House Republicans may actually add to their majority on Election Day

November 2, 2012

The Fix now projects that the 2012 race for the House is likely to be close to a draw, and there is even a fair chance that Republicans will add to their biggest majority in six decades on Tuesday.

Below, The Fix is updating the ratings of 10 House races, with most of them moving in the GOP's direction.

In recent weeks, as Mitt Romney has gained a few points in the presidential race, a similar but slight shift has been happening at the House level: The generic ballot has tightened.

While Democrats had built a modest advantage on the generic ballot (a measure of whether people prefer a generic Republican or a generic Democrat) when President Obama built some momentum in September, that advantage is basically gone now.

In part because of this, Democrats have seen their candidates in conservative-leaning districts suffer. Friday, we are moving several red-district Democrats into more vulnerable ratings, including Reps. Ron Barber (D-Ariz.), Mark Critz (D-Pa.), Jim Matheson (D-Utah), Ben Chandler (D-Ky.) and Kathy Hochul (D-N.Y.).

And because those seats have shifted, it is no longer a foregone conclusion that Democrats will gain seats this year.

In fact, right now, The Fix projects that Republicans have 228 seats either solidly in their favor or leaning toward them, while Democrats have 184. Another 23 seats are tossups.

If Republicans can win 14 of those 23 tossup races, they would keep their majority exactly as it is. If they win more than that, they would actually gain seats.

Democrats talked a big game early this cycle about winning back the majority, but they now acknowledge that it's not in the cards. Republicans are favored to win 10 Democratic-held seats that were either drawn more conservative in redistricting or where there was a crucial retirement by a conservative Democratic incumbent. Because of that deficit, Democrats have to win a bunch of seats just to get back to even.

Even Democrats acknowledge it's a possibility they come up short and actually wind up losing seats.

That remains the less-likely scenario, but not by as much as some people might think.

Here are the changes:

Moving in Republicans' favor

PA-12 moves from "tossup" to "lean Republican"

Critz is in a very tough spot right now, with Republican polls this month showing him slightly behind Republican Keith Rothfus. This district would have given John McCain 54 percent of the vote in 2008.

UT-4 moves from "tossup" to "lean Republican"

A new poll for the Salt Lake Tribune shows Saratoga Springs Mayor Mia Love (R) opening up a 12-point lead on Matheson, and all the polling in this race has gone in one direction: Love's.

NY-27 moves from "tossup" to "lean Republican"

Hochul is in a 53 percent McCain district, which also happens to be the most conservative district in New York. Polling here has been close, but a GOP internal poll last week shows Republican Chris Collins opening up a seven-point lead.

IA-3 moves from "tossup" to "lean Republican"

The race between Reps. Leonard Boswell (D) and Tom Latham (R) has been tight from the start, and remains tight. We give Latham a slight edge, though, in light of the district's very slight GOP lean and Latham's intangibles (money, anecdotal reports, etc.).

KY-6 moves from "lean Democratic" to "tossup"

Chandler is a survivor of the first rank, but he's also got a 54 percent McCain district, and a GOP poll last week showed him trailing by four in his rematch with Republican Andy Barr.

AZ-2 moves from "likely Democratic" to "lean Democratic"

Barber remains a slight favorite in his race with Republican former Air Force colonel Martha McSally. McSally has proven a better candidate than Jesse Kelly, who lost to Barber in the special election for Gabrielle Giffords House seat earlier this year.

Moving in Democrats' favor

CA-7 moves from "tossup" to "lean Democratic"

Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Calif.) is starting to look like a bit of an underdog in his rematch with physician Ami Bera (D). Recent polls show the race close, and Republicans are starting to lose hope.

WA-1 moves from "tossup" to "lean Democratic"

Republican John Koster's recent comments about rape and abortion weren't as harmful as Todd Akin's or Richard Mourdock's. But they still beg the question: Why would any candidate talk about this issue when they don't have to? Automated pollster SurveyUSA, which had shown Koster leading the race in recent months, now shows Democrat Suzan delBene up by three.

FL-10 moves from "lean Republican" to "tossup"

Rep. Dan Webster (R) keeps looking more vulnerable in his race with former Orlando police chief Val Demings (D). New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I) just launched a $1.7 million ad buy against Webster, who had already been dropping in the polls. That's a huge amount of money for a House race.

CA-36 moves from "lean Republican" to "tossup"

Like Webster, Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.) has quickly moved from "likely Republican" to "tossup." A Democratic poll released this week shows challenger Raul Ruiz (D) leading Bono Mack by six points. Even if that were a bit off, the race is close.

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix, the Post’s top political blog.
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