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Hoyer Confident Democrats Will Contain Electoral Losses

Updated: 2:45 p.m.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer confidently painted a rosy picture Thursday of House Democrats’ prospects in the midterm elections.

“Historically, the probability is that we’re going to lose some seats,” the Maryland Democrat told reporters at a roundtable session. “We’re going to hang on, and we’re going to hang on significantly to our majority.”

Hoyer was hesitant to predict precisely how many seats Democrats would control after the election, but when pressed he said he thought Democrats would lose fewer than the 28 to 33 seats that political expert and Roll Call contributor Stuart Rothenberg has predicted would flip to Republicans.

“We’re going to do better, in my opinion, than people are giving us credit for,” Hoyer said. “We’re going to lose fewer seats than some people surmise.”

For Republicans to seize control of the House, Hoyer said, an unlikely combination of factors would have to break their way. “The math’s pretty daunting for the Republicans,” he said.

The Majority Leader, who has been active on the campaign trail, identified four districts he thought Democrats could flip.
He predicted they would pick off Rep. Anh “Joseph” Cao (La.) and retake the at-large Hawaii seat that Rep. Charles Djou won in a special election that divided Democrats earlier this year. Hoyer cast the recent Republican victory in each of those districts, which trends Democratic, as a “glitch.”

Hoyer said open seats held by Reps. Mark Kirk (Ill.) and Mike Castle (Del.) also will be “very tough for [Republicans] to hold,” adding that Democrats “have two very, very good candidates” for those seats in former Congressional aide Dan Seals and former Delaware Lt. Gov. John Carney.

Hoyer noted that recent high-water marks for incumbent losses — 38 Democrats in 1966, 36 Republicans in 1974 and 35 Democrats in 1994 — still fell short of the number of Democratic incumbents Republicans would have to pick off to win the House in November.

“All we need to do is hold our incumbents. There’s no election you can point to where that many incumbents lost,” Hoyer said.

Hoyer said Democratic incumbents, particularly those in GOP-leaning districts, were fired up and performing stronger than expected in the money race and in the polls, noting that vulnerable “Frontline” candidates had on average $768,000 cash-on-hand edges over their opponents.

“Clearly money is a critical factor, and our candidates are — for the most part — in every district outraising their challengers,” he said. “Unlike ’94, very early on they were on notice: ‘This is going to be tough.’ And quite frankly, you don’t even need to have the discomfort among the electorate to know that when you win that many seats that were marginal, they’re going to come after you, and you better be prepared.”

Hoyer also touted wins by Democratic candidates in three special elections in GOP-leaning districts: Pennsylvania’s Mark Critz in May, New York’s Bill Owens in November and New York’s Scott Murphy in March 2009.

Democrats are trying to reframe the election as a choice between the “failed” economic policies of former President George W. Bush and the “new direction” in which they’ve pointed the country, rather than a referendum of the current economic situation and President Barack Obama’s first two years in office.

“We’ve been through a very rough patch, and we’re sill in a rough patch … but we do have positive signs, and I believe very strongly that Americans are not going to want to go back,” Hoyer said.

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