Media coverage of the 2008 election is rightly centered at the moment on the fascinating 2008 presidential race; any remaining coverage seems to be focused on the U.S. Senate – and whether or not the Democrats can turn in a miraculous performance in 2008 to achieve a filibuster-proof majority, as they did in 2006 to win a bare majority.
Perhaps the battle for the U.S. House is not receiving as much notice because Democrats already hold a 236 to 199 seat advantage. This lead is already larger than any held by the Republicans throughout their reign from 1994-2006 (holding a peak 30-seat advantage after the 2004 elections). Democrats have not held as small an advantage over the GOP as it currently enjoys since the 1956 election (234 to 201).
In 2008 Democrats can expect to make further gains in the House – perhaps ultimately approaching their 258 to 176 lead they held going into the 1994 elections. There are several reasons to expect a big Democratic victory in the House come November:
· Democrats have consistently held a 10+ point lead in generic congressional matchup polling. Republican strategists have attempted to link Congress’ low approval rating with trouble for the Democrats in November; to that Democrats answered in mid-May with a stunning special election victory, picking up a seat in (conservative) northern Mississippi. In short, Republicans are still scrambling to pick up the pieces after 2006.
· Republicans will be defending more than three times as many open seats (27) as will the Democrats (8).
· Of the 202 seats won by the GOP in 2006, 78 were decided by less than 20 points (39 percent), and 134 were decided by less than 30 points (66 percent). Of the 233 seats won by the Democrats in 2006, just 41 were decided by less than 20 points (18 percent) and only 63 were decided by less than 30 points (27 percent). In other words, more than twice as many Republican seats are vulnerable to pick-ups than Democratic seats.
· Democrats have the luxury of 125 ‘safe seats’ – those decided by 30 points or more in the 2006 election; an additional 45 Democrats did not even face a Republican challenger. Republicans only won 58 blowout victories of 30 points or more and did not face a Democratic challenger in just 10 additional races.
All the stars are therefore aligned for the Democrats to score a big victory in the U.S. House – even in the event that John McCain should win a competitive election against Barack Obama.