The Washington Post

No, the House isn’t in play. Not even close.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi predicted that Democrats could pick up as many as 25 seats this fall, a gain that would hand her side control of the chamber for the first time since 2010.  "I feel very certain that we will win the 17 seats we need," she told WaPo's Ed O'Keefe in an interview published Wednesday morning.  “We’re playing in about 70 districts; 25 is my goal — I would like that,” she added.

That is so not going to happen.


Now, I understand why Pelosi said what she said.  If, as the chief fundraiser for and public face of House Democrats, Pelosi told Ed "Look, it's just not happening for us this year", there would be a general freakout in the political world and the fundraising spigot that she has, amazingly, kept flowing over the past 18 months would dry up. Pelosi was doing her job.

But, there is simply no evidence that the House is in play this fall -- or even close.

Start with the election models.  Election Lab, WaPo's version, gives Republicans more than a 99 percent chance of keeping control of the House. Wrote John Sides, one of the three political scientists who oversee the model about the "battle" for the House:

Our model currently estimates that the Democrats will win 193 seats, down slightly from the 201 they controlled after the 2012 election and the 199 they currently control, given existing vacancies. We expect to update this forecast with additional data about the candidates once the primaries are over, and with polling data as well. But, given how strong the Republicans’ position is, we would be surprised if any new information significantly altered the strong odds of continued Republican control.

Then move to the non-partisan political handicappers.

Charlie Cook and his Cook Political Report rate 73 seats as competitive -- 39 held by Democrats, 34 controlled by Republicans. Of the 13 most competitive contests, which Cook ranks a true "toss ups", 11 are Democratic held while just two are in Republican hands. (Both parties have two pickups close to in the bag, according to Cook. That's California's 31st and New York's 11th for Democrats and Utah's 4th and North Carolina's 7th for Republicans.)

Stu Rothenberg and Nathan Gonzales at the Rothenberg Political Report have a far smaller playing field of competitive seats -- 50 total -- but the story is the same.  Twenty four of those seats are held by Democrats, 26 are held by Republicans. Of the six "pure toss ups", four are Democratic seats, two are Republicans ones.  There are five Democratic seats in Rothenberg's "toss up/tilt Democratic" column and five Republican seats in his "toss up/tilt Republican" one.

Do the math. To net 17 seats, Democrats would need to hold all eleven of their own seats rated as toss ups by Cook, win the two Republican toss ups and then win 15 out of the 16 seats Cook ranks as "lean Republican". To get to 25 seats, Democrats would need to win every tossup and lean Republican race in Cook's rankings and also win seven of the 16 seats he ranks as "likely Republican".

In a wave year like Democrats enjoyed in 2006 and, to a lesser extent, 2008, those sorts of sweeping gains are within the realm of the possible. In this year, with an unpopular Democratic president in the White House, describing such a Democratic sweep as a long shot gives long shots a bad name.

David Wasserman, the House analyst for Cook, has written that Democrats need a "game-changer to help them gain any House seats whatsoever this fall." Wrote Rothenberg in a recent column:

An uptick in optimism resulting from good economic news could help save a couple (or even a handful) of House seats for Democrats, or it could merely improve the prospects of all incumbents, regardless of party. In any case, it wouldn’t come close to putting the House of Representatives in play in November.

Pelosi is saying what she needs to say. But that doesn't make it true. Control of the House is not at stake in this election. The more relevant question is whether Republican can gain seats and, if so, how many.  Republicans currently hold 234 seats, meaning they would need a nine-seat gain to eclipse the 242 they held in the wake of the 2010 wave election. If they controlled 243 seats heading into the 114th Congress, it would be the largest number of seats the GOP had held since 1946 (the 80th Congress) when they had 246.

Chris Cillizza writes “The Fix,” a politics blog for the Washington Post. He also covers the White House.

The Freddie Gray case

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Campaign 2016 Email Updates

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Get Zika news by email

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!
Comments
Show Comments
Republicans debated Saturday night. The South Carolina GOP primary and the Nevada Democratic caucuses are next on Feb. 20. Get caught up on the race.
The Post's Dan Balz says...
Rarely has the division between Trump and party elites been more apparent. Trump trashed one of the most revered families in Republican politics and made a bet that standing his ground is better than backing down. Drawing boos from the audience, Trump did not flinch. But whether he will be punished or rewarded by voters was the unanswerable question.
GOP candidates react to Justice Scalia's death
Quoted
I don't know how he knows what I said on Univision because he doesn't speak Spanish.
Sen. Marco Rubio, attacking Sen. Ted Cruz in Saturday night's very heated GOP debate in South Carolina. Soon after, Cruz went on a tirade in Spanish.
The Fix asks The State's political reporter where the most important region of the state is.
The State's Andy Shain says he could talk about Charleston, which represents a little bit of everything the state has to offer from evangelicals to libertarians, and where Ted Cruz is raising more money than anywhere else. In a twist, Marco Rubio is drawing strong financial support from more socially conservative Upstate. That said, Donald Trump is bursting all the conventional wisdom in the state. So maybe the better answer to this question is, "Wherever Trump is."
Past South Carolina GOP primary winners
South Carolina polling averages
Donald Trump leads in the first state in the South to vote, where he faces rivals Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.
South Carolina polling averages
The S.C. Democratic primary is Feb. 27. Clinton has a significant lead in the state, whose primary falls one week after the party's Nevada caucuses.
62% 33%
The complicated upcoming voting schedule
Feb. 20

Democrats caucus in Nevada; Republicans hold a primary in South Carolina.

Feb. 23

Republicans caucus in Nevada.

Feb. 27

Democrats hold a primary in South Carolina.

Upcoming debates
Feb 25: GOP debate

on CNN, in Houston, Texas

March 3: GOP debate

on Fox News, in Detroit, Mich.

March 6: Democratic debate

on CNN, in Flint, Mich.

Campaign 2016
Where the race stands
Most Read

politics

the-fix

Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Close video player
Now Playing

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.