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News Link • Politics: Republican Campaigns

Why The Paul Ryan V.P. Pick Is Actually A Huge Gift For Democrats

•, Peter Feld
 Conservatives are thrilled, of course — they'll have the "big choice" campaign they've been demanding from Romney. The Obama campaign is ecstatic — now they can more easily tie Romney to the unpopular Republican Congress and its determination (in last year's debt ceiling fight and in the "Ryan Budget") to force deep cuts to Medicare to balance the budget without raising taxes.

But don't overlook the celebration at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, or DCCC, which faces an uphill struggle to convert dissatisfaction with House Republicans into a "wave" that could reverse their 2010 disaster and put Nancy Pelosi back in the Speaker's chair.

Though Congress is dismally unpopular — just 12% approval in a CBS/New York Times poll last month -- that doesn't necessarily translate to the local level, and many swing voters can't even say accurately which party controls the House. In late June, veteran handicapper Charlie Cook dismissed Democratic hopes of a fourth "wave" election (following the upheavals of 2006, 2008 and 2010), as Democrats would need to pick up 25 seats to regain control of the House. Redistricting setbacks steepened the Democrats' odds, and Cook rates the party's congressional hopes "a pretty unlikely scenario, absent a strong wind at their backs." (An Obama landslide or sudden economic recovery might fit the bill, but neither seem likely.)

New York Times handicapper Nate Silver came to a similar conclusion, calling Republicans "reasonably clear favorites to maintain their majority." Recent polls show no advantage for Democrats in "generic" preference for Congress (asking voters which party they'd pick in the next election, without naming candidates). Silver thinks they need an edge of three or four points on that measure to win back the House. Like Cook, he sees little sign of a wave, and expects local factors (which wash in both directions) to decide House races in swing districts — unless the DCCC gets a big break.

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