House handicappers are now predicting more modest gains for Republicans as the party looks to ensure that it winds up in the majority rather than trying to expand the playing field to claim a slew of seats in November.
“Republican groups are increasingly hyper-focusing their resources on the several dozen races that hold the most promise to get them to a bare majority of 218, rather than the next 20 to 30 races that would get them to the larger ‘governing majority’ Kevin McCarthy has hoped for,” wrote David Wasserman, the House editor at the Cook Political Report with Amy Walter, on Friday.
Wasserman put the ceiling on Republican gains at 20 seats.
That prediction comes just days after Inside Elections, another non-partisan tip sheet, ratcheted down its prediction for Republican gains in the House from a range of 12-30 seats to a range of 8-20 seats.
“Republicans are still the favorites to gain the five seats they need for a House majority, although their majority will likely be narrow,” wrote Nathan L. Gonzales, Erin Covey and Jacob Rubashkin.
(Sidebar: The election this one currently looks the most like is 2014 – Barack Obama’s second midterm election – when Republicans gained 13 seats.)
Look. McCarthy – and his fellow Republicans – will take any majority they can get – especially after spending the last four years in the minority party.
But, the now-likely prospect of a narrow majority does have several obvious impacts:
1. Passing any sort of legislation is a much more difficult chore given that even losing 5 Republicans could sink a bill
2. As I’ve noted in this space, the extreme elements within the GOP have a much stronger hand in a narrow majority
3. Democrats remain within range to reclaim the majority in 2024
Again, these are all problems that McCarthy would gladly trade for the chance to be speaker. (And, at least right now, it appears as though, if Republicans win the majority, he is the likely pick for the top job.)
But, they also speak to the high hurdles he and the rest of the Republican leadership team will face as they try to fight back against the final two years of President Joe Biden’s agenda.
The Point: The dream of a 50+ Republican seat gain appears to have disappeared. That doesn’t mean this election can’t still be a success for Republicans but just that the hopes of a massive national wave are now gone.