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The news keeps getting better and better for a potential expansion of the Democratic majority in the House.  Several prominent Republicans have recently announced they are retiring, making the Republican National Congressional Committee's ability to avoid greater losses next year even more difficult.  In recent weeks, five seats in Illinois and Ohio have opened up, providing a great advantage to House Democrats.  

These two states play to Democrats' strengths in 2008.  Illinois voted for Kerry in 2004, and Gore in 2000.  Even an unpopular Democratic governor managed an easy win in 2006, making Illinois a reliably Democratic state in 2008.  If that was not enough, one of two candidates with ties to the state (Obama and Clinton) could top the ticket, making odds of an energized Democratic base and depressed Republican base more likely.

Details about Ohio, specific seats that are opening, and more broad analysis after the jump.

Ohio voted for Bush in 2004 and 2000, but vast dissatisfaction with both Bush and Taft led to a sea change in voting habits last November.  Now that Democrats control most statewide offices (including, most importantly, Jennifer Brunner replacing Ken Blackwell as Secretary of State to ensure free and fair elections), Ohio is no longer safe territory for Republicans as conservative voters are glum about what the party has done here, and if I had to bet money, I would wager that the Democratic nominee for president will carry the state next November.  

IL-14: Denny Hastert has confirmed that "it is time to step away."
IL-18: Ray LaHood is leaving to spend more quality time with his grandchildren.
(Meanwhile, in IL-4, Democratic incumbent Luis Gutierrez is rethinking his decision to retire.)

OH-7: Dave Hobson, according to DaytonOS, will not run again.
OH-15: Deborah Pryce has apparently concluded that it is far too difficult to raise her daughter in Columbus while maintaining a five-day work week in Washington.
OH-16: Ralph Regula has strongly hinted he is stepping down.

Most of these districts were not heavily contested in 2006, yet the new open seats still make life difficult for the GOP.  First, what is a safe Republican seat in a climate where the party's approval ratings are in freefall is less certain than it was two or four years ago.  Second, though (to use one example) Ray LaHood's district has been reliably Republican for decades, LaHood's fundraising advantage as an incumbent meant he was less likely to rely upon the national committee's aid to raise money and his profile.  Though the next representative will likely be a Republican, the national party is probably going to have to expend resources to make certain they will retain the seat.

In the larger picture, these retirements are troublesome to the Republican National Congressional Committee.  The DCCC is, to use Greg Sargent's words, crushing the RNCC in fundraising this cycle.  According to the FEC,

At the end of June, Democratic party committees had $50.9 million cash on hand and debts of $11.7 million, and Republican party committees had $31.8 million in cash on hand and debts of $6.4 million.

Every dollar used to defend the seats LaHood and Hastert are leaving is a dollar that can't be used to defend Mark Kirk, Marilyn Musgrave, or Christopher Shays.  The more open seats left to defend means the more the RNCC needs a fundraising advantage over the DCCC.  Unless broad trends change, that will not happen -- if anything, change is likely to favor Democrats as we may see a domino effect of retirements.  (This may also happen in the Senate, though since the action over the past few weeks has been in the House, I am focusing on the lower chamber in this diary.)  We cannot take for granted another wave like the one that brought us the majority in 2006, but these developments make the chances of another large gain in 2008 much closer to reality.

Originally posted to Nuisance Industry on Wed Aug 15, 2007 at 12:07 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Indeed (8+ / 0-)

    I expected this to happen, and it repeats the events of '95-'96 that prevented us from retaking the House on the anti-Newt backlash. Many conservative/senior Democrats survived the 1994 onslaught but decided not to serve in the minority, so they opened up districts that had transitioned to Republican tendencies in places like Alabama and Texas and we lost them even as we defeated '94 Republicans in marginal areas like California and the northeast.

  •  Nice diary (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Nuisance Industry

    Thanks for the information. I wish we could pry WA-8 away from the pubs; we haven't been able to crack that nut yet.

  •  What about the Dino's? (0+ / 0-)

    Unless we get rid of them we will never have a real majority.

  •  One hopes (0+ / 0-)

    but, of course, I think this is all dependent on our Presidential nominee AND the performance of our current Congress re Iraq.

  •  problem is dems might fuck this whole thing up (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ivorybill, VirginiaBlue

    by nominating Hillary, could she be elected president, yes but she will kill dems running in the red area open seats, what a waste.

    polling shows 52% of americans won't even CONSIDER voting for Hillary, should we bet the whole 2008 cycle hoping they aren't telling the truth.

    by nevadadem on Wed Aug 15, 2007 at 12:18:46 PM PDT

    •  The parade thanks for (0+ / 0-)

      all the rain and deeply certain pessimism you bestow  :-)

      Seriously, why would we even want a whole lot of Democrats in Red districts rather than more in Blue ones?  We don't actually need any more Chris Carneys or Nick Lampsons.

      Out where you are, isn't the greatest priority simply on getting one more Democratic state Senate seat?  And if I may ask, is a recall election for Gibbons in the making?

      Renewal, not mere Reform.

      by killjoy on Wed Aug 15, 2007 at 03:02:11 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  What's happened to that rumor that a veteran (0+ / 0-)

    GOP House member from Ohio was on the D.C. Madam's list?

    Katrina was America's Chernobyl.

    by lysias on Wed Aug 15, 2007 at 12:24:28 PM PDT

  •  Pryce barely won in 2006. I think a Democrat (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    lysias, metal prophet, ivorybill

    has a really good shot in an open seat race.

  •  The Senate races are more important because (8+ / 0-)

    there is a very real chance that Dems can achieve a filibuster-proof Senate. The difference this would make in appointments and legislative initiatives cannot be overemphasized. Dems need a 10-seat pickup to actually be filibuster-proof, but given the Senate electoral landscape in 2010, there will be enough nervous Thuglicans to give Dems an effectively filibuster-proof Senate even if Dems only net seven seats.

    Here are the probable pickups:
    NH, OR, MN, VA, CO

    Here are the tossups:
    ME, KY, TX, AK

    Here are the possibles:
    NC, NM, NC, OK, AL, MS

    If Dems can turn 10 of the above seats, they will have an effectively filibuster-proof Senate even if Landrieu loses in LA (she doesn't even have an opponent yet). Given a favorable election climate and some very hard work, it can be done - for only the third time in history and for the first time since 1976. Carpe Diem, Dems!

    -6.38/-3.79::'A man is incapable of comprehending any argument that interferes with his revenues.' Descartes

    by skrymir on Wed Aug 15, 2007 at 12:37:13 PM PDT

    •  agreed (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JoeWPgh, ivorybill, Randall Sherman

      I think there's a real possibility that Democrats can achieve a 60-seat majority in 2008.  Everything would have to break right, just as happened in the Senate races in 2006.

      That DC Democrats speak on the record about a fillibuster-proof Senate in 2010 (when seats in PA, IA, OH, and NH come up) indicates the breeze is blowing our way.

      •  And that doesn't (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        count the non-ideologues (assuming the repubs haven't already lynched all theirs) who jump parties when they realize the majority status isn't likely to change for a very long time.

      •  also possibles (0+ / 0-)

        the seats of Bond (MO), Martinez (FL), McCain(AZ) if he retires (which he really should), perhaps Burr (NC).  All of them will, on national trend, be running in 48%+, possibly 50%+, Democratic electorates.

        Bunning (KY) is probably retiring too, and Kentucky will be looking red-purplish at that point.

        Renewal, not mere Reform.

        by killjoy on Wed Aug 15, 2007 at 03:16:02 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  I think it's a mirage (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      poliscizac, ivorybill, tcdup

      The closer we get to a filibuster-proof Senate, the further it will recede as a possibility.

      We'll do well for a while based on the backlash to Republican incompetence. As we approach more than 55 Democratic senators--should we be so lucky to reach that point--the focus will be much more on us and the members from more conservative states will feel pressure not to go along.

      I think we need to recognize that as long as the filibuster exists, it is something we need to deal with, rather than hope we can overpower. The Republicans got a lot done with 55 senators and some scared Democrats. We'd do just as well with a sustainable majority of 53-55 senators and only occasional filibusters as with a 60+ Democratic majority that is too big to contain its own contradictions and collapses under its own weight.

      The other alternative is to get rid of the filibuster altogether, which Matthew Yglesias argued would be better for progressives in the long run. However, that moment has passed.

      •  You are right (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        But I want those two Maine senators to be terrified and voting with the Democrats.  A veto-proof senate would be wonderful but will probably only last two years even if it happens.

        In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock. ...Thomas Jefferson

        by ivorybill on Wed Aug 15, 2007 at 02:28:58 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  well, that would take a lot (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      exNYinTX, ellefarr, dufffbeer, ivorybill

      Let's say your 5 probables are each 80%.
      Now let's say the 4 tossups are 50%
      6 Possibles each 20%
      then let's say we have a 20% chance of losing Louisiana.

      I simulated 1000 runs of this, and got the following

      pickup  2 seats    less than 1 %
             3                    1.7
             4                    5.3
             5                   12.6
             6                   17.3
             7                   21.9
             8                   22.0
             9                   11.1
            10                    6.1
            11+                   1.5

      •  An 8-seat pickup is the most probable outcome? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Sounds about right to me. Ten seats would be difficult, but certainly doable given the right climate. Thanks for running those numbers - it's a valuable reality check.

        -6.38/-3.79::'A man is incapable of comprehending any argument that interferes with his revenues.' Descartes

        by skrymir on Thu Aug 16, 2007 at 02:03:30 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  After thinking about this, I have a question. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I'm no statistician, but don't the above probabilities need to be added to 50% in order to represent the true chances of winning that number of seats? This is because all races were assigned a positive number between 0 and 100 to represent it's probable outcome, with 50% representing the median value of all possible outcomes.

        Thus, in this example the chances of turning only one seat would be 51% and the chances of turning eight seats would be 72%, and the chances of turning 10 seats would be 56.1%. I think this is a more useful representation, if accurate, because people are used to thinking of neutral as a 50% chance of winning any two-outcome event. What's your thinking on this?

        -6.38/-3.79::'A man is incapable of comprehending any argument that interferes with his revenues.' Descartes

        by skrymir on Thu Aug 16, 2007 at 03:30:16 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I don't follow.... (0+ / 0-)

          all the percentages, combined, have to add to 100%, because something will happen.  If one seat is 51% and eight seats is 72%, then those two alone add to 123%, which isn't possible....

          These aren't two outcome events, there are a lot more outcomes.  All the way from us losing all the seats where we are running (12, I think) and winning none, to winning all the seats where they are running, and losing none.

          At least, that's one way to look at it, in terms of net gain or loss.

          You could look at every possible combination of wins and losses..... with 34 races, thats 2^34  combinations.....

          •  I was attempting to normalize the results in (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            order to make them readily understandable to a casual reader. Unless I don't understand your results, the most probable outcome using the assumptions that were made is an 8-seat pickup with a 22% likelihood while a 1-seat pickup has a likelihood of about 1%, the same as for a 12-seat pickup. This could be confusing to some people. I was seeking a way to express the likelihood of each outcome in more familiar terms, as in the typical 'toss-up' having a 50% chance of going either way.

            The problem lies in what the data doesn't readily say, as in 'There is a 1% chance of a 1-seat pickup, but a 99% chance that there will be more than a 1-seat pickup.' Or, 'There is a 43% chance that there will be a 7-8 seat pickup, and a 57% chance that it will be more or less seats.' Or, 'There is an 84.9% chance that 5-9 seats will turn.' I was simply searching for a quick way to express the results in a more readily understandable manner. The results as presented do not make clear that even though there is only a 22% chance of an 8-seat turn, the likelihood of a 5-9 seat turn approaches 85%, and that the reason there is only a 1% chance of a 1-seat turn is that it is far more likely that the result will be MORE than a 1-seat turn.

            I picked a poor method for normalizing the results - perhaps you can suggest another method. A histogram would be nice, but not very feasible in this medium. Thanks again for your valuable work here.

            -6.38/-3.79::'A man is incapable of comprehending any argument that interferes with his revenues.' Descartes

            by skrymir on Fri Aug 17, 2007 at 10:34:28 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  I think we gain minimum (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    of 5 seats in the Senate, maybe 20 in the House, although I have not looked carefully at the House.

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