WASHINGTON -- Republicans believe two powerful, protective bulwarks -- incumbency and gerrymandering -- will help them withstand Democratic attempts to win control of Congress in November.
No matter what all those widely reported generic polls say now about Democrats being ahead of the Republicans, no one named Generic will be on the ballot this year. It will be a real person with a real name -- in most cases, an incumbent member of Congress. And every poll says voters like the people who represent them -- a lot.
"Voters do not go to the polls on election day and vote for an R or a D," said Ed Patru, spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC). "They are voting for an actual person with whom they have a relationship. And on the question, 'Do you approve of your member of the House?' 60 percent answer yes."
There has been some erosion in the number of people who feel this way, though a strong majority still answers in the affirmative when asked if they support their own representative.
The other political barrier protecting Republicans may be more powerful, because it was built with state-of-the-art technology to keep members of Congress in office. These are the district boundary lines that are adjusted every 10 years to make sure the party in power stays in power.
Both parties take full advantage of congressional redistricting when the time for reapportionment (to adjust to population changes) comes around each decade. Only this time, the Republicans who controlled more state legislatures in 2000 got to redraw more district lines, picking up new seats and making sure there were even more GOP voters in their constituencies than ever before.
How strong are these lines? Here's what a veteran Democratic election consultant who specializes in House races told me last week:
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