Salena Zito

Then again, no one thought nine months out from November 2006 that Democrats stood a chance to take the House that fall. Just ask former Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chair Rahm Emanuel.

The House’s freshman class of 2006 is largely a moderate-to-conservative group of Democrats who represent red-to-purple districts. John McCain will play well in those “Reagan Democrat” areas, which means ticket-splitting by thousands of voters.

In those districts, the “new guys” will need to focus on their own records -- telling their own stories, not the story of the party’s presidential candidate.

Rush Limbaugh seizures aside, John McCain probably is the strongest candidate the GOP could field. He may cause numerous Democrat congressional candidates to run campaigns separate and apart from whoever the Democrats’ nominee may be.

That is just smart politics for Democrats in competitive House districts.

Democrats should pick up House seats, regardless of who gets their nomination; the one thing that can clothesline their sweeping gains will be if McCain wins the White House -- and carries other Republicans into the House on his coattails.

According to the rolling opinion polls at RealClearPolitics, that is not an impossibility. Those numbers show Obama and Clinton holding a slim lead -- just 1.5 percent -- over the Arizona senator.

Salena Zito

Salena Zito is a political analyst, reporter and columnist.