Two new articles suggest that the Democratic controlled House of Representatives could be headed for a Republican majority in 2010. The operative word here is "could."
Rhodes Cook, writing for Larry J. Sabato's Crystal Ball, says Democrats may have trouble holding on to seats in districts that voted for John McCain for President, but elected a Democrat to Congress.
Democrats gained these seats in years where they could run with the wind at their back. The question now is: can they hold them in a year where it appears that the breezes will be blowing the opposite direction? That is the $64,000 question. Can the Democrats escape 2010 with their House majority largely intact or will they find themselves with no majority at all?
Andrew Gelman, writing at FiveThirtyEight.com, says that recent generic House polling is trending toward the Republicans. He points out that research shows that generic party ballots can be highly predictive of elections, especially when the elections are just two or three months away. Gelman says the current Democratic numbers in the generic poll are near historic lows, and could portend a Republican takeover.
Is there any hope for the Democrats? Sure. Beyond the general uncertainty in prediction, there is the general unpopularity of Republicans; also, it will be year 2 of the presidential term, not year 6 which is historically the really bad year for the incumbent party. Still and all, the numbers now definitely do not look good for the Democrats.
Cook says it's not a foregone conclusion that the Democrats will lose Congress.
What ultimately happens in 2010 could depend on how closely the electoral backdrop next year resembles 1994. At this point, there are some strong similarities. Like Bill Clinton a decade and a half ago, Obama is an ambitious young Democratic president who has seen his poll numbers drop sharply in the opening months of his administration. And like Clinton, Obama has invested a good bit of his political capital into a massive effort to overhaul the nation's health care system. As in 1994, it is so complex an undertaking that foes are finding it much easier to pillory the project as "big government" than supporters are able to defend it as needed reform.