Still aren’t good. As though all the conditions faced by Democrats heading into November 2014 aren’t cause for enough pessimism, including an electorate composition that favors Republicans given reduced turnout in mid-term elections, the marginal gains for Republicans derived from gerrymandering, and the penalty the incumbent party in the White House enjoys, especially one running a net-unfavorable approval rating, apparently the Democrats are having difficulty in recruiting quality candidates to take on Republican incumbents in marginal seats:
Altogether, Democrats aren’t yet poised to mount serious challenges to a clear majority of the Republicans running on competitive turf, let alone actually win. So you should probably take this morning’s PPP poll with an additional grain of salt: it’s about how House Republicans would fare against a “generic” Democrat, not the mediocre one they’ll face in 2014. Perhaps the shutdown will trigger a wave of GOP retirements and Democratic recruits. But without both, Democrats will probably crest short of 218.
While some hold a naive belief that the hilarious self-destruction of the House Republicans will push the Democrats to the required net gain of 17 seats in order to reclaim the House, I’m as unconvinced today as I was 10 months ago when I wrote the following:
Even if structural conditions are solid and a tailwind is at the back of the Democratic Party in 2014, lower turnout, the historical penalty suffered by the incumbent party, and the Republicans’ built-in advantage of redistricting for the next ten years makes aspirations of gaining seats, let alone reclaiming the majority, a wildly optimistic expectation. Simply engaging a GOTV operation of similar size and efficacy to 2012 would stretch the budget for a mid term election, and even then the return on investment probably won’t be as impressive considering that it’s more difficult to persuade casual voters to get motivated for a mere Congressional election.
Had the current edition of Republican extortion occurred closer to the election, then this might have helped at the margins, but even then, not 17 seats worth. However, assuming this is resolved without the fun and games of a global economic meltdown, the great shutdown of October 2013 will be a distant memory in both as a motivation to turn out, and as a decision rule once one has bothered to vote.
Remember, last November, Democrats only out-polled Republicans in House elections by 1.7 million votes on 48.3% (compared with 46.9%) of the vote, and Republicans still won 234 seats. The conditions in 2012 were theoretically vastly superior to anything we can expect in 2014. That slender 1.7 million vote plurality contrasts markedly with the 6 million vote advantage the Republicans had in 2012, or both the 13 million and 7 million vote win that Democrats enjoyed in 2008 and 2006 respectively. Again, I’d love to be wrong, but I think the Seattle Mariners have a much better chance at a winning season in 2014 than Democrats in the House elections.