WASHINGTON -- In an election year full of uncertainty, one thing seems fairly sure: Republicans will retain firm control of the House of Representatives.
Democratic Party dreams of carving into the 240-190 majority that Republicans enjoy are meeting the harsh reality of many Republican-held seats being secure because of redistricting and a potential lack of congressional coattails from President Barack Obama, several election experts say.
But while control of the House isn’t likely to change, the composition, tone and political tenor of the chamber probably will. Just as after the 2010 election, the chamber probably will have a huge influx of freshmen, thanks in part to contests for 39 open seats, 19 new seats and four vacant seats, according to David Wasserman, an analyst for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, which monitors congressional races.
Democrats could pick up anywhere from zero to five seats, some handicappers predict, well below the 25 needed to take control of the House, and less than the five-to-10-seat pickup some Democrats and political observers were projecting earlier in the campaign season.
The House may become more partisan than the current 112th Congress because of the continued thinning of moderate ranks in both parties. The fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrats, whose ranks were halved to two dozen in 2010, are expected to shrink to the teens with the retirements of Reps. Heath Shuler of North Carolina, Dan Boren of Oklahoma and Mike Ross of Arkansas and anticipated losses on Election Day.
Here’s a look at races to watch on Election Night from coast to coast:
DEMOCRATIC SEATS THAT COULD GO REPUBLICAN
An incumbent Blue Dog, Rep. Larry Kissell, is considered among the most endangered Democrats because of a strong challenge by Republican opponent Richard Hudson in a redrawn district that now tilts Republican.
Rep. John Barrow, another Blue Dog, is hanging tough, running in a new, less Democratic district against Republican state Rep. Lee Anderson in one of the more expensive House races in the country. The good news for Barrow is that Anderson’s campaign recently released internal polls that found Anderson held only a one-point lead over the incumbent. The bad news for Barrow is Obama might be a drag on his re-election chances. Mitt Romney leads Obama in red state Georgia by 12.5 percentage points, according to the nonpartisan website RealClearPolitics.com.
Rep. Jim Matheson, another Blue Dog, is in a close contest with Saratoga Springs Mayor Mia Love, who’s bidding to become the first black Republican female Mormon elected to Congress.
Democratic Rep. Kathy Hochul scored an upset victory last year in a special election in a Republican-leaning upstate New York district to replace Republican Rep. Christopher Lee, who resigned after it was revealed that he’d been soliciting women on Craigslist by sending shirtless photos of himself. Former President Bill Clinton parachuted in recently to stump for Hochul, but that might not be enough in her race against former Erie County Executive Chris Collins.
Messy family legal problems may sink incumbent Democratic Rep. John Tierney and help make former state legislator Richard Tisei the first House Republican from Massachusetts since 1996.
REPUBLICAN SEATS THAT COULD GO DEMOCRATIC