House Battleground: Four Months To Go

Stuart Rothenberg June 29, 2012 · 12:10 AM EDT

While Democrats continue to insist that the House is “in play” in November, a dispassionate assessment of individual districts in all 50 states suggests Republicans remain solid favorites to retain control of the House in November’s elections.

The Democrats’ difficulties are magnified by President Obama’s growing problems, including weak job numbers over the past three months and softening economies in Europe and Asia. A politically weakened Obama can’t be anything but a drag down-ballot, primarily with Independent voters.

Some national surveys have found Democrats with a large advantage in the generic ballot, but the surveys with the best reputations suggest a Democratic advantage of one to three points, not much different from in the summer of 2010.

We find little evidence of a “wave” election developing, and that means Democrats would have to cherry-pick themselves to a gain of 25 seats, an almost impossible challenge. Democratic retirements and some weaker than expected candidates in places like California and Pennsylvania have limited the party’s upside potential, forcing Democrats to defeat nearly two dozen GOP incumbents if they are going to net enough seats to re-install House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi as the next speaker.

That said, Democrats still have reason to hope that Republicans will sound too partisan or extreme over the next few months, alienating swing voters and giving ammunition to Democratic candidates.

Our outlook is only slightly changed from three months ago. The single most likely outcome for the House is modest Democratic gains, probably in the low to mid single digits, though anything from a small Republican gain to Democratic gains in the high single digits seem possible. Our current estimate stands between a +1 gain for Republicans and a +6 gain for Democrats.