Bill Clinton is far from the only "comeback kid" in American politics. As we noted last week, many presidents have experienced election losses before they reached the promised land of the White House. A similar story can be told in the U.S. Senate, with 31* senators leaving the chamber only to return at a later date, since the mandate of popular election was passed with the Seventeenth Amendment (a full list is available here).
Commentary by Isaac T. Wood
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With gas prices soaring as summer vacations near, many optimistic Republicans and nervous Democrats are left wondering about what impact those prices will have on President Obama's reelection chances. High gas prices, they point out, sank Jimmy Carter in 1980 and added to the baggage George W. Bush passed on to Republican nominee John McCain in 2008.
Following the 2010 House “shellacking” by the GOP, Democrats are hungry for revenge while Republicans are hungry for more. While there is an endlessly long list of unknowns as we assess the November 2012 races from our current vantage point, 22 months removed from Election Day, there are also several signposts that offer some suggestion of what the 2012 House elections may bring.
Polling, independent expenditures, and the general intensification of campaigns across the country provide us with new clues about the November outcome that is in store. Our overall view of the Republican wave remains the same, at a GOP net pick-up of 47 seats, but we now know more about which seats are truly endangered and where each side was just tilting at windmills.
With the Crystal Ball shifting 21 House race ratings in their direction last week, the national picture looks bright for Republicans, both from a birds-eye view and also from a race-by-race perspective. This week we nudge three more Democratic-held House seats into more competitive categories, as we hone in on where exactly the GOP gains we have long projected will come from.
As Election Day nears, more of the House election picture comes into focus.
GA-2 (Sanford Bishop-D): After nearly two decades in Congress in a Southwest Georgia district that is nearly 50% African-American, Democrat Sanford Bishop was not exactly at the top of many Republican target lists. Given the Republican wave that seems to be brewing, however, and the potential for a greatly diminished minority turnout in 2010, he suddenly is in a fight for his political life. State legislator Mike Keown will be the GOP standard-bearer and he should be able to keep up financially with Bishop, who had just $400,000 in the bank at the end of June. In a midterm year, and especially this one, Bishop could be vulnerable, so we are moving this from Safe Democratic to LIKELY DEMOCRATIC.
While many people spent the July 4th weekend cooling off at the beach, the summer heat is still being felt in a number of marquee House matchups. As a result a few ratings changes are in order, as we explain below. As always you can visit the Crystal Ball website anytime for a complete chart of all competitive House races.
While this week's House primaries and runoffs could not match the June 8th contests in sheer number, they made up for it in drama, intrigue, and good old fashioned controversy. Here are five quick takes from the most interesting of those races that were on the ballot Tuesday.
Like many beleaguered sports fans, as the calendar turned to 2010, Republicans across the country were conjuring up the same thought: “This is the year!” After disastrous House elections in 2006 and 2008, Republicans dropped from their high-water mark of 232 House seats—their largest total since 1949—to just 178—their lowest total in a decade and a half. This precipitous decline brought considerable frustration to the new minority party. 2010 appeared to offer the chance for historic rebirth—and in many ways it still does.
The last time a Democrat lost a special election for a U.S. House seat, George W. Bush was still president and gas was almost $4 a gallon. It was way back on May 3, 2008 when Hillary Clinton was still battling Barack Obama tooth-and-nail for the Democratic presidential nomination.
David Obey’s retirement announcement reshuffles the House deck for both parties. Democrats are scrambling to ensure other veteran Democrats do not follow suit, after thinking that the retirement tide had been stemmed. For Republicans the odds of a House majority do not look quite as long now that one of Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s key allies has sidestepped a November reelection battle.
Looking back at last Sunday’s House vote on health care reform, it is crystal clear that the party leanings of congressional districts, not just the party identification of the congressmen, influenced the final tally. Currently, there are 46 Democrats in the House who represent districts won by John McCain in 2008.
The last two U.S. House of Representatives elections have been Democratic landslides that have left them with a 79-seat majority. In 2006, Democrats picked up 29 seats on election night (exactly as the Crystal Ball predicted, by the way) and didn’t lose a single seat of their own, even adding another pick-up in a December runoff. The winning streak continued in 2008, with Democrats netting 21 new seats in what was a Blue year across the board.
How does a group where the majority of members voted in favor of health care reform get in the liberals' doghouse? Just ask the Blue Dog Democrats. The Blue Dogs are a coalition of 52 fiscally conservative U.S. House members who have made headlines for their ardent negotiations with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Although more than half of the Blue Dogs voted for the initial House health care bill, the coalition still provided 24 of the 39 Democratic "no" votes, cementing their place on the liberal naughty list.
All sound electoral predictions are grounded in history. Astute observers look back over the electoral landscape of the past and pick the bits and pieces of past years that match the conditions of the present.