It is not going to happen.
Well… it could, but based on what I have seen it will not happen.
This is not a characterization of any specific race in particular but it is very likely that the Republicans will maintain control of the House of Representatives for at least two more years.
Yes, the Democrats will receive more votes cast for their candidates a la 2012 but like 2012 it will result in Speaker Paul Ryan maintaining the speakership. This is due to the combined fiasco of a midterm election colliding with a census year. Democrats opted to stay home while Republicans turned out to vote. The result was them not only flipping the House but also claiming several state legislatures which allowed Republicans to draw the congressional maps as they see fit. Many of these seats compacted Democrats into mainly urban districts that are highly favorable to them while Republicans drew districts that were….
There are many egregious examples of this from the Democrat-vs.-Republican vote outcomes in North Carolina, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Florida. Obama won all of those states twice with the exception of North Carolina, but in the House they yielded Republican seats that were not truly reflective of the vote’s outcome.
This redrawing also reduced the number of competitive seats nationwide. The second largest state, Texas, only has ONE competitive race. It is not located near any large population centers at it stretches from outside of San Antonio to near El Paso along the Rio Grande River. Colorado has 7 congressional districts; one seat is competitive in the eastern Denver suburbs. This should be standard for all states that are capable to have multiple districts.
Democrats might not be in the House majority until possibly 2022 at the earliest. For the House to flip blue it would take a nearly double-digit Democratic advantage in the generic congressional ballot and at best that would yield an advantage of 5 seats.
It would make Representative Nancy Pelosi’s (CA, D) – or whomever is the next Democratic leader’s – job much harder to whip votes and instill party discipline. Yes, Democrats belong to the same party but keep in mind that ALL House members are up for elections every two years and have to respond to the needs of their constituents specifically those who show up to town halls, call their office, or send them a letter. Remember when ObamaCare was passed? A portion of the Democratic caucus did not vote for the final bill mainly because they feared paying the political price back home in the upcoming midterm election.
Even though I see the House Republican majority shrinking from what it was after the 2014 elections, Ryan will have to navigate a more conservative and combative caucus in the aftermath of the 2016 elections. Politico had a story that offered Ryan three options, all of them not good:
1. Remain Speaker until he does something so offensive to his House members that they mutiny against him like they did to John Boehner in 2014
2. Hope that Trump’s brand was so toxic that it impacted enough House seats to flip them and place his party is in the minority. The upside to it was that in order to be named party leader in the House, Ryan would only need a majority of Republicans; not the 218 votes required to be voted Speaker. In this scenario he can politely tell the House Freedom Caucus to kiss off.
3. Immediately resign the speakership and join John Boehner in his RV
All of those outcomes are not favorable to Ryan’s career and rumored presidential aspirations. Options 1 & 3 would effectively end his political livelihood. His only option to continue his career would be to run for Senate in his home state of Wisconsin two years from now or – should Senator Ron Johnson lose – in 2022.
The second option is a bit muddier. Go into the minority and become the opposition leader, then in 2018 have his party win back control of the House but resign in order to run for president in 2020. The only person who was the House minority leader who became president was Gerald Ford… and that was due to the troubles involving the Nixon administration.
If Democrats are going to make a serious effort at retaking the House in the future, it is going to have to undergo some serious party rebuilding in several states. It begins with retaking several statewide offices and legislatures in 2018, better candidate recruitment for House races as well as fielding a full 435-person slate, and figuring out how to remake the political calculus in midterm elections. In the two Obama elections – 2008 and 2012 – turnout was 61% and 58% respectively. In comparison, the turnout for the two Obama midterm elections – 2010 and 2014 – barely touched 40%. In 2014, only six states had turnout at or above 50%: Alaska, Colorado, Maine, Minnesota, Oregon, and Wisconsin.
Democrats will make modest gains as the professional forecasters are projecting, but like 2012 it will not be enough to flip the House.