You’re going to see a lot of these types of stories in the next year or so: “House Democrats retake the House? It’s a long shot, but they’re getting ready to try.” At least, if the 2012 and 2014 election cycles are any indication:
- May 2011: Could Illinois Determine Which Party Controls Congress in 2012?
- June 2011: Steve Israel: House hopes hinge on Illinois
- October 2011: House Democrats’ Campaign Chief Likes Party’s Chances For Retaking Control
- November 2011: Democrats look to Florida to help retake House
- February 2012: Election 2012: Can the Democrats retake control of the House?
- April 2012: Hoyer: Dems Have 50-50 Shot at Winning House Majority
- April 2012: Top Democrat: We can win back the House this year
- May 2012: Nancy Pelosi Confident Of Retaking House of Representatives
- May 2012: In Election 2012, how much is the House in play? Three sides to the story.
- February 2013:Why Democrats Think They Can Retake the House in 2014
- February 2013: Democrats leave retreat confident Obama will help them retake House in 2014
- March 2013: Can Obama help Democrats retake the House in 2014?
- October 2013: Shutdown could help Democrats retake House majority, poll suggests
- December 2013: A Democratic Contract With America: How to Retake the House and Combat Economic Inequality
- February 2014: Hoyer predicts Democrats positioned to win back the House in 2014
Note that not all those articles agreed with the Democrats; but they all at least took the Democrats’ arguments seriously. Of course, we all know what happened: the GOP lost only eight seats in 2012 – and gained thirteen in 2014. And that was sufficiently predictable that at the end only the most absolutely hardcore partisans were still telling themselves that the House was going to flip in 2012.
But I digress. The overall point here is that while you are going to hear a good deal about how the Democrats plan to message, and take advantage of their gerrymandered states, and framing, and almost everything else – one thing that’s going to be not talked about much will be which seats are going to flip. This is not a trivial matter; it doesn’t make a darn bit of difference what the supposed ‘national mood’ is if that mood is not shared in a specific congressional District. If the Democrats don’t tell you what seats they’re going to flip, it probably means that they can’t. Or that they don’t have enough to make a reasonable case.
Case in point: the above Washington Post article. By my count it took the article twenty-nine paragraphs to get to the list of candidates that the Democrats plan to target: “Top targets for Democrats include Reps. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.), who holds a Miami-area seat; Will Hurd (R-Tex.), who represents a sprawling district along the U.S.-Mexico border; Bob Dold (R-Ill.), from suburban Chicago; Frank Guinta (R-N.H.), who won in 2010, lost in 2012 and just reclaimed his seat; first-termers Rod Blum (R-Iowa) and Cresent Hardy (R-Nev.); and open seats in New York and Pennsylvania.” Now, these are not unreasonable targets… but they’re not all prime targets. Blum and Hardy I will concede are in trouble, and maybe Hurd; but Curbelo won his race in a corruption scandal and Guinta and Dold are both survivors (I actually don’t know how Dold does it)*. More to the point, if that’s all that the Democrats can point to at this moment then they’re going to get nowhere near the thirty seats that they need to flip the House.
And yes, their partisans have to name all thirty seats. In 2014 we were able to spell out our path to a majority in the Senate; and the fact that we could rattle off the various ways to get to net-plus-six really and truly ended up helping us pull off a spectacular victory on Election Night. Until the Democrats can do the same in the House, there’s no need to take their claims seriously, because those claims simply are not serious. After all, as the philosopher said: hope is not a plan.
Moe Lane (crosspost)
*As for the two open seats: PA-08 is open because Mike Fitzpatrick is honoring a term limits promise and NY-19 is open because Chris Gibson will be retiring in order to run for either governor or Senator in the next few years. This means, in other words, that the eventual Republican candidate will be able to campaign with the current office-holder, not against him. That can be extremely helpful.