Pollster.com's U.S. House analysis, which is similar to other outfits', puts the Democrats in a very tight situation. Currently, 214 seats, just 4 shy of a majority, are said to "lean" (45) or "strongly" (169) trend in the Republicans' direction. A total of 195 seats (36 lean, 159 strong) are placed in the Democrats' column, and 26 seats are considered toss-ups.
If the Democrats were unable to win any "lean Republican" districts, they'd have to pull off a near-sweep of the toss-ups (23 of 26) to retain the majority. Each "lean R" seat the Democrats could pick off would require one fewer win from the toss-ups column. Each "lean D" the Democrats failed to hold would increase the load correspondingly.
The key question is thus: Are there enough competitive seats in the toss-ups and "lean R" columns from which the Democrats could pluck 23? It's a long shot to be sure (until I see some marked improvement in the generic ballot), but I count the following 49 seats as ones in which Democrats conceivably have a chance. Continues below the fold...
This list is based on Pollster.com (D candidate listed first). Polling numbers are mainly from Five Thirty Eight(whose format I find easier to digest than Pollster's), unless otherwise linked.
AZ 5 Mitchell vs. Schweikert Toss Up
Mainly we've had dueling parisan internal polls here; the only relatively recent poll here, from nearly two weeks ago, was by Penn Schoen and Berland, and had Schweikert up 3.
AZ 8 Giffords vs. Kelly Toss Up
All we have is an August GOP poll showing the race tied.
CA 3 Bera vs. Lungren Lean Rep
All we have is a mid-September PPP poll showing incumbent Lungren up 8, but failing to hit 50% (46).
CA 11 McNerney vs. Harmer Lean Rep
An early October SurveyUSA poll (the only poll of the month by anyone) showing Harmer up 48-42 apparently is the basis for favoring the Republican. Even when McNerney led in a September Democratic poll, however, he was still shy of 50%.
CA 20 Costa vs. Vidak Toss Up
Very little polling available, but a September S-USA poll had Costa slightly ahead.
CA 47 Sanchez (Loretta) vs. Tran Toss Up
A mid-October GOP poll showing the race even probably means Sanchez is ahead.
CO 3 Salazar vs. Tipton Lean Rep
No polls since some August GOP surveys, with (surprise) the Republican ahead.
CO 7 Perlmutter vs. Frazier Toss Up
Nothing since an August GOP poll with essentially a dead-heat.
CT 4 Himes vs. Debicella Toss Up
Two October polls: An unaffiliated one (Merriman) with Himes slightly ahead, and a GOP one with Debicella slightly ahead.
CT 5 Murphy vs. Caligiuri Lean Rep
Two October polls: Merriman with Caligiuri +6, and a Dem poll with Murphy +14.
FL 12 Edwards vs. Ross Toss Up
Ordinarily would be a safe GOP district, but with the incumbent vacating the seat, an independent "Tea Party" candidate may cost the Republican.
FL 22 Klein vs. West Toss Up
Mainly dueling partisan polls. An October Susquehanna poll (which some claim has a GOP lean) shows West +3.
FL 25 Garcia vs. Rivera Toss Up
Only two relatively old polls, both by Democratic-affiliated outfits, with Garcia ahead.
GA 8 Marshall vs. Scott Lean Rep
Mainly dueling partisan polls (Landmark Communications, not labeled as partisan by Five Thirty Eight, appears to be GOP-affiliated)
HI 1 Hanabusa vs. Djou Toss Up
GOP incumbent who won special three-way election against two Democrats earlier this year is doing surprisingly well; race remains very close.
IL 8 Bean vs. Walsh Toss Up
Only a GOP poll with race tied. The incumbent Bean rarely, if ever, been listed as being in danger.
IL 10 Seals vs. Dold Lean Rep
I was shocked to see this listed as "lean R." All polls, except for one by a GOP-leaning firm, have shown Seals ahead, often by sizable margins.
IL 14 Foster vs. Hultgren Toss Up
Mainly dueling partisan polls; Penn Schoen Berland has it essentially tied.
IL 17 Hare vs. Schilling Lean Rep
Several relatively old GOP polls had this race close; a mid-October PSB poll with Schilling up 7 seems to be coloring recent perceptions.
MD 1 Kratovil vs. Harris Lean Rep
Democrat Kratovil holds this district, which at the presidential level was won by 18 percentage points in 2008 by McCain. Yet, a Baltimore Sun poll released today shows the race exactly tied (albeit with Kratovil well below 50%, which can be a danger sign for an incumbent).
MI 9 Peters vs. Raczkowski Toss Up
A mid-October poll by the respected Michigan firm EPIC-MRA has Peters leading 48-43.
MS 1 Childers vs. Nunnelee Lean Rep
Mainly dueling partisan polls, but a mid-October PSB poll has the Republican up 44-39.
NH 1 Shea-Porter vs. Guinta Lean Rep
The scrappy incumbent Carol Shea-Porter, who led in some summer polls, has trailed in all recent ones (by 5, in the latest, by PSB).
NH 2 Kuster vs. Bass Toss Up
In this open-seat race, Ann Kuster has come on strong against former Congressperson Bass, leading him by 7 in the latest poll (by the University of New Hampshire).
NJ 3 Adler vs. Runyan Toss Up
Most polls have been close, but with incumbent Adler stuck around 40%.
NM 2 Teague vs. Pearce Lean Rep
The Democrats swept all three New Mexico U.S. House seats in '08, including this GOP-leaning district that resembles west Texas in some ways. Pearce, who vacated a safe House seat in '08 to run (unsuccessfully) for U.S. Senate, is now back, trying to reclaim his old seat. Most unaffiliated polls have this race close, but a recent GOP poll has Pearce up 9.
NV 3 Titus vs. Heck Toss Up
The polls are pretty even, nothing too recent, but Titus hasn't cracked 47.
NY 19 Hall vs. Hayworth Toss Up
Will incumbent Hall, a former member of the pop-rock group Orleans, be "Still the One" for this district? The recent polling has been extremely close.
NY 23 Owens vs. Doheny Lean Rep
In a GOP-leaning district captured by Owens in a special election earlier this term, Owens leads in the only (somewhat dated) October poll.
NC 2 Etheridge vs. Ellmers Toss Up
No available polling since June. Etheridge apparently lost his temper in a June confrontation with two people who approached him with a video camera. Though some conservatives have used the incident to drum up interest in the race, I've seen no independent evidence that Etheridge is actually in trouble. He was last re-elected with 67% of the vote.
NC 8 Kissell vs. Johnson Toss Up
Kissell had looked solid over the summer, until an early-October S-USA poll put him up by only 1 percentage point.
ND-At Large Pomeroy vs. Berg Lean Rep
Polling here, showing Berg ahead, dominated by Rasmussen.
OH 6 Wilson vs. Johnson Toss Up
Little polling, all GOP-affiliated, showing a close race.
OH 16 Boccieri vs. Rennaci Lean Rep
No polls available in the past month. In older polls, incumbent Boccieri trails slightly in non-affiliated poll, heavily in GOP polls, and has never approached 50%.
OH 18 Space vs. Gibbs Toss Up
No available polling since August, when a GOP poll had the race tied.
OR 5 Schrader vs. Bruun Lean Rep
The "lean Rep" designation may need to be reconsidered, after a just-released Elway poll (a well-established firm in the Northwest) puts Democrat Schrader up by 12.
PA 7 Lentz vs. Meehan Lean Rep (Democratic Senate nominee Sestak's outgoing seat)
PA 8 Murphy vs. Fitzpatrick Toss Up
PA 10 Carney vs. Marino Toss Up
PA 11 Kanjorski vs. Barletta Lean Rep
All four of these Pennsylvania races are fairly close, the GOP candidates leading by a few points in most polls, but sometimes the Democrat ahead. Longtime incumbent Kanjorski had been way behind, but one recent poll had him only 2 percentage points behind (albeit well below 50%). Recent upward movement in the polls by the Democratic candidates for U.S. Senator and Governor may signal greater enthusiasm to vote among Democrats.
SC 5 Spratt vs. Mulvaney Toss Up
No polling since July. Spratt, as Chair of the House Budget Committee, is an entrenched incumbent, but his district has been leaning more toward the GOP.
SD-At Large Herseth Sandlin vs. Noem Lean Rep
The Democrat, Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, leads by 2 in a recent poll by Nielson Brothers, a firm I've never heard of. Other than that, Rasmussen has tended to have Republican Kristi Noem up a few points, whereas some older, Democratic polls had Herseth Sandlin solidly ahead.
TN 4 Davis vs. DesJarlais Lean Rep
Just some dueling partisan polls available of late. Davis had seemed safe for most of this election cycle.
TX 23 Rodriguez vs. Canseco Lean Rep
The only polling has been GOP-affiliated and the Republican Conseco has indeed led, of late. Some tea-leaf readers have interpreted Rodriguez's failure to issue any internal polls with him in the lead as a sign that his polls also have him trailing.
VA 2 Nye vs. Rigell Lean Rep
Most polling is GOP affiliated. A recent survey by Christopher Newport University has it a 1-point race, however.
VA 5 Perriello vs. Hurt Lean Rep
The polling has been very odd here. Three summer polls by Survey USA had the Republican challenger up by 20+ points, and the firm's latest poll has the Hurt up by "only" 11. Democratic polls, in contrast, have had the race a virtual dead-heat, with unaffiliated polls showing Hurt up in the low-mid single digits. Someone has to be wrong!
VA 11 Connolly vs. Fimian Toss Up
No polling since early spring.
WA 8 DelBene vs. Reichert Lean Rep
GOP incumbent Reichert has led consistently, but challenger DelBene has closed to within low single-digits according to Democrat-leaning polls.
WI 8 Kagen vs. Ribble Lean Rep
GOP polls have forecast a rout for Ribble, but a mid-October PSB poll has it a virtual dead-heat.
There's one race Pollster lists as a toss-up, but I don't think the Democrats have a good chance:
AR 1 Causey vs. Crawford Toss Up