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The House

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Everyone’s all over poll numbers for the Presidential election, and everyone’s watching the Senate pretty closely as well. (Speaking of which, there is a nice and very flattering profile of Barak Obama in the most recent New Yorker, which doesn’t appear to be online–he looks hard to beat, especially for a problematic candidate like Ryan).

There is much less talk about the house. It’s far bigger, of course, and races get going much later. And the Democrats are likely to lose half a dozen seats due to Texas redistricting. Still, with Herseth, the GOP is down to 227. It seems potentially within striking distance, although few opinion leaders seem to give the Democrats much of a chance. Among the political junkies that put their money where their mouth is, the chances are painted as rather grim. The political market at tradesports has Democrats house chances at 15% (Senate at 25%, Presidency at 45%).

I have no idea if that’s anywhere near correct. But I do think that conventional wisdom may be worth reconsidering. First of all, we’ve picked up two seats in special elections which Bush won by 14 and 22 points, respectively. Kos notes that the GOP has lowered their public house expectations to status quo. I don’t have much of a point here, except to suggest that the pessimism about the house we’ve heard is perhaps more a frustrated response to the Texas redistricting debacle than to an honest assessment of our chances.

A few more reasons for cautious optimism:

Chandler and Herseth show that the right candidate can be competitive in all kinds of red districts, and “the right candidate” can still be progressive on all kinds of important issues, just not certain ones that cause problems in that district (see Scott’s post on gun control, for one of the best examples). In many districts, combining a bit of social conservatism with some economic policies to the left of Democratic leadership could actually work quite well. Kos says contest every seat. I’d amend that to say contest nearly every seat with a candidate well suited to the district.

The Democrats are clearly better at this grassroots, targeted, tactical national support thing, at least at the “netroots” level. They’ll probably catch up eventually, but for now this strikes me as more likely a point in our favor.

I’m generally trying to avoid optimism of just about any kind. It certainly could go all wrong quite easily. But I think the house could well be in play.

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