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How Screwed Are Democrats in the House?

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Get used to this guy

Really, really screwed.

The Cook Political Report came out with ratings Wednesday for how House elections are shaping up. The simple math: Just 33 seats out of 435 are truly competitive, including 27 held by Republicans and six held by Democrats.

For Pelosi’s plan to work, Democrats would need to hold all six of their seats and pick up all 27 from Republicans — 12 of which the Cook team says “lean Republican.” And even then it wouldn’t be enough.

It’s the latest evidence that a combination of Americans’ polarization, the concentration of Democratic voters in fewer districts, and the GOP’s overwhelming control over redistricting after the 2010 Census have made it a very tall task for Democrats to take back the House at any point this decade.

Or even, for that matter, next decade. As Aaron Blake wrote in 2013:

What redistricting also did, though, was allow Republicans to draw very favorable state legislative maps. Those maps will also make it hard for Democrats to regain control of those chambers and, by extension, overhaul the existing GOP-friendly maps at both the state and congressional levels.

Nobody is saying Democrats can’t win back the U.S. House in the coming years, but most everyone agrees that it’s significantly more difficult today than it was before and that Democrats need a sizable wave to do it. In fact, they would need to win as much as 55 percent of the popular vote, according to the Cook Political Report’s David Wasserman, something neither party was able to achieve even in the wave elections of 2006, 2008 and 2010.

Republicans have truly gamed the system by taking over the states. The lack of a good state strategy for Democrats is a real problem here and that’s actually where the House strategy has to start. The problem of course is that Republicans have gerrymandered the states just as badly as they have the congressional districts in those states. This is probably a multi-decade problem that only ends if a huge wave election takes place that can knock out a bunch of entrenched people and then that wave continues until the next census. In other words, very unlikely barring it happening precisely in 2020. Maybe left populist candidates can win some seats and provide a glimpse of how Sanders-power can work downballot in ways that Hillary-centrism can’t. We’ll see. There’s no reason not to be skeptical until these people win elections.

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