Republicans Poised to Change History

Republicans hope to buck historical trends on Tuesday.

Historically, sitting Republican presidents see their party lose House members during midterm elections. But if some of the polls and pundits are correct, the GOP stands to hold its ground in the House this time around.

Republicans now control 223 seats in the House – the Democrats have 208. So at a time when the country seems to be pretty evenly divided politically, regaining the House was always going to be heavy lifting for the Democrats.

But now The New York Times and USA Today are out with polls that suggest that by small margins voters are leaning toward Republicans over Democrats in congressional races. Ron Faucheux of Campaign and Elections magazine says Democrats might surprise the experts, but it doesn't look likely.

"As it stands now it looks like the Republicans are holding their own and will probably be able to hold their majority No. 1," he said. "No. 2, [they] possibly will end up with at least as many seats as they do now."

If that happens you have to go back to the days of Teddy Roosevelt to find another instance where a sitting Republican president has fared as well in the House during the midterm election.

One thing that might change all this is a remarkably high voter turnout by the Democrats, something they are good at. But this time, the GOP is mounting a massive get-out-the-vote effort – spending 10 times what they have spent on such efforts in the past.

Four years ago, Bill Clinton and the Democrats defied history and gained House seats in midterm elections.

However successful Republicans are Tuesday, the midterm curse that afflicted both political parties over the past century is waning, weakened this year by congressional redistricting that accounts for population shifts, as well as the terrorist attacks and even Bush's no-coattails victory of 2000.

"We haven't beaten the curse yet," said Rep. Tom Davis, the Virginia Republican in charge of the House GOP campaign committee. "I remember working in the Nixon White House in the 1970s thinking we might pick up a handful of seats." It didn't happen.

But whether the GOP wins or loses seats Tuesday — or holds or surrenders control of the House — not even the most partisan Democrat is forecasting a midterm swing that approaches the 30-seat average of the past century.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.