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House Outlook: Get Used To Saying Speaker Boehner?

Rep. John Boehner

Rep. John Boehner appears headed for the House Speakership based on election forecasts a week out.  J. David Ake/AP Photo hide caption

itoggle caption J. David Ake/AP Photo

A week before the mid-term elections, the most reputable handicappers of congressional elections give Democrats virtually no chance of holding on to the House.

The question at this stage is more along the lines of just how much of a margin will the Republican majority have when the new House is seated in January.

While it's unclear how many of their 255 seats Democrats will lose, the field of competitive seats has expanded to such a degree there's growing unanimity that Republicans, who have 178 seats, will gain substantially more than the 39 seats they need to control the 435-seat chamber.

Charlie Cook, the closest thing in Washington to an oracle when it comes to congressional races, has placed the number of competitive House races at around 90. He predicts House Republicans will win, at a minimum, 40 seats.

In his Cook Political Report, Cook has 190 House seats colored some shade of Democratic blue, the intensity of color based on how reliably Democratic they now are.

Meanwhile, 198 seats are colored in varying shades of Republican red, according to Cook.

In a piece in National Journal, Cook explained:

There were plenty signs well over a year ago that Democrats were facing grave danger, but even when expecting an onslaught, one can still be shocked at its size and unrelenting force. It would be a surprise if this wave doesn’t match the 52-seat gain on Election Night in 1994, and it could be substantially more.

In his most recent published forecast, my NPR colleague Ken Rudin had the field of competitive House seats somewhat narrower than Cook, with 216 seats some color of blue and 197 seats some shade of red.

But he's in the middle of updating his picks and he tells me that it won't be good news for House Democrats; he'll have them losing more seats.

Real Clear Politics has the Republican seats at 222, which would already give them the 218 seats needed for a majority. It gives Democrats 177 seats, with 36 toss ups.

FiveThirtyEight, Nate Silver's political statistics blog, after doing his modeling, gives Republicans 230 or so House seats. Democrats get around 204.

Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia has looked into his Crystal Ball and sees Republicans gaining 47 seats which would give them 225 seats, a bare majority but control nonetheless.

You get the picture. It might be worthwhile practicing saying Speaker John Boehner over the next few days. Of course, all these prognosticators could be wrong. But the trend has been so obvious for so long, that's unlikely.

To some degree, the Democrats' present difficulties were predicted as long ago as 2006 even as they were celebrating their victory in taking control of the House from Republicans.

Under Rahm Emanuel, who ran the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2005 and 2006, Democrats picked up 30 seats to gain the majority.

But many of those seats were in marginal districts that often voted Republican. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called these lawmakers her "majority makers."

They could just as easily be majority breakers, too, however which was clear in 2006. So even four years ago, some analysts noted that the Democrats' hold on power was tenuous. Next Tuesday is shaping up to be the day of reckoning those experts had warned of.

By the way, MSNBC's "First Thoughts" blog had a helpful post Monday that offered guidance on what to look for on Election Day in order to tell how big a night it will be for Republicans. It means looking at some of those races in marginal districts.

An excerpt:

Let's start with IN-9, which has become the quintessential swing district because Rep. Baron Hill (D) lost the seat in '04, but won it back in '06 and was re-elected in '08. This race is No. 42 in our House rankings — right about the number the GOP will need to take back the House (because Dems will likely pick up two to four seats). So if this race is called for Hill's challenger, Tea Party-backed Todd Young, you know it's going to be a good night for the GOP.

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