Commentary Magazine


Broadening the Playing Field

The biggest political game this year will be estimating the number of Democratic losses in the House and Senate. “According to the Rothenberg Political Report, there are 61 competitive House seats in the country, including 47 Democratic seats and 14 Republican seats. According to CQ-Roll Call, the playing field is wider (102 seats) but similarly proportional (70 Democratic seats and 32 Republican seats).” Republicans are trying to get at least 80 seats in play, thereby substantially increasing their chances of taking back the House (something virtually no one a year ago imagined was a realistic possibility). Rothenberg Political Report explains:

Republicans are still a long way from getting 80 seats into play and recapturing the majority is not yet in sight. But even though Congressional campaign committees can’t create a wave election, strategists can put candidates in place to take advantage of one. On Jan. 17, 2006, there were 42 seats in play, including 31 Republican-held seats and 11 Democratic-held seats, according to the Rothenberg Political Report. As the sentiment continued to shift against Bush and the Republicans, the playing field broadened and tilted further into GOP territory.

That is why with each retirement in their ranks and every party switch, Democrats become increasingly nervous. The broader the playing field, the greater the danger of the House slipping from their control. And then, of course, Democrats might really do themselves in. They might pass a massive tax hike or scare seniors with deep Medicare cuts, for example. Nah — they couldn’t be that politically dense, could they? Oh yes, indeed. In that regard, Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid — in their Ahab-like obsession with snaring a politically toxic health-care bill – are the best allies the GOP has in broadening that playing field.