GOP May Buck Tradition on Election Day in House Races

By Christine Hall | July 7, 2008 | 8:29pm EDT

( - The president?s party historically loses House seats in a mid-term election, and this year the economy is in a slump, to boot. So Election Day should mean gains for the Democrats, right? Maybe not, say political analysts, who believe Republicans appear to be defying tradition..

National trends favor Democrats, believes Ron Faucheux, editor-in-chief of Campaigns and Elections magazine. The president's approval rating remains high but has slipped, and more Americans say the country is headed in the "wrong direction" and are worried about the economy and corporate corruption, said Faucheux, speaking at a Capitol Hill forum on Monday.

By his count, the GOP is favored in 223 House races, while Democrats are favored in 226.

However, Republicans gains in both the House and Senate are possible, Faucheux believes. This "election [is] being determined by inches," he said, and Republicans have done "remarkably well playing defense."

Democratic pollster Mark Mellman isn't predicting GOP gains. But he notes that few House races are competitive this year-just 40 to 45, compared to 120 to 150 in previous years.

Maybe there's a "weak" Democratic trend, says Mellman, but most signs point to a stalemate. Economic woes and voter worries about health care and pension security should hurt the party in power, but the "halo effect" around the president as a result of 9/11 and on-going war efforts effectively check that Democratic advantage, he believes.

The war has "suck[ed] the energy out of other issues," Republican pollster Ed Goeas explained.

And there are other warning signs foretelling trouble for Democrats, Goeas believes. While senior citizens and the party out of power disproportionately turn out to vote in most mid-term elections, Goeas reports that Baby Boomers and Republicans are signaling to pollsters an equal intensity about voting in this election.

Roll Call reports that the AFL-CIO has stopped running TV ads aimed at swaying votes in Senate and House races and is instead focusing on getting Democratic voters to the polls on Election Day.

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) spokesperson Kim Rubey says party leaders and strategists are predicting that Democrats will gain at least the six seats they need to wrest control of the House from the GOP.

"We're confident that we'll pick up enough seats to take back the House," said Rubey. "We see no scenarios where the Republicans will pick up seats. They have too many vulnerable Republicans and too many open seats to defend."

Democrats are expecting wins in a number of open races, including Tennessee-district 4, New Mexico-2, Alabama-3, New Hampshire-1 and South Dakota (at large). And they're expecting to oust a handful of GOP incumbents, including Maryland-8 (Connie Morella), Iowa-1 (Jim Leach), West Virginia-2 (Shelly Moore Capito), Connecticut-2 (Robert Simmons) and New York-1 (Felix Grucci).

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