Election 2004 Part I: The House - AED in Washington
Construction Equipment Distribution magazine is published by the Associated Equipment Distributors, a nonprofit trade association founded in 1919, whose membership is primarily comprised of the leading equipment dealerships and rental companies in the U.S. and Canada. AED membership also includes equipment manufacturers and industry-service firms. CED magazine has been published continuously since 1920. Associated Equipment Distributors
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Election 2004 Part I: The House

Written By Christian A. Klein

Article Date: 07-01-2004
Copyright (C) 2004 Associated Equipment Distributors. All Rights Reserved.

This is one of those election years that makes a political pundits job challenging, fascinating, and a little frustrating because almost anything could happen.

This is one of those election years that makes a political pundits job challenging, fascinating, and a little frustrating because almost anything could happen. Buoyed by a strong economy and stability in Iraq, President George W. Bush could bounce back from his poor poll numbers this spring, win reelection by a landslide, and increase the Republican majorities in the House and Senate on his coattails. On the other hand, the situation in Iraq could get worse and the economy could again slow due to high oil prices or more terrorist attacks at home or abroad. Resulting dissatisfaction with the president could cause GOP loyalists to stay home on Election Day, allowing John Kerry to win the White House and giving Democrats majorities on Capitol Hill. Or, something in-between could happen. Voters could decide they want four more years of Bush (either because they think he’s done a good job or because they don’t like Kerry) but give Democrats control of the Senate (and maybe the House) to prevent Bush from having too free a hand. Most political professionals will tell you that at this point any one (or none) of these scenarios is possible. There are simply too many unknowns to allow anyone to predict with certainty what will happen in November. So we’re not going to try. What we’re going to do instead in a special two part series on the 2004 congressional elections is give CED’s readers a sense of what races will likely determine who controls Congress next year and what factors will influence the outcome of those races. This month we’ll be looking at the House. Next month, the Senate (when we’ll also be running our “Pundit of the Year” contest). The view from the Hill The Republicans have controlled the House of Representatives since 1994, but the margins have always been thin. Of the 435 House seats, 228 are currently held by Republicans, 206 by Democrats, and one by an Independent Socialist who votes with Democrats. In order to take back the House, Democrats need a net gain of a dozen seats this November. Given the number of close races, it’s mathematically possible, but the Dems face an uphill battle and, given the fact that many of the competitive seats are in Republican states, the odds right now are that the GOP will maintain control. So what factors will determine whether Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) or Dennis Hastert (R-IL) is sitting in the Speaker’s chair next January? First, there’s the presidential race. At this point Kerry and Bush are running neck and neck in most of the swing states that will determine the outcome of the presidential race. If one of the two pulls far ahead, it will impact the competitive races in those states and could potentially affect House races that otherwise might not be competitive. Second, there’s the impact of redistricting following the 2000 census. In recent years, thanks in particular to the availability of computers that allow the crafting of more sophisticated redistricting plans, the number of truly competitive House seats has fallen. Experts suggest that only about 70 of the 435 races are competitive and of those only about 30 are true toss-ups. The Democrats would have to win more than 80 percent of these to take the House. Again, it’s mathematically possible, particularly if things get very dicey for the GOP at the top of the ticket, but Republicans have the edge. Third, there are the open seats, where the incumbent isn’t running for reelection. Generally speaking, incumbency gives a big advantage. Voters know your name, you’ve had an opportunity to “bring home the bacon” from Washington for your constituents, and fundraising is easier. That’s why open seats are regarded as important opportunities for pickups by both parties. This year there are only about half as many open seats as there were in 2002. Then there were 53, of which the GOP won 32. This year, there are just 27. Nine of the open seats are held by Democrats, 15 of them by Republicans, and three of them are newly drawn seats in Texas where incumbents are going head to head. Which leads us to the fourth factor: Texas. Under a redistricting plan crafted by Republican legislators in the Lone Star State, five congressional Democrats (Chet Edwards, Martin Frost, Nick Lampson, Max Sandlin, and Charlie Stenholm) are facing tough reelection battles. GOP officials are licking their chops at the prospect of winning all five of those seats in this solidly Republican state, especially with a Texan at the top of the ticket. The fifth factor is “the trend.” In 1994, primary losses by Democratic incumbents gave a hint of the voter dissatisfaction that was to sweep the GOP into power on Capitol Hill for the first time in decades. Is there any similar trend for 2004? If so, it’s bad news for the GOP: In the two special elections held to fill open seats in recent months, the Democrats have won both (Ben Chandler in Kentucky’s Sixth District and Stephanie Herseth in South Dakota). Excerpted from July 2004 Construction Equipment Distribution. For the complete article, email jbrockmann@aednet.or g or to subscribe, CLICK HERE.
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