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New report shows GOP keeping House, Democrats making small gains

Rep. Steny Hoyer

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Md. speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, Jan. 15, 2010, at the conclusion of the Democratic Leadership caucus retreat. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Democrats will have a difficult time retaking the House, despite the party’s recently optimism about the November elections, according to a recent analysis by the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report.

The party will need a net gain of 25 seats to retake the chamber lost to Republicans in the 2010 elections, which even President Obama described as a “shellacking.”

The politically-influenced redrawing of congressional districts, based on new Census numbers, gives neither party a clear advantage in 2011, Stuart Rothenberg, of the Washington-based firm, said last week.

However, House Democrats retiring in such states as Arkansas, Indiana, North Carolina, Oklahoma and even Illinois along with a “surprising” problem in recruiting good candidates leaves the party with “limited” opportunities, he says.

Among the biggest recruiting problems are Pennsylvania’s 7th District, held by GOP Rep. Pat Meehan; West Virginia’s 1st District, held by GOP Rep. David McKinley, and Illinois’ 12th District, where Democratic Rep. Jerry Costello is retiring, according to Rothenberg.

“Democrats appear to need to knock off close to a couple of dozen incumbent Republicans, a tough assignment in a non-wave political environment,” he writes.

"The number of seats Democrats need to win is getting larger by the day,” Paul Lindsay, spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said Saturday. “When you add that to the overwhelming opposition to their big government policies like ObamaCare, the path to Nancy Pelosi's campaign for speaker (again) is becoming even more unclear."

Rothenberg said the mostly likely outcome is small gains by Democrats.

Democratic Rep. Steny Hoyer, Maryland, said last week that roughly 50 percent of the 76 Congressional districts on which House Democrats are focused “are really solid opportunities for us."

Rothenberg thinks the under-performing economy and concern about lawmakers not taking the country in the right direction presents substantial risk for both parties. He added that votes still could be influenced by Hill legislative battles between now and November – including ones on the GOP-backed budget and the so-called Buffet Rules that would increase the tax rate on the country’s highest wage-earners.

Hoyer, the House minority whip, told CNN he thinks his party will retake the House should the economy improve.

"I think our chances are reasonably good that we can take back the House, and if the economy continues to perform as it's been performing, I think we will take back the House," he said.