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Large Republican gains in House seats are 'inevitable' come November: Rothenberg

April 16, 2010 |  2:12 am

Ohio Republican Representative john Boehner turns over the House Speaker's gavel to Democrat Nancy Pelosi

In a new report to be issued this morning, the respected nonpartisan political prognosticator Stuart Rothenberg will predict "inevitable" Republican gains of House seats this November, likely in excess of two dozen and possibly even above the 40 necessary to turn control of that body over to the GOP.

"Substantial Republican gains are inevitable," Rothenberg writes, "with net Democratic losses now looking to be at least two dozen. At this point, GOP gains of 25-30 seats seem likely, though considerably larger gains in excess of 40 seats certainly seem possible."

Such a long list of losses would be far beyond the historical average of 16 turnovers in the first midterm election of a new president like Barack Obama. In the first midterm election of Bill Clinton's presidency in 1994, Republicans seized control of both houses of Congress for the first time in 40 years and held them for 12 years, even through the first midterm elections of George W. Bush's presidency.

The 28 weeks until Nov. 2 is a very long time in American politics. But at the moment a decisive victory seems the Republicans' to lose. A growing barrage of public opinion polls show mounting public dissatisfaction with the economy, the stubbornly....

...high unemployment rates despite the $787 billion stimulus bill, the president's declined job approval, his expensive healthcare bill and his consistent focus on topics other than jobs. Also targeted by unhappy voters are political incumbents in general; many of them are Democrats, given the popularity of the Obama ticket and voters' decision to turn complete control of Washington over to that party in 2008.

Now comes the circumspect Rothenberg's less than cautious appraisal of the outlook for Democrats.

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Earlier this week a Gallup poll found Republicans had taken the lead on the generic congressional ballot preference, an historically accurate indicator of voter mood that presaged the GOP's large gains in 1994 and 2002.

One poll this week even showed the once polarizing secretary of State Hillary Clinton with a more favorable rating than her White House boss.

Both Obama and longtime Senate veteran Joe Biden have admitted anticipating possibly heavy congressional losses this fall, with the Democrat president recently calling the political climate "hard."

Even with Democratic election losses in Virginia, New Jersey and once-staunchly liberal Massachusetts, Obama has, however, shown no signs of abating his aggressive agenda.

In his new analysis, Rothenberg said there was "some possibility" the political landscape could change before November, but "substantial Republican gains are inevitable." His latest listing of the 435-member House moved 44 seats in the GOP's direction and only four toward Democrats.

Such a large shift, likely also involving some Senate losses, would not only make California's Rep. Nancy Pelosi an ex-speaker but would also have a dramatic impact on Obama's agenda for the second half of his term. While a Republican House would give him a convenient political target for the 2012 campaign, all financial legislation originates in that body. 

As one possible strategy, last weekend former GOP Speaker Newt Gingrich suggested that (full speech video available here) a Republican House simply not fund Obama's more liberal programs such as the healthcare legislation that remains unpopular in polls.

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Photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais / Associated Press (Pelosi accepts the Speaker's gavel from Republican John Boehner of Ohio); CafePress.

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