WASHINGTON — Democrats need to gain 25 seats this year to regain control of the House of Representatives from the Republicans. The prospects are dim.
Even a strong showing by President Barack Obama would be unlikely to swing the House to the Democrats and return the majority they lost two years ago. Redistricting, in effect in most places for the first time since the 2010 census, is helping Republicans. So are problems faced by Democratic moderates in conservative and Southern states.
Then there’s history. The last time a previously elected president seeking re-election saw his party pick up more than 25 seats was in 1892, according to research from the Rothenberg Political Report — and that president, Benjamin Harrison, lost.
“It’s possible, but not likely” Democrats will get a majority, said Nathan Gonzales, a political analyst at nonpartisan Rothenberg.
Republicans now control 240 House seats. The Democrats hold 190. Five seats are vacant. Rothenberg projects anywhere from a nine-seat Democratic gain next month to a one-seat Republican pickup. The nonpartisan Cook Political Report projects Democrats could pick up as many as eight, or Republicans could score a net gain of two.
The bigger intrigue could involve whether the Republican caucus becomes less ideologically rigid. The party gained control of the House in 2010 and elected 87 freshmen, including many backed by the grassroots conservative tea party movement.
So far, 2012 does not appear to have potential to cause the kind of seismic change seen in 2010.
“The playing field is working to the Republicans’ benefit now,” said Gonzales, thanks to redistricting. Even if Obama begins to surge, “we’re not seeing a considerable shift to Democratic candidates,” he said.
And because Democrats face trouble in 10 to 15 seats they now hold, “they really need to pick up 35 to 40 seats,” said Davis Wasserman, analyst for the Cook report. “That’s a heavy lift.”