- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 14, 2004

House Republicans say it’s almost a mathematical certainty that they will have the 218 seats needed to retain their majority in November.

“We are going to have 218. The math just plain says that,” said Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds, New York Republican and chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. “[Democrats] have to win everything in order to get there, and they can’t.”

Mr. Reynolds said his goal, of course, is to go beyond the bare 218 and keep 228 House seats in Republican hands.

Democrats have to net at least 12 more seats to bring their 206 up to 218, and there isn’t the national wave of support to make that happen, said Nathan Gonzales, political editor of the Rothenberg Political Report, a nonpartisan analysis of House and Senate races.

“Right now, Republicans are heavily favored to keep the House,” Mr. Gonzales said. “It’s not impossible for Democrats to win, but its very unlikely.”

There are 42 House seats in play — 25 Republican, 15 Democratic and two in Texas where redistricting has pitted Republican incumbents against Democratic incumbents, according to the Rothenberg Political Report.

Since more Republican seats are in play, Democrats have seen — and continue to see — a real opportunity.

“The playing field has favored us and we’re still in a position to capitalize on it,” said Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesman Greg Speed. He discounted Mr. Reynolds’ assessment of the situation and said Democrats are ahead of Republicans by 7 percentage points in the generic ballot numbers released this week by Rasmussen Reports.

But in the latest Rothenberg Political Report, released Monday, Stuart Rothenberg predicted just a low single-digit net gain of seats for Democrats.

Mr. Rothenberg said “without a national wave … the Democrats won’t knock off enough GOP incumbents or snare enough Republican open seats to take back the House.”

Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat and House minority whip, agreed “there’s not” a great wind out there right now in Democrats’ favor, but said he expects it to develop in the next few weeks as Democrats hammer home the “record of failure” under President Bush and Republicans.

Mr. Hoyer said the dozen Democratic candidates he visited recently are excited and competitive, if not ahead, in their races.

“They believe they’re winning on the issues” that Americans care about, “like health care, education and jobs.”

Democrats will continue trying to build enthusiasm and drive home their message. Next week, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, will join the rest of her caucus in announcing their plan for the nation in several key areas.

But Mr. Gonzales said even that could indicate problems for the party.

“Democrats are trying to find the balance between running local races and having a national message.”

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