Hoyer says Democrats could take back the House

For Immediate Release:

July 22, 2004

Contact:Hans Nichols

House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) is grounding his claim that Democrats “are in striking distance” of taking back the House with a heavy statistical comparison to the Republican watershed election of 1994.

Relying on “generic ballot” polling data from both years, Hoyer argued that his party is in a better position than Newt Gingrich and his troops were in July 1994, on their way to winning a net gain of 52 seats in November.

Democrats need to overcome an 11-seat deficit to return their party to majority status.

“If you compared the two years, we are way ahead of them,” Hoyer told reporters yesterday at one of his periodical political roundtable discussions.

Polls consistently show that voters prefer a generic Democratic to a generic Republican ballot by six to eight points, he said. That number has held steady for several months, with several spikes in the Democrats’ favor.

Falling short of predicting a sure victory, Hoyer claimed that “if it’s six to eight [in November], we’ll win the majority.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has voiced similar confidence. She told reporters last week: “If the election were held today, there would be no question but the Democrats would take back the House.”

Hoyer said Republicans won their seats in 1994 with a generic-ballot advantage of 5 to 6 percent.

And in July of that year, Republicans were still down two points on the generic poll — a less advantageous position than the Democrats’ nine-point lead in a New York Times/CBS poll released earlier this week.

But Republicans and some Democratic aides called any historical comparisons to 1994 farfetched.

“Well, everybody from Charlie Cook to Larry Sabato says their [Democrats’] chances are slim to none,” said Carl Forti, spokesman for the National Republican Campaign Committee, referring to two political experts.

“1994 took some national wind, and right now Democrats don’t have that,” he said, adding, “If you count the three [newly created] seats in Texas, they have 14 seats to win.”

Hoyer, however, insisted that the 11-seat deficit his party needs to overcome is feasible. He argued that Democrats have 33 first-tier candidates, producing a ratio of three qualified candidates for every seat needed the party needs.

In June 1994, Hoyer said, Republicans had only 68 candidates for the 38 seats they needed, yielding a ration of 1.8 top-tier candidates for every needed seat.

Democrats also have more cash on hand than their statistical Republican cohorts in 1994. Hoyer’s 33 top-tier Democrats have an average of 43 percent of the money of their Republican opponents.

At the end of June 1994, top-tier Republican candidates had only 15 percent of the total cash on hand of their Democratic opponents.

“We need only a breeze to win back the House, but a perfect storm seems to gathering,” said Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesman Greg Speed. “1994 was a landslide election, but right now we need only a fraction of the seats that the Republicans needed in 1994, and by every objective indicator, we are in a very strong position.”

Hoyer’s comparison to 1994 is not uniformly accepted in his caucus.

“Democrats are in a very good place to win the House,” said a Democratic aide.

However, the aide continued: “There is no direct comparison to 1994. That was not a presidential year and Republicans were running against Clinton, who was very unpopular at the time. This year, Democrats are running on their own record and plans for the future.”