charlie Dent        PA15
John Carney          Open (Castle)       DEAL
Suzan DelBene        Dave Reichert       WA08
Lori Edwards         Open (Putnam)       FL12
Raj Goyle            Open (Tiahrt)       KS04
Bryan Lentz          Open (Sestak)       PA07
Rob Miller           Joe Wilson          SC02
Steve Pougnet        Mary Bono Mack      CA45
Dan Seals            Open (Kirk)         IL10
Tom White            Lee Terry           NE02

The list is a good one, and the Democrats have legitimate shots at winning in a number of them, particularly the open seat races.

But one incumbent target worth mentioning is Mary Bono Mack, who has never faced a genuine challenge during her time in Congress. Representing a district anchored in the Palm Springs-area of Southern California that backed Barack Obama by a 52 percent to 47 percent margin in 2008 and which backed Al Gore's 2000 Presidential bid with 51 percent of the vote, Bono Mack might be more vulnerable than many think -- particularly considering that her challenger is the popular mayor Palm Springs, Steve Pougnet.

Bono Mack has quite a bit more money in the bank than Pougnet does at present -- but Pougnet has shown decent fundraising chops, bringing in more than $550,000 through the end of the year and holding $400,000 in the bank. With new fundraising support from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, these numbers could come closer to equalizing in the months leading toward the election, and this could be a real race.


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