POLITICS

House Democrats see opportunities in midterm elections

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Photo - WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 1: President Barack Obama speaks before awarding the National Medals of Science and the National Medals of Technology and Innovation in a ceremony at the White House on February 1, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 1: President Barack Obama speaks before awarding the National Medals of Science and the National Medals of Technology and Innovation in a ceremony at the White House on February 1, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)
Politics,Congress,Susan Ferrechio,Campaign 2012,Politics Digest

House Democrats are already gearing up for the 2014 midterm elections, and they hope to capitalize on the Republican Party's declining popularity to take back control of the chamber after losing it in 2010.

Democrats have spread the word to donors that winning the majority is within their reach. With 200 seats under their control this year, the party needs to pick up just 18 seats. The GOP now leads the Democrats 232 to 200.

President Obama has also signed on to the effort, pledging to appear at more than a dozen fundraisers this year for congressional candidates.

The House Democratic campaign arm, meanwhile, has already raised several million dollars.

But recent redistricting that favors GOP candidates, coupled with historical trends in midterm elections, suggests Republicans will hold on to the House gavel barring a major event or scandal that badly damages the GOP, say analysts.

"Unless and until Republicans completely self-implode, it's all happy talk," David Wasserman, House editor for the Cook Political Report, told The Washington Examiner.

Wasserman lists 17 Democratic seats as competitive in 2014, and just seven Republican seats are seen as vulnerable next year.

Analysts point out that barring very few exceptions, the party that controls the White House almost always loses seats in the midterm election.

It's a reality all too familiar to President Clinton, who issued a warning about 2014 to Democrats at their annual retreat in Leesburg, Va., on Friday.

Clinton, who lost the Democratic House majority in the first midterm election of his presidency in 1994, tempered the renewed enthusiasm of Democrats as they eyed winning back the majority.

Clinton told lawmakers it will be a "struggle" to eventually regain control of the House, particularly if the GOP continues to moderate its message, as it did last week in support of immigration reform, in order to appeal to a broader base of voters.

"This strategy of theirs," Clinton warned, "is not necessarily guaranteed to fail."

Winning the majority is technically not very far out of reach for the Democrats, despite the trend. After all, House Democrats won 31 seats in 2006.

Polls show brewing discontent with the GOP. The party has fallen out of favor with many Americans after the recent clash with the White House over the deal to avert the so-called fiscal cliff of tax increases and automatic spending cuts.

A survey from the liberal-leaning Public Policy Polling found that the GOP emerged from the fiscal cliff fight with an abysmal 75 percent disapproval rating, compared with 50 percent disapproval for Democrats.

The GOP could become even less popular because Democrats and Republicans are set to clash again on impending cuts and a need to raise the debt ceiling, and Democrats have been successful at portraying Republicans as the party that wants to protect tax cuts for the rich no matter what the cost.

Emory University political science professor Alan Abramowitz said generic ballot polls show Democrats now enjoy about a 5-point advantage over the Republicans, and that number could grow larger in the coming months.

"There is a reasonable chance Democrats could actually gain some seats, even though there is a Democratic president," Abramowitz said.

The gain, Abramowitz said, would likely be small, but he added, "A year from now, things could look different."

sferrechio@washingtonexaminer.com

sferrechio@washingtonexaminer.com

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