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Come November, Senate Democrats’ 60-vote supermajority is toast. It is difficult, if not impossible, to see how Democrats could lose the Senate this year. But they have a 50-50 chance of ending up with fewer than 55 seats in the next Congress…Charlie Cook National Journal

 Speaking to Fox News host Sean Hannity Monday night, RNC Chairman shocked many republicans by saying the Democrats’ current 79-seat advantage in the chamber is too big a hurdle to overcome.

“We are beginning to do assessments on the individual races, but I think overall, given what this administration’s proclivities are, we are going to see nice pick ups in the House,” he said.

When he was asked directly if the GOP had a shot at taking over the House, Steele responded: “Not this year.

I am not sure if Steele was trying to downplay expectations or really feels that way but either way, that was not a great motivational speech for the party.

Charlie Cook, the acclaimed political analyst disagrees with the RNC Chairman. Cook is publisher of  The Cook Political Report newsletter, which publishes analysis of the primaries and general elections for federal political offices and state governorships. The Report’s predictions are accorded high credibility among journalists and politicians.

Cook’s column in the National Journal predicts that if trends continue, the GOP will take over the house in 2010. He says that bad political news breeds more bad political news, and the Democrats have been faced with nothing but bad news.

In the world of economics, a virtuous circle is created when a series of positive events triggers a self-perpetuating pattern of other good occurrences — a positive feedback loop, in other words. A vicious circle, of course, is just the opposite and appears to be what Democrats are caught in these days.

Over the past five weeks, four House Democrats in difficult districts have announced their intention to retire and a fifth switched to the GOP; then, in a single day, news broke that three more Democrats, Sen. Christopher Dodd of Connecticut, Sen. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, and Gov. Bill Ritter of Colorado, have decided not to seek re-election and that Michigan Lt. Gov. John Cherry, who had been expected to be the party’s gubernatorial nominee, has opted out of the race.

Ritter faced a very tough, perhaps uphill, re-election campaign and might well have lost. Cherry was up against similarly formidable obstacles. Dorgan’s situation was more complicated. Gov. John Hoeven might have challenged him, but that was not certain. If Hoeven had taken on the incumbent, the governor would have made it a heck of a competitive race that could have gone either way. If Hoeven had opted not to run, Dorgan would have been a cinch for a fourth term.

With Dorgan out, Hoeven would automatically become the favorite. Will he run? Arguably the only potential candidate with a chance of holding the seat for the Democrats would have been Rep. Earl Pomeroy, but he is seeking re-election, not a promotion, in what is almost certain to be a bad year for Democrats in his state. North Dakota Republicans haven’t elected a senator since 1980, when Mark Andrews won — only to lose six years later to Democrat Kent Conrad. The GOP hasn’t won the state’s at-large House seat since 1979.

North Dakota Democrats partly owe their success to Dorgan, Conrad, and Pomeroy: That trio cracked the code, figuring out how to re-engineer the national Democratic Party’s liberal gene into a populist gene by pushing for fiscal restraint and balancing the federal budget. But would that alchemy have worked in a really bad year for Democrats? Although Dorgan may have had other considerations, he decided to go out on top rather than risk leaving as a loser.

Ironically, Dodd’s planned retirement is the only good thing that happened to Democrats this week. Another Connecticut Democrat, state Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who launched his candidacy after Dodd’s news conference, will have a pretty good chance of holding that seat. Dodd had little chance. Unlike in many other states, the Democrats’ problem in Connecticut was the incumbent, not the party. Other than Dodd’s announcement of his exit strategy, this week was a horror show for Democrats, and party leaders ought to be plenty worried about the self-sustaining nature of vicious cycles.

How many other wavering House — or Senate — Democrats will look at the past five weeks and decide that spending the rest of this year as a lame duck is more attractive than spending a horrific year fundraising, scarfing down fast food, and shaking hands — all the while facing the very real possibility of losing in the end? When their party starts singing endless choruses of “This is going to be a lousy year,” lawmakers can easily find themselves humming along.

Come November, Senate Democrats’ 60-vote supermajority is toast. It is difficult, if not impossible, to see how Democrats could lose the Senate this year. But they have a 50-50 chance of ending up with fewer than 55 seats in the next Congress.

As for the House, we at The Cook Political Report are still forecasting that Democrats will lose only 20 to 30 seats. Another half-dozen or more retirements in tough districts, however, perhaps combined with another party switch or two, would reduce Democrats’ chances of holding the House to only an even-money bet. We rate 217 seats either “Solid Democratic” or “Likely Democratic,” meaning that the GOP would have to win every single race now thought to be competitive to reach 218, the barest possible majority. But if Democrats suffer much more erosion in their “Solid” and “Likely” columns, control of the House will suddenly be up for grabs

 

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