A complete look at House polling and retirements

by: Chris Bowers

Thu Mar 04, 2010 at 09:30


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.

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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:

Polls included in the calculation
Poll Sponsor Voter Type Poll Mid-Date Democrats Republicans
Total All Mar 04 41.45 41.13
Ipsos All Adults Feb 27 50 40
Rasmussen Likely Voters Feb 25 36 44
Daily Kos All adults Feb 24 37 36
Fox Reg. Voters Feb 24 36 35
Economist All adults Feb 22 44.7 37.7
Newsweek Reg. Voters Feb 18 45 43
Public Opinion Reg. Voters Feb 18 42 43
Rasmussen Likely Voters Feb 18 35 44
Daily Kos All adults Feb 17 38 37
Economist All adults Feb 15 47.5 35.6
CNN Reg. Voters Feb 14 45 47
Rasmussen Likely Voters Feb 11 36 45
Daily Kos All adults Feb 10 39 38
Economist All adults Feb 08 46.7 39.5
ABC / WaPo All Adults Feb 06 45 48
Pew Reg. Voters Feb 06 45 42
Rasmussen Likely Voters Feb 04 36 44
Daily Kos All adults Feb 03 38 37
Democracy Corps Likely Voters Feb 03 46 45
Fox Reg. Voters Feb 03 36 41
Gallup All Adults Feb 02 45 45
Economist All adults Feb 01 43.1 38.0
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.

A net 3.5% gain for Republicans among registered and likely voters seems quite reasonable, given both historic midterm trends and current voter enthusiasm measurements.

3. Republicans need 40 pickups, but stand to gain only 7 from open seats
With the polling in mind, here is a complete list of House retirements so far (more in the extended entry):

Chris Bowers :: A complete look at House polling and retirements
Democratic-held open seats (17)
District Cook PVI
TN-06 R +12.7
LA-03 R +11.6
AR-01 R +7.6
TN-08 R +6.1
NY-29 R +5.5
AR-02 R +4.8
KS-03 R +3.3
PA-12 R +0.6
National Adults R +0.2*
WA-03 D +0.4
National Likely Voters D +1.6*
NH-02 D +3.3
PA-07 D+ 3.5
HI-01 D +10.8
RI-01 D +13.3
FL-19 D +14.8
AL-07 D +18.0
FL-17 D +34.2
CA-33 D +34.8
* = 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.

Republican-held open seats (19)
District Cook PVI
DE-AL D +7.0
IL-10 D +5.8
National Likely Voters D +1.6
National Adults R +0.2
FL-25* R +4.6
FL-12 R +5.7
MI-03 R +6.2
MI-02 R +7.4
CA-19 R +8.7
AZ-03 R +9.0
SC-01 R +10.3
OK-05 R+ 12.9
TN-03 R+ 13.4
KS-04 R+ 13.6
IN-04 R+ 14.4
AR-03 R+ 15.7
GA-07 R +16.4
SC-03 R+ 16.5
MO-07 R+ 17.0
KS-01 R+ 22.7
GA-09 R+ 27.9
* = While Lincoln Diaz-Balart is retiring from the FL-21, his brother, Mario, will switch from the FL-25 and run in the FL-21.  This leaves the FL-25 open, not the FL-21.

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.


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Massa's district (0.00 / 0)
Massa lost twice to a horrible conservative crocodile, "Shotgun" Randy Kuhl, because his district is pretty Republican on the old-fashioned culture wars axis. Abortion, guns, gays. Much depends on recruitment, but I'd have to say this leans Republican right now, whereas Massa would have held it because of token opposition. Republican politicians are not very deep in NY right now, but the prospect of an open seat might tempt a stronger candidate to run.

Massa only lost once (0.00 / 0)
He lost in 2006, and won in 2008. Sam Barend lost in 2004, not Massa.

[ Parent ]
Are you eventually gonna examine the dynamics of each individual race? (0.00 / 0)
Cuz I imagine that there are other factors at play in each race beyond the PVI numbers, that make certain seats gettable one way or another.

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