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With two weeks remaining until Election Day, the political map has expanded to put Democrats on the run across the country – with 99 Democratic-held House seats now in play, according to a POLITICO analysis, and Republicans well in reach of retaking the House.
It’s a dramatic departure from the outlook one year ago – and a broader landscape than even just prior to the summer congressional recess. As recently as early September, many Republicans were hesitant to talk about winning a majority for fear of overreaching.
Today, however, the non-partisan Cook Political Report predicts a GOP net gain of at least 40 House seats, with 90 Democratic seats in total rated as competitive or likely Republican.
“When Chairman [Pete] Sessions and Leader [John] Boehner said that 100 House seats were in play, Democrats scoffed,” said Ken Spain, the National Republican Congressional Committee’s communications director. “Today, they aren’t laughing anymore.”
The number of Democrats in danger is more than double the 39 seats Republicans need to seize control of the House. It reflects an elastic electoral environment that favors the GOP by every measure: money, momentum and mood of the country — in this case, sour on Democratic incumbents.
For Democrats, a deteriorating political environment – unemployment high, President Barack Obama’s approval ratings low — has been exacerbated by the presence of cash-flush, independent conservative groups that have poured huge sums of money into races.
The groups, including American Crossroads, have combined with the National Republican Congressional Committee to stretch the boundaries of the 2010 map into races where there’s even a scent of Democratic vulnerability.
“This year is shaping up to be something of a repeat of the 52-seat House and eight-seat Senate rout of Democrats in 1994,” handicapper Charlie Cook wrote last week. “Sure, the circumstances and dynamics are different from then, but the outcome seems to be shaping up along the same lines.”
Real Clear Politics has 212 seats listed in the GOP column and 44 seats up for grabs. 218 seats are needed for a majority. The current House has 255 Democrats, 178 Republicans and 2 vacancies.