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Charlie Cook: Dem hopes of taking House control are slim to none

Not everything is about the next election. But if you are a congressperson the next election is never too far away. And the current conventional wisdom is that the public blames the Repubs more than the Dems. There’s even a Quinnipiac generic ballot question (where a national sample is asked whether, if the House election were held today, they would vote for a Democrat or a Republican) and the generic Dem wins 43-34, the biggest margin so far this cycle.

But, as you know, that’s not how we elect the House. It’s 435 separate elections in districts that — as the district map are currently drawn, and will be drawn for the next four elections — seem to favor Republicans.

The real political nerds don’t put much stock in generic ballot questions. And the super-nerds devote unimaginable levels of time and effort to have an up-to-date view of all 435 races. And Charlie Cook, of the Cook Political Report and National Journal, is in that category. In his latest National Journal column, Cook makes the case that, as the headline on the column suggests, “Republicans will never have an electoral incentive to compromise.”

Another super-nerd, Larry Sabato, put it this way to, (speaking of House Republicans, generally):

“Not only are their seats safe, but their support of this shutdown and the attempt to defund Obamacare is their guarantee to reelection,” Sabato told “The vast majority are in heavily Republican districts, so general public opinion may be completely against them, but this is actually good for them.”

As Cook currently rates the 435 races, he says, in order for control of the House to change hands in 2014:

Democrats would have to win 100 percent of the 192 races The Cook Political Report now rates as Solid-, Likely-, and Lean-Democratic, plus all of the 10 races in the Toss-Up column, all of the 11 races in the Lean-Republican column, and five (29 percent) of the 17 rated as Likely-Republican. Needless to say, that is a very tall order.

Comments (14)

  1. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 10/04/2013 - 01:29 pm.

    If not now, when?

    If the trend continues, the picture in 2016 and 2018 may be different.

  2. Submitted by jason myron on 10/04/2013 - 04:21 pm.

    Charlie Cook

    doesn’t have much of a track record for being correct about anything. We might not take the house, but we’ll put a dent in it. The real success will be to get rid of some Republican governors and legislatures at the state level. That’s where the real GOTV push needs to focus.

  3. Submitted by Michael Fleming on 10/04/2013 - 04:22 pm.

    Time to revisit Eric’s note on Districts

    I seem to recall Mr Black writing something a while back that suggested that House Districts are not a requirement under the Constitution, and thus maybe we should consider forcing all states to make their House seats At Large. That won’t totally cure us of this in states that are essentially all Red or all Blue state-wide, but it might make enough of a difference to make the House more reflective of the population as a whole. (Of course, that would mean the Dems would have to give up their ‘lock’ on California, just as the R’s have their ‘lock’ on Texas. And it’s the fear of that which means this will likely never occur.)

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 10/04/2013 - 06:43 pm.


      1. Election procedures are left to the states by the Constitution.

      2. This proposal would make the House of Representatives equivalent to the Senate, defeating the purpose of a bicameral legislature.

      • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 10/05/2013 - 04:37 pm.

        How So?

        Wouldn’t California still have 50-some representatives to Montana’s one?

        • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 10/06/2013 - 06:43 pm.

          But according to the above proposal

          each of those 50 representatives would be elected by the whole state (I assume that’s what’s meant by ‘at large’) rather than by a specific district.
          So each -state-s representation in the House would be proportional to its population, but election would not be by specific districts, thus weakening the connection between the Representative and individual constituents.
          It would also mean that Representatives would have to campaign on a state level, increasing the cost, and the influence of large donations.

    • Submitted by Dennis Tester on 10/04/2013 - 08:36 pm.

      This would also ensure

      a lily-white congress, since most of the reasoning behind gerrymandering was to create districts that could be represented by members of the minority races. It wouldn’t bother me none but there are folks on your side who are really into this diversity thing.

  4. Submitted by Charlie Cook on 10/04/2013 - 08:21 pm.

    I am curious, Eric

    Where you see Larry Sabato’s name in my column. He isn’t mentioned.

  5. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 10/04/2013 - 08:50 pm.

    To Borrow From Arther C. Clarke

    and extrapolate to Charlie Cook, who is about a prescient as I am, which is to say, sometimes very prescient, indeed,…

    and at other times, not prescient in the least,…

    and usually completely unable to tell the difference in advance,…

    (although I tend to admit when I have been mistaken in what I thought the future would bring, whereas Mr. Cook seeks to gloss over all his mistakes and seeks make himself appear to be 100% correct at all times),…

    when a noted expert says something is possible, they are almost certainly right,…

    when that expert says something is impossible, they are almost certainly wrong.

    Although it IS quite possible that the miniscule numbers of Tea Party congresspersons are safe in their own seats, it’s quite likely that, if this government shut down extends ad nauseum, and the general public tires of the the infantile antics of the TP’ers, that EVERY primary challenge the TP’ers mount in 2014 will fall flat on its face,…

    at which point the political power of the Tea Party (and the political influence of the very wealthy holders of it’s collective leash) will come to the end of its very brief and tawdry life.

  6. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 10/05/2013 - 01:15 pm.

    One year from now (or even 3 years from now), what will the Republicans be campaigning on?

    Could they campaign on defunding Obamacare? Would they actually propose or implement a program whereby they remove insurance from a substantial number of people that would by then be covered by Obamacare provisions?

    Look at how the in-place provisions regarding pre-existing conditions and dependents under the age of 26 have now become necessary in any alternative to Obamacare

    My guess is that a month or two from now, the issue of Obamacare will be a much diminished part of the public discussion.

    And given the (currently) steadfast resolve to not negotiate the debt ceiling limit, that issue will be gone–permanently. If a debt ceiling raise is not achieved, it would be a pretty sad record of economic devastation to run on.

    And, given that the deficit is decreasing continuously, the whole deficit spending issue is also going away (in fact, the deficit has decreased 35% from last year).

    There will be issues of course, but the only high-impact issues left will be the more unhinged ones. I’m still not sure how that will play for political viability for the Republicans.

  7. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/05/2013 - 01:17 pm.

    Maybe but….

    We’re not talking about Republicans, we’re talking about Tea Party and Libertarians. I’m not sure you can assume that extremists are immune to challenge or the course of events like the shutdown. Everyone thought Bachmann would win by a landslide again and could never really face a serious challenge. Out of curiosity did Cook make a prediction in the Bachmann race and if so what was it?

    I keep hearing that they actually have enough Republican votes to end the shut down right now but leadership won’t bring it a vote. This would seem to indicate the Tea Party is vulnerable.

  8. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/06/2013 - 08:44 am.

    These polls indicate that 17 districts may be up for grabs

    Huff Post has this to say:

  9. Submitted by Eric Black on 10/06/2013 - 10:13 am.


    Charlie Cook is right in his comment above. His column didn’t mention Larry Sabato. I’ve adjusted the post to reflect that.

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