Sunday, May 21, 2006

Some very hopeful news:
Over the past week, a handful of once-safe Republican Congressional seats have come into play, and other Republican incumbents are facing increasingly stiff re-election battles, according to analysts, pollsters and officials in both parties. The change amounts to a slight but significant shift in the playing field, and a potentially pivotal change in the dynamics of this midterm election.

....The nonpartisan Cook Political Report, which tracks Congressional races, increased the number of Republican seats viewed as competitive on Friday to 36 from 24, said Amy Walter, an analyst there...."The playing field is certainly expanding," Ms. Walter said. "Clearly what we are seeing is that the political environment is taking a toll and dragging down Republican incumbents; it's dragging down their polling numbers. The question is, What will the environment be in November?"

...."Everything is pointing to a pretty big Democratic victory if attitudes toward Congress remain as negative as they are and attitudes toward President Bush remain as negative as they are," Mr. Kohut [a pollster who is the director of the Pew Research Center] said. "It's hard to imagine any way that wouldn't happen."

....Mr. Kohut of the Pew Research Center said that 29 percent of Americans in his most recent poll said they would vote against their own member of Congress. That is the highest percentage since 1994, when Republicans swept Democrats out of power. The finding, Mr. Kohut suggested, should give pause to Republicans who argue that while most Americans have an unfavorable view of Congress, they approve the performance of their own member of Congress.

In addition, Mr. Kohut said, 41 percent of Americans now say this Congress has achieved less than usual, and 34 percent say they view their Congressional ballots this year as an opportunity to vote against Mr. Bush. Both figures are record highs.

Stuart Rothenberg, an independent analyst who tracks Congressional races, said his latest forecast, to be distributed next week, predicted that Democrats could make gains of 8 to 12 seats. That is an increase from a prediction last month that Democrats would gain 7 to 10 seats.

"When we say Democrats are positioned to gain 8 to 12 seats, that certainly means the House is in play," Mr. Rothenberg said. "And those numbers are likely to go up. They are more likely to go up than they are to go down, that's for sure."

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