A Change of Seasons

Rich Galen

2/3/2014 10:29:00 AM - Rich Galen

I didn't have a favorite in last night's Super Bowl, so I was neither crushed nor exhilarated by the thumping of the Denver Broncos by the Seattle Seahawks. And I want extra credit for watching the whole thing.

The end of the NFL season can mean only one thing: We're only 10 days away from pitchers and catchers reporting to the Washington Nationals' spring training complex in Viera, Florida.

It also means that tomorrow, February 4, will mark exactly nine months until the mid-term elections are held on November 4.

I will take a short pause here for you to think of, compose, and email your nine-month incubation joke to me.

Ok? Good.

The chances of Democrats gaining control of the U.S. House in November are as close to zero as you can get without considering an asteroid might fall on the Capitol Dome.

Twenty-term California Democrats George Miller and Henry Waxman joined the ranks of the voluntary retiring last week, leading the great thinkers here to believe they have no chance of regaining the majority in their professional lifetimes so they will head home - or to K Street and million dollar salaries.

Those two bring the total of House retirements to 17 - 10 are Rs. In addition, there are eight Senators who are retiring - 5 Democrats, 3 Republicans.

A great deal has been written about the horrors of the redistricting that took place after the 2010 census. In those states where Republicans held the power to control the process, they made Republican districts VERY Republican.

It is lost on the national press corps, but in order to do that you have to move Democrats out of such districts.

Those voters have to go somewhere so, by definition, you make Democrat districts VERY Democrat in the process.

House districts also include independents and people who don't vote at all, so they tend to be put into whatever district needs the bodies, without disturbing the Republican-ness, or Democrat-ness the plan called for.

This is why you rarely hear Democrats in the House demanding a wholesale restricting nationwide. Being an incumbent in the minority is far superior than being an ex-Member of Congress whose party just took over the majority.

Incumbency Über Alles.

According to political analyst Stu Rothenberg there are a total of seven seats - seven - that are true toss-ups among the 435 seats that will be contested in nine months. Of those, only three: Arizona 3, California 52, and Colorado 6 have incumbents running for re-election. The others will be vacant.

Rothenberg believes there are an additional 45 seats that are in play either leaning R or D, but available for a good fight.

The current division in the House is 232 R to 200 D (with three vacancies). It takes 218 seats to gain the majority, so Nancy Pelosi's side would need a net gain of 18 seats.

Of the 52 seats, 24 are already in Democrat hands leaving 38 available to the Ds for a pick up.

In order to take control of the House the Ds would have to wind 18 of those 32 - and not lose any of the contested leaning D seats.

Not a likely outcome in a year when President Obama is (a) not on the ballot and (b) is stuck in the low 40s in job approval.

These numbers will change as we go through the process, but the theory will hold - something very dramatic will have to happen for Republicans to lose control of the House.

Over in the Senate 36 seats will be contested (due to specials and vacancies) and Republicans have to pick up six to take control as they the current standings are 55 Democrats (and independents), 45 Republicans.

The University of Virginia's Dr. Larry Sabato has Democrats leading (or not up for election) in 48 states, Republicans in 49 with three: Alaska, Louisiana and North Carolina listed as toss-ups.

It is likely, therefore, that attention of the national political reporting bar will be closely focused on a very few Senate races and so will the attention of the White House.

The prospect of President Obama having to face a Republican controlled House and Senate for the last two years of his Administration is probably more than he can contemplate.