A little over a month ago, Democratic Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) stated that the Democratic Party has “a good shot” of winning enough seats to recapture majority control of the House of Representatives in the 2014 midterm elections.
Hoyer is wrong, as he so often is. Hoyer is the same man who said that “health care at worst is going to be a neutral in this election,” so a high degree of disrespect for most of his opinions must be forgiven.
Rep. Hoyer’s claims are driven perhaps by fantasy, perhaps by desperation, perhaps by a combination of the two. Look no further than the Washington Post’s Election Lab for confirmation. The Post’s number crunchers give the GOP a 99 percent chance of holding majority control of the House after the 2014 midterm elections. They even predict that the GOP will gain some seats in the process.
THE EDITORS: E.g. The undoing of Eric Cantor.
Models are not infallible, but the Post’s Election Lab is one of the more reputable outfits out there, to the chagrin, lately, of some of its own writers. It seems to have this election’s predictions well in hand.
Rep. Hoyer and others press on, though reality will likely come up well short of their rhetoric. If anything, the 2014 midterm elections could even turn out worse for Democrats than the Washington Post predicts. By all measures, things are bad for Hoyer & Co. There is good reason to believe their problems will stick around for a few cycles.
After the 2012 congressional districts were redrawn by predominantly Republican-held state legislatures, districts that were once competitive in many states were drawn to accommodate fewer Democratic voters and increase the odds of GOP dominance. For instance, in 2012, in swing states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Virginia, Republican candidates won between 49 and 53 percent of the vote in swing states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Virginia. Nonetheless each state’s Congressional make-up ended up consisting of around 70 percent of Republican members.
Sadly for Democrats and Rep. Hoyer’s ambitious 2014 claims, this trend will likely go on for many years to come, at least until the next census — six years from now and three election cycles later. But it’s not just redistricting. Democrats have run poor races in many close districts and are being bludgeoned from the right over health care and foreign policy.
The fact that midterm elections generally favor Republican voter blocs as a whole, the conventional wisdom that the party in control of the White House generally loses seats in midterms, and that the President’s approval rating is hovering around 40 percent combine to paint a grim picture for Democrats.
Andrea Bozek, a spokeswoman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, summed up Rep. Hoyer’s comments by stating that “Steny Hoyer is living in Nancy Pelosi’s fantasy, but their fairytale is going to have a very unhappy ending in November.” Sacharrine analogy aside, she’s right.
The Senate contest will be a close-run thing, but the House is a done deal. As painful as that may be for Democrats to accept, the self-styled “Party of Science” should better heed the facts on the ground.
—Russell Dye is a senior studying political science and horticulture
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