Eric Massa's retirement is not helpful to the overall electoral picture for Democrats. However, a close look at national polling, and the now 36 open House seats, shows that Republicans still need to defeat a minimum of 33 incumbents to win control of the House in 2010.
Defeating 33 incumbents is virtually impossible. In 2006 and 2008, Democrats won the national popular vote by 6.49% and 9.65% respectively. Despite this, they still only defeated 37 Republican incumbents in those two years combined. With Republicans nowhere close to that level of strength in the generic congressional ballot, it is still more likely than not that Democrats will retain control of the House.
1. Democrats currently hold narrow lead in National House Ballot Democrats currently hold a very narrow lead of 0.3% in the National House Ballot. Here are all of the generic congressional ballot polls with the majority of their interviews conducted in February:
Methodology: I have gone back to using a 30-day average, mainly because I feel more comfortable when more polls are included in the calculation. Additionally, my research shows that the 30-day average is only slightly less accurate than the 15-day average.
2. Republicans lead among registered and likely voters The Democratic advantage of 0.3% disappears when looking at polls of registered and likely voters. Among those 11 polls, Republicans hold a 3.2% advantage.
* = Because of the way PVI works, the national generic ballot polls above current make an R +0.2 district the national equilibrium point among among all adults, and a D +1.6 district the national equilibrium point among registered and likely voters.
National generic ballot polls show Republicans picking up eight of the Democratic-held open seats--and nine when likely voters are included. Democrats are not close to canceling this out with Republican-held open seats, even though there are more of those than Democratic-held open seats.
Democrats are projected from national polling to only gain two seats from Republican-held open seats. This makes for a net Republican gain of 7 just from open seats. A shift of that size would make the partisan balance of the House Dems 250-185 GOP, without even looking at non-open seats. They would need another 33 to win the House, and that is if they do not lose any incumbents themselves (such as Joseph Cao in LA-02).
4. Conclusion The path back to power for Republicans is going to have to go through incumbents to a greater degree than it did for Democrats. That complicates Republican attempts to retake the House, as they have to defeat a minimum of 33 Democratic incumbents to pull it off. Right now, district-level House polling shows them only defeating six incumbents and forcing three into toss-ups. Further, as I have already mentioned, Democrats defeated a total of 37 incumbents in 2006 and 2008 combined, despite a far superior position in the national House ballot.
As such, even though Republicans currently lead in the National House Ballot among registered and likely voters, Democrats still have a better than 50% chance to retain control of the House of Representatives.