Larry Sabato: Shutdown blame will not cost GOP the House

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Giddy Democrats already measuring the drapes in the Speaker’s office for Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s return once voters, angered by the government shutdown, end the GOP’s reign, can put away their rulers. According to the authoritative and reliable political team at the University of Virginia, headed by Larry Sabato, there is little chance the Republicans will lose control of the House of Representatives.

“We continue to believe that the Republicans are strongly favored to hold control of the House,” said Sabato's top House analyst Kyle Kondik in the latest “Crystal Ball” weekly political newsletter put out by the school's Center for Politics and provided in advance to Secrets.

Unlike in 2010, when there were several vulnerable Democratic seats up for grabs in an election won by the GOP which installed Rep. John Boehner as speaker, there are few GOP House seats in play and most are moderate Republicans in districts President Obama won or did well in last year. They include three Virginia House members, Reps. Frank Wolf, Scott Rigell and Randy Forbes, though Kondik suggested that only Rigell’s seat is in jeopardy.

“Republicans just aren’t exposed this cycle the way Democrats were in 2010,” wrote Kondik of the upcoming 2014 midterms.

The analysis is likely to surprise Democrats who believe that the public will turn on the GOP because of the government shutdown. Many often use the 1996 election after the last government shutdown as a comparison.

But Kondik noted that in that election, the GOP kept control of the House and lost just nine seats.

He concluded that there is enough going for House Republicans to stave off the potential for disaster caused by the government shutdown blame game.

“Republicans have plenty of things going for them in the 2014 midterms. There’s no historical precedent for the president’s party to take over the House from the other party in a midterm; indeed, history tells us that the ‘out’ presidential party — in this case, the GOP — is likelier to gain seats than the ‘in’ party. The president’s approval rating as measured by the HuffPost Pollster average is actually worse today — 43.4% approve, 51.0% disapprove — than it was right before the 2010 midterm (45.1% approve, 49.9% disapprove),” said Kondik.

The Republican-held House seats where Obama performed the best in his 2012 reelection are in the chart below.

Paul Bedard, The Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at