House Hopes Sag For Democrats

Democrats may be having a couple of good news cycles when it comes to the presidential campaign, keeping the focus on immigration and off the economy, but retaking a majority in the House of Representatives this fall is looking next to impossible:

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has given her party a better than 50-50 chance of wresting control of the lower chamber — but missed opportunities in specific races and increasing economic worries have put that prediction in doubt.

“The environment certainly isn’t as good as it was six months ago for Democrats,” a senior Democratic strategist who works on House races told The Hill, speaking on the condition of anonymity in order to comment candidly.

“Democrats are way off track of where they need to be to regain the majority,” said David Wasserman, the House race editor of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.

The situation for the left is slightly better in the Senate, where strong recruitment and the surprise retirement of Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) has increased Democrats’ odds of holding the upper chamber.

House Democrats lost a prime pickup opportunity in California earlier this month when they failed to get a top recruit through the state’s new “top two” primary system. Instead, two Republicans will face off for control of a seat that would have given President Obama 56 percent of its vote in 2008 — a result that Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel (N.Y.) admitted to The Hill was a “setback.”

They also suffered blows recently in Arkansas and South Carolina, where the party’s preferred recruits failed to win their primaries in three GOP-leaning districts. 

While the Arkansas and South Carolina seats were going to be difficult for Democrats to win even with their favored candidates, in a year in which they need everything to break their way, the results further limited the number of seats they have a chance at.

This just reinforces the importance of the president’s immigration gambit: it’s a way to bypass Congress and deliver the goods to the Democratic Party’s base. Even with unified control of the Senate, House, and presidency, the party failed to pass many of its priorities in 2009-2010, and avoiding an enthusiasm gap seems to be at the top of the re-election campaign’s agenda.