Facing the most difficult political environment since they took control of Congress in 1994, Republicans begin the final two months of the midterm campaign in growing danger of losing the House while fighting to preserve at best a slim majority in the Senate, according to strategists and officials in both parties.With reference to the incumbency factor, I have been bullish most of this year on the GOP's chances of retaining control of Congress, as indicated, for example, in this post on the structural factors the Repubican Party enjoys in U.S. politics. Things are, however, starting to look at lot better for the Democrats, as the article mentions above (Iraq, burnout with Congress, gas prices and economic insecurity). As always, of course, the results in the House will depend on local conditions, as voters tend to retain their local Members of Congress, while hoping to "throw the bums out" in Washington.
Over the summer, the political battlefield has expanded well beyond the roughly 20 GOP House seats originally thought to be vulnerable. Now some Republicans concede there may be almost twice as many districts from which Democrats could wrest the 15 additional seats they need to take control.
President Bush's low approval ratings, the sharp divisions over the war in Iraq, dissatisfaction with Congress, and economic anxiety caused by high gasoline prices and stagnant wages have alienated independent voters, energized the Democratic base and thrown once-safe Republican incumbents on the defensive.
As the campaign season begins, Democrats are trying to guard against premature celebration, even as their prospects are brighter than most ever imagined. Republicans are hoping for some outside event that would show the president and their party in a better light -- a spate of good news from Iraq, a foiled terrorist plot or an unlikely break in the deadlock over immigration on Capitol Hill.
Meanwhile, finger-pointing has begun as Republicans here and around the country blame the White House and the GOP congressional leadership for leaving Republican candidates in such a vulnerable position.
Despite these advantages, Democratic strategists say they see ways they could fall short of their goal of capturing one or both houses of Congress. They cite what they consider to be a superior Republican get-out-the-vote operation, a coming barrage of negative ads aimed at their challenger candidates, and a sizable cash-on-hand disparity between the Republican National Committee and the Democratic National Committee.
Even with the political winds at their backs, Democrats, to take control, must defeat a significant number of incumbents -- ordinarily one of the hardest tasks in politics -- and, in most cases, do so in districts that have voted consistently Republican in recent presidential races.
Check this article for an update on what's happening in San Diego's 50th congressional district, where Democrat Francine Busby's got a second chance to take the seat, if she can knock off Republican Brian Bilbray in November (recall that the 50th congressional vote was for both a special election to replace Randy Cunningham, as well as a party primary to elect the nominees for the November general election).