The current National House Ballot shows Democrats ahead by 2.80%. However, most of those polls focus on registered voters or even "all adults," not on likely voters. Current polling among likely voters by Rasmussen shows Republicans with a comfortable advantage. Lest you think that Rasmussen is to be dismissed, Daily Kos recently published information showing that 81% of Republicans will either definitely or probably vote in 2010, compared to only 56% of Democrats. Even Democracy Corps shows Democrats only ahead by 2% among likely voters. This means Rasmussen is not really much of an outlier, and Republicans are well positioned to make major gains. Retaking the House is even a possibility for the GOP.
My current feeling on this is a strong: "meh." Why should I care about Democrats facing such electoral difficulties? It is hard to figure out how this is much of a negative for progressives:
The House currently has a non-progressive majority. According to Progressive Punch, 227 members of the House have voted with Progressives less than 50% of the time on crucial votes in 2009. That makes for an overall non-progressive majority in the House of Representatives of 227-208. So, we are not even defending a progressive majority.
Most of the Democrats set to lose are part of that non-progressive majority. Of the 34 Democrats most endanger of re-election, 19 of them are part of the non-progressive majority. One, Jerry McNerney, is exactly on the fence, with a 50.00% voting record in 2009 on crucial votes. Only 14 are in the progressive minority. So, most of the Democrats in trouble are part of the non-progressive majority.
General elections are easier to win than primary challenges. Since 2006, only two members of the progressive minority have won their seats through primary challenges against sitting Democrats (Hank Johnson and Donna Edwards, neither of whom actually defeated members of the non-progressive majority). However, twenty-five members of the progressive minority have won their seats through general election challenge in seats held by Republicans (including five members of the Progressive Caucus).
It sure seems a lot easier to acquire new members who vote progressive 50% of the time or more through general elections than through primary challenges. As such, a necessary step to getting a progressive majority in the House actually requires a large number of the non-progressive Democrats to lose to Republicans.
This means that the Progressive Caucus could very well gain seats in 2010. Combined with overall Democratic losses, this would make the Progressive Caucus a much larger percentage of the overall caucus. This would in turn give Democrats more control over institutions such as the DCCC, which would make it easier for 50%+ progressives to win Republican seats in 2012 and beyond. This greater influence is needed since, of the 50 Democrats who vote with progressives less than 50.00% of the time or less, 41 of them were first elected in 2004 or more recently. The DCCC is packing the House with non-progressives.
So, why should progressives really care about the dismal electoral situation Democrats face? The non-progressive majority will stay in place no matter what. Not many Progressives are in danger. A lot of non-progressives are going to lose to conservative Republicans, but those losses will actually make it a lot easier to get a 50%+ progressive into those seats in 2012 and beyond. Demographics remain in favor of progressives over the long-run, as well.
As such, I'm feeling pretty ambivalent about the dismal electoral situation Democrats face. Those losses do not appear to threaten the goal of a progressive governing majority in the House in either the short-term (it doesn't currently exist) or the long-term (in fact, the losses might make it easier over the long-term). It just isn't enough for progressives to be a junior partner in a centrist majority governing coalition. We need to be the dominant partner, and that probably requires the current dominant partner--Blue Dogs and New Dems--to suffer heavy losses.