No, control of the House of Representatives isn’t in play next year

The political stalemate in Washington that has led to a government shutdown has Democrats salivating at the prospect of winning back the House of Representatives in the 2014 mid-term election., a leftist organization, released a set of polls earlier this week showing that 24 Republicans could be vulnerable next year, alleging that the government shutdown “has significant electoral implications” in the district they represent. The polls, which were conducted by Public Policy Polling (PPP), were immediately seized upon by Democrats, who need a net-17 seats to win control of the chamber.

While it’s true that many polls show Republicans taking the brunt of the blame of the government shutdown — though a recent CNN poll shows that blame is pretty close to evenly spread — Stu Rothenberg, a political analyst and namesake of the Rothenberg Political Report, disputes the notion that control of the House is up for grabs.

“Is the House in play now? Of course not. My newsletter’s most recent race-by-race assessment, completed just days before the shutdown began, found that the most likely overall outcome next year is a small gain for one of the parties,” wrote Rothenberg, who spent a fair amount of the column picking apart the Public Policy Polling surveys.

Rothenberg explained that “there is no compelling evidence that a Democratic wave is developing,” though he conceded that an economic downturn caused by the government shutdown or the debt ceiling debate could be a game changer if Republicans receive the bulk of the blame. He also noted fallout after the 1995-1996 government shutdown was limited.

“The House is not in play now, and we will need to wait until after the current legislative fights are resolved to see whether the outlook for the 2014 House elections has changed dramatically one way or the other,” Rothenberg reiterated once again. “The only thing we know right now is that the PPP/ polls are of little value in understanding the electoral landscape a year from now.”

Some Republicans have fretted about the electoral implications of the government shutdown. Before the impasse boiled over, Karl Rove, a former advisor to President George W. Bush, urged Republicans to avoid a shutdown, claiming that they wouldn’t win the Senate and could risk their control of the House. Mitt Romney has expressed similar concerns.

Republicans should win seats next year. That’s typically what happens in mid-term elections, especially in the sixth year of presidency. Weary voters tend to reject the incumbent president’s party, leading to losses at the ballot box. That’s what happened to Ronald Reagan in 1986 and George W. Bush in 2006.

An exception to the rule was 1998, when Republicans lost a four seats in the House, taking a slim majority into the 106th Congress. The results of that election sent a shockwave through the House Republican Conference and cost Newt Gingrich his speakership.

Rothenberg’s most recent ratings show that 210 seats are “Safe Republican,” while 24 seats are in play. Of those two dozen seats, 17 are either “Lean Republican” or “Republican Favored.” Another four seats are rated as “Toss-up/Tilt Republican.”

The media moves so much more quickly now than it has in the past that the next big story will make the government shutdown a distant memory to most voters by the time the head to the polls next year. But if Republicans do lose seats, it’ll be because they didn’t offer a solution-driven agenda that offers a clear contrast between the policies of President Obama.

The views and opinions expressed by individual authors are not necessarily those of other authors, advertisers, developers or editors at United Liberty.