The day before the election, attention is focused, as it should be, on the battle for control of the Senate. But we shouldn’t neglect the House.
No one thinks the Democrats will win back the House this year; it’s understood that, to the contrary, the GOP is likely to build on its current margin. But the more seats the GOP picks up, the greater the likelihood it will retain control of the House in 2016 when, almost regardless of what happens tomorrow, the Democrats will have a decent shot at controlling the Senate, given the electoral map.
So let’s take a look, starting with the four Power Line picks. Stu Rothenberg rates the race in Minnesota’s Eighth District between John’s friend Stewart Mills and Rep. Rick Nolan as a “pure toss-up.” Larry Sabato rates it “leans GOP.” I was unable to find a recent rating from Charlie Cook. The most recent poll I’ve seen (by Survey USA in mid-October) had Mills leading by 8 points.
Another Power Line pick, Alex Mooney, faces a tight race against Nick Casey in West Virginia’s Second District. Rothenberg rates the contest “toss-up/leans Republican.” Similarly, Sabato rates it “leans GOP.” But Charlie Cook sees the race as a “toss-up.”
I may be over-thinking things, but it occurs to me that the Mooney-Casey race might have implications for the Senate. Democrat Joe Manchin is not up for re-election until 2018. Still, assuming he wants to run again, he likely will be watching the Second District race closely.
Manchin has remained popular despite West Virginia’s movement towards becoming a Republican state. He has frequently voted with Senate Republicans, and that has been enough to retain his standing in the State. But if a candidate as conservative as Alex Mooney wins in the large, diverse Second District, Manchin may perceive that it’s time to switch his allegiance.
As for Mia Love, Sabato rates her race “leans GOP.” Rothenberg doesn’t have it on his board of in-doubt races. Apparently, he stands by his earlier rating of “safe GOP.” (I found no recent rating by Cook).
On a less optimistic note, Andrew Johnson at NRO suggests that the outcome remains in doubt. He cites a recent BYU poll that actually had Democrat Doug Owens ahead. According to Johnson, the BYU pollsters say they still expect Love to win. They note, however, that some Republican voters see Love as too conservative. 16 percent of them say they plan to vote for Owens.
Finally, Elise Stefanik appears to be in good shape. Rothensberg sees it as “safe Republican.” Sabato and Cook say “leans GOP.”
We thank the many Power Line readers who contributed to one or more of the campaigns of our Picks.
Turning now to the big picture, how many seats is the GOP likely to gain? The conventional wisdom has been 5 to 12. A pick up of 8 seats would put the party back where it was before the 2012 election.
I don’t follow the House closely enough to pick against the conventional wisdom. However, I expect GOP gains to be at the high end of the 5-12 range.
Could the GOP do even better? It’s certainly possible, but this would require a “wave” election. After all, a gain of more than 12 seats would require a better night in absolute terms for Republicans than in 2010.
Looking at the Senate races, it’s not impossible to convince oneself that there is a Republican wave coming. But keep in mind that most of the likely GOP Senate pick ups are in Red States. Sure, Republicans may well win in Colorado and Iowa too. But in states like Michigan, Minnesota, and Oregon, where Republicans once had hope, the Democrat appears to be cruising.
For the GOP to have a big night in the House, it won’t be enough to win in Red states, where the congressional delegations are overwhelmingly Republican already. The “wave” will have to be national.
UPDATE: This analysis by Susan Ferrechio suggests that Blue New York may determine whether Republicans increase their majority by more than 12 seats. In addition to a Stefanik win, which seems probable, Republicans are now in “toss-up territory” in races against Reps. Tim Bishop, Sean Patrick Maloney and Dan Maffei, according to Ferrechio. (Rothenberg rates Bishop’s race a pure toss-up and the other two “toss-up/tilt Democrat.”)
If Republicans do gain more than a dozen seats, it would mean their biggest majority since 1932 and the eve of the New Deal.