FALL HOUSE OUTLOOK FOR 2006: Can Republicans Scratch the Sixth Year Itch?
(Last year, we asked whether Democrats could even hope for a so-called “sixth year itch.” Now, we ask whether Republicans can hope to scratch it.)
Current breakdown: 232 Republicans, 201 Democrats, 1 Independent, 1 vacancy
Current Highly Competitive Races Make-up: 56 held by Republicans, 4 held by Democrats
Current Highly Competitive Races Outlook: 25 Toss-ups, 22 Lean Republican, 13 Lean Democratic
The last several cycles of congressional election action have left pundits scratching their heads thinking about just how entrenched the House Republican majority has become since 1994. Thanks largely to redistricting in recent years, Democratic efforts to “expand the playing field” of competitive House races so as to make contestable the GOP’s relatively slim margin (within the broader historical context) have gone down in flames. But now that President Bush’s approval rating is at an all time low and the stars seem to be aligned for Democrats, is it a whole new ballgame? Is it remotely possible that there could exist a “House of Blues” after the 2006 midterm?
The Crystal Ball says…YES. As we saw in angrily anti-GOP Ohio on August 2nd, 2005, in a special election, even some of the most Republican districts in the country are not entirely impervious to strong voter revolts. National Democratic strategists are hyping 2006 as the reverse version of 1994, the year a national partisan tidal wave toppled Democrats from power. But while Democrats’ current deficit of 15 seats pales in comparison to the 52 seats gained by Republican insurgents nearly twelve years ago, Democrats may actually have just as steep a mountain to climb now as the GOP had then.
The bottom line? It’s clear that Democrats are poised to add substantially to their numbers in the House in November. Democrats are being aided by a string of candidate recruitment coups and continually sagging approval ratings of President Bush and the GOP Congress. At this writing, the Crystal Ball still believes the GOP could face very serious repercussions this year, even in a handful of districts that have not experienced recent competition. For members of the congressional minority, a gain of between 24 and 30 seats is currently the most likely scenario, enough to taste the success that has eluded them for several consecutive cycles.
Click on each yellow-shaded state in the above map to view its active races, or select the View All Races option. The chart below lists this year’s “in play” House races by their current outlook.
Each race is categorized by its current Crystal Ball Outlook, with a colored arrow denoting noticeable momentum in one direction or the other. Red arrows () indicate momentum for the Republican candidate, while blue arrows () signify momentum for the Democratic candidate.