The Races to Watch — In These Times

The Races to Watch

Democrats vie to capitalize on House and Senate vacancies
By Hans Johnson

Compared with earlier election cycles — in which overwhelming Republican resources forced Democrats to marshal money for a tight cluster of targeted races — the dollar superiority this year affords Democrats the chance to compete in more districts.

When control of the House and Senate flipped narrowly to Democrats following the 2006 elections, many Republicans tried to keep a brave face. They banked on 2008 as a year of change — which is exactly what it is shaping up to be, though not in the way the minority party had hoped. Rather than wresting away the speakers gavel from Rep. Nancy Pelosi D-Calif., House GOP leader John Boehner Ohio faces more losses in his ranks.

A stark imbalance in retiring incumbents — a margin of 28 Republicans to six Democrats among a total of 435 House seats — leaves Pelosi and her party with pickup opportunities in the newly vacated slots.

The retirement trend — equally salient in the Senate, where all five exits afflict the GOP — isnt the only dynamic benefiting Democrats. The unraveling of the Bush administration, as it limps to its final curtain through a recession, a financial meltdown and a sixth year of war in Iraq and the eighth year in Afghanistan, is a drag on Republican candidates in many states and districts. As a result, the question is not whether Democrats will gain seats in either chamber, but how many they will gain in each.

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