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Insiders Express Less Optimism About GOP Congressional Prospects

February 3, 2012

Democratic Insiders still fear losing the Senate, but they perceive a recruiting edge and subtle shifts in the national political environment as helping their cause.

"Smart recruiting by the Dems, plus an improving economy, make it a bit harder on the Republicans to take control," said one Democratic Insider.

"Democrats will pick up Nevada and Massachusetts (and possibly Arizona), making the threshold even higher for control," predicted another Democrat. "All Democratic incumbents are leading their challengers in the polls. While everyone else is focused on the presidential, the real story is Dems quietly gained strength in the Senate in 2011."

Many Republican Insiders weren't convinced, pointing out the daunting number of seats Democrats will have to defend due to the wave of wins they claimed six years ago.

"23 seats is a lot to put in play," explained one Republican. "Ultimately there is a price in politics for everything, even victories."

"Incumbents in competitive states retiring, bad political climate for Democrats, and far more Dem seats to defend than Republicans," said another. "Not looking good for Harry Reid. Say hello to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer."

Some Democrats agreed. "Deck still stacked in GOP's favor," said one. "Dems must have the 'Three Amigas' - Warren, Baldwin, and Berkeley -- all win."

But Insiders on both sides of the aisle expressed a sense that fortunes had moved slightly in the direction of Democrats.

One Republican strategist said the odds of a Republican takeover are "not as good as our chances were last June. Brown looks like a goner in Massachusetts, Heller could fall in Nevada, if the Obama/Reid machine turns out in force. We seem to be mailing in Pennsylvania where we should have a top-tier candidate but don't, and Ohio is under-performing."

"The raw numbers say yes [Republicans will claim the Senate]. A look at individual races says maybe not," agreed a Democratic Insider. "Hard to know whether the macro- or micro-perspective is more appropriate right now."

Republican control of the House still looks safe to most Insiders on both sides of the political spectrum.

"No way, not gonna happen," said one Republican about the prospect of Democrats regaining the Speaker's gavel.

"Redistricting was well-timed to shore up seats we would otherwise lose in the high turn-out of a presidential cycle," pointed out another GOP Insider.

A Democratic respondent agreed. "An improving economy and a number of weak Republican freshmen will lead to small Democratic gains, though it would take a landslide Obama win for Democrats to even have a chance at reclaiming the House."

Some Republicans acknowledged that recent developments had not been helpful to their prospects, but didn't yet see them as fatal to House control.

"Even though House Republicans blew themselves up in last year's payroll debacle and are getting whupped by the Dems in fundraising, the Democrats won't get the wave they need to get the majority back," said one GOP strategist.

Another Republican wasn't so sure. "Chances are growing the last six months [that Democrats could take back the House]. R's need to buckle down and pass a lot of productive stuff, then blame Obama/Reid for holding it up in the Senate. But today there's not a good enough record to run on in an anti-incumbent climate."

A Democrat echoed that point with a simple statement supporting a predicted Democratic takeover. "Do the math. Everybody hates Congress, and most House members are Republicans."

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