WASHINGTON — Here’s a start of the school year lesson: History and geography are coming up aces for House Republicans.
The GOP is expected to tighten its majority grip on the House in November’s elections, adding seats as President Barack Obama’s unpopularity drags down Democrats. The president’s party traditionally suffers losses in the midterms.
Helpful redistricting after the 2010 census and the retirement of moderate Democrats in conservative states boost Republican prospects. But Democrats do have a financial edge, and that makes the GOP nervous.
Five things to know about House elections:
1. THE BIG THING: REPUBLICANS WILL GAIN SEATS
The only real question is how many. Democrats and Republicans talk about five to 12 seats, short of the average of 26. The number is certain to change over the next two months as some incumbents steady themselves and others falter.
Currently, the GOP has a 233-199 edge (there are three vacancies) and a nearly sure bet to claim open seats in Utah and North Carolina where longtime Democrats Jim Matheson and Mike McIntyre are retiring.
Democrats hope to offset the losses with a victory east of Los Angeles, where eight-term Republican Rep. Gary Miller is retiring, and in an open seat in Iowa. There, Democrat Staci Appel is trying to make history; Iowa and Mississippi are the only two states that have never elected a woman to Congress or the governor’s mansion.
Democrats have targeted vulnerable Republicans in Colorado, Florida and Nebraska.
2. DEMOCRATS’ MONEY TO MESS WITH
Democrats have a clear financial advantage, $56.7 million in cash to the House Republicans’ $47.5 million, and the promise of a big fall fundraiser with potential 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton.
The money edge worries Republicans. They figure Democrats will spend heavily to save vulnerable incumbents, and invest in races that are marginally competitive, causing problems for the GOP.
It won’t be cheap. Democrats hope to win open seats in southern New Jersey and southeast Pennsylvania, but it costs about $400,000 to air ads for half a week in the expensive Philadelphia television market.
3. GOVERNORS’ BLUES
Two of the most vulnerable governors are Pennsylvania Republican Tom Corbett and Illinois Democrat Pat Quinn. Incumbents and candidates in those states are hoping they can survive despite the top of the ticket. It’s especially true in Illinois where first-term Democratic Rep. Brad Schneider is in a close rematch with Republican Robert Dold in Chicago’s northern suburbs and freshman Democratic Rep. Bill Enyart is trying to hold off state Rep. Mike Bost.
4. NOT NECESSARILY GRIM
Two-term Republican Rep. Michael Grimm was indicted in April on federal tax evasion charges and pleaded not guilty. It may not cost him his New York seat in a district that covers Staten Island and a slice of Brooklyn. The former FBI agent and Marine still gets high marks from voters who appreciate pugnaciousness.
5. SOME OF THE VULNERABLE
Democrats are feeling a bit better about the prospects for Rep. Nick Rahall to win a 20th term, though he is in the fight of his political career in West Virginia as he tries to distance himself from Obama administration policies. In Nebraska, Republicans know it will be close for eight-term Republican Rep. Lee Terry, who said last fall he would keep his government paycheck during the shutdown and then backtracked.
EDITOR’S NOTE _ Labor Day kicks off a two-month sprint toward Election Day. This story is part of a package that sets the stage for the November elections.
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