He says that it’s not likely to happen, and I agree.
One might have expected that two years after Republicans picked up 63 House seats—the biggest gain in a midterm election since 1938—Democrats would be on track to win back a boatload of those districts that the GOP didn’t have much business winning in the first place. But a little more than four months out from the election, the tides seem about as neutral as they can be. Both parties have surprisingly comparable levels of exposure, largely because of redistricting. The relatively calm surface of this year’s waters belies a lot of offsetting tumult and change underneath. But for House Republicans, who hold a 25-seat majority, a status quo election producing minimal net change would be good news.
I’ve been doing this since 2002; 2006 was probably my first real pay-attention-to-Congress election. I’ve seen three wave elections, increasingly from the inside. This… does not feel like one. It feels like what Charlie said: the waters are still.
In my opinion, there are three things that drive wave elections: retirements, good recruiting cycles for one side, and freshmen vulnerability. Looking at this point in the 2012, 2010, 2008, and 2006 cycles… less open seats now than at any point before 2006 (depending how you’re thinking of newly-created seats*), and the open seats in 2012 are considerably less one-sided than they were in 2006, largely to the Democrats’ detriment. Recruiting has not been exactly impressive, on either side – again, this works more to the Democrats’ detriment than the GOP’s; the Republicans are going to be playing defense in the House. As for retirements… well, Cook also estimated that the entire process of redistricting essentially created a wash. Which translates to a large positive for Republicans, as the overriding goal was to lock in 2010 as at least a partial baseline. This was accomplished, which means that there are a lot of freshmen Republicans who are running in friendlier districts this go-round.
None of this means that there will be no turnover on Election Night, of course. Both sides are going to lose seats. It’s just that both sides look like they’re about to lose the same amount of seats. That means a draw; and that means that the GOP will almost certainly easily keep the House.
Works for me.
*Remember: for every new seat in a state, a Member of Congress lost his or her seat somewhere else. Which, thanks to Section V of the Voting Rights Act – and the usual quiet gentleman’s agreement between the Congressional Black Caucus and the Republican party – meant that a bunch of non-urban Democrats often ended up being the last people standing in a state’s game of musical chairs. Not saying that’s fair, just saying that’s what happened.