Putting a Damper on Republican Takeover Dreams

Reporters Carl Hulse and Jeff Zeleny offer some seriously strained hypotheticals, like "last-minute missteps," in the defense of the idea that Democrats could hold on to control of the House of Representatives.

Thursday's "Political Memo" by Carl Hulse and Jeff Zeleny, "G.O.P. Accelerates, but Electoral Speed Bumps Remain," took the place of the paper's traditional Republican dream-crushing reporter, Adam Nagourney, to put a damper on G.O.P. hopes to take over the House (and the Senate?) come November.

Actually, it wasn't that bad, but Hulse and Zeleny did seem to strain to find bad news for Republicans.

Democrats virtually conceding House races. House Republicans sensing real chances for victory in contests that seemed far out of reach only weeks ago. Third-party groups putting millions of dollars behind Republican contenders, eliminating one last big Democratic advantage.

By nearly every indication, Republicans stand to make big gains in the midterms and could sweep dozens of Democrats out of the House. With less than three weeks to go, there are only a limited set of variables and last-minute imponderables that could substantially alter the course of the election and give Democrats a better chance of holding off possible Republican control of the House and near parity or better in the Senate.

Democrats, while throwing in the towel in a few places, note that some of their vulnerable candidates are running close or ahead in polls, giving them hope that their firewall will hold. Yet if they are to retain the House and Senate, Democrats need help on multiple fronts and from Republicans themselves, who must still avoid serious mistakes, misjudgments and a sense of complacency if they intend to occupy the speaker's office.

Hulse and Zeleny had to dig pretty deep to find potential problems for Republicans.

New revelations of a candidate who occasionally dressed up as a Nazi officer and the high-profile filing of a sexual harassment lawsuit against another already have Republicans pessimistic about their chances for two Democratic seats in Ohio they had hoped to swipe from Democrats.

Similar episodes could take more seats off the table and also hurt Republican hopefuls elsewhere by reinforcing an overarching Democratic theme that Republicans are unqualified and not ready to govern. Many Republicans remember how the late fall House page scandal dashed their chances of holding the House in 2006.

Hulse and Zeleny offered some other seriously strained hypotheticals ("last minute missteps") in the defense of the idea that Democrats could hold on to the House.

Another unpleasant thought nagging at Republicans is that more of their own incumbents than believed could be at risk from voters eager to toss out established politicians of both parties, not just majority Democrats. In the House takeover years of 1994 by Republicans and 2006 by Democrats, no incumbent of either triumphant party lost.

Democrats say they believe they can pick off four or five Republican seats and perhaps more, increasing the overall number of seats Republicans would need to claim a majority and conceivably making the difference between majority and minority.

The Times eventually acceded to the facts on the ground that suggest Republicans will make a very strong showing on November 2, but even that admission was introduced via a piece of Democratic wishful thinking, in bold below:

Even the possibility of last-minute missteps seems does not seem to daunt Republicans when compared with the expanding canvas of winnable House races they see coming into view, leaving some operatives wide-eyed with the possibilities.