In just the last week, we've seen new chatter about the possibility that Donald Trump could put the House in play for Democrats, as non-partisan analysts, giddy liberals, and even some anguished Republicans have started wondering whether Trump could pull off such a remarkable feat. But while it's certainly not impossible to imagine, any such conclusions are very premature. There's still far too much we don't know—and won't know—unless and until Trump is the nominee (and of course, he may not be). Democrats have certainly bet wrong before on the effects a supposedly "unacceptable" Republican standard-bearer might have for his party.
But one thing we do know does not augur well for Democrats: Because a House takeover has seemed so remote this cycle, the party has struggled to land strong candidates in a large enough number of potentially competitive districts to even contemplate overcoming its 30-seat deficit. The prospect of a Trumpocalypse has only started to feel real quite recently, and it's somewhat late in the game to mount a serious campaign against an incumbent. What's more, filing deadlines have passed in 37 percent of the nation's 435 House districts, so even if legitimate contenders wanted to take a second look, in many cases, they couldn't.
Two GOP-held seats in southern New Jersey illustrate the problem. In the 2nd District, Republican Rep. Frank LoBiondo has been entrenched for many years, but Barack Obama carried the seat by a 54-45 margin, and it's the kind of place where Democrats have to set themselves up to be able to take advantage of a potential Trump wave. But the candidate that Democrats in the district's largest county endorsed over the weekend is former Obama aide Dave Cole, who ran in 2014, raised just $55,000, and lost the primary 82-18.
Meanwhile, in the neighboring 3rd District, Democrats there are split between two bantamweights: Jim Keady, who badly lost a race for state Assembly last year, and Frederick LaVergne, who took 1.7 percent in the general election here in 2014 on the "Democratic-Republican" line. (And you thought the Jeffersonians were dead!) While this seat isn't quite as blue (Obama won it 52-47), GOP Rep. Tom MacArthur is only in his first term, when incumbents are at their most vulnerable, and Democrats actually won here in 2008.
New Jersey's filing deadline is just two weeks away, so no matter what new outrages Trump provokes in the next fortnight, the recruitment situation in the Garden State is unlikely to improve. And it's pretty much the same story everywhere else. If Trump were to truly cause a cataclysm, he might sweep in a few very unheralded Democrats on his anti-coattails, and perhaps that would be enough for a miracle. But while Republicans have every reason to feel queasy about what The Donald might mean for their future, for now, their firewall in the House of Representatives looks to be quite operational.