House Democrats are increasingly euphoric over prospects of a big win on Tuesday – but also panicked at the thought the GOP will recover just enough to spoil their fun, like Lucy pulling away Charlie Brown’s football.
The most cautious estimates inside the Democratic camp call for about 20 pick-ups on Tuesday — which would double the Democrats’ advantage in the House from 36 to 76 seats.
Independent analyst Stu Rothenberg puts the number as high as 33.
But some House leadership types and operatives are daring to whisper that Democrats could possibly score a 40-seat pick-up — if absolutely everything breaks their way, Barack Obama romps, and a handful of endangered Democratic incumbents, including Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D-Penn.) and Nick Lampson (D-Tex.), manage to pull out nail-biters.
That would give Democrats a 275-to-159 edge over Republicans – a virtually unassailable majority in a chamber deemed to be the property of the GOP prior to the 2006 midterms.
“We don’t know how we should feel,” said a Democratic consultant working on several races. “I mean, we could pick up 40. I’m not saying it’s going to happen, but the fact that it’s a possibility is pretty amazing.”
Says a Democrat involved in national congressional strategy: “Forty — that’s a nice number to throw around, but it’s a little bit much.”
Sensing the advantage, Democrats have been scrounging for loose change under seat cushions and hitting up friendly bankers.
Earlier today, Politico’s Jonathan Martin reported that the Democratic National Committee is taking out a $10 million line of credit to split equally between the House and Senate campaign committees.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, for its part, is rapidly expanding its playing field. In the last week, the committee, which recently tapped a $15 million credit line, has increased the number of races in which it is playing from 53 to more than 60, according to a DCCC spokesman.
Previous DCCC expenditures were aimed at thinning out the weaklings in the Republican herd. The latest round of funding is headed to races against GOP incumbents previously thought to be more secure.
New targets include West Virginia’s Shelly Moore Capito, South Carolina’s Henry Brown, the Wyoming House seat vacated by Barbara Cubin, Bill Sali in Idaho and the Diaz-Balart brothers in Florida.
On the flipside, the DCCC has been forced to play defense for a handful of endangered Democrats, including Kanjorski, Lampson, Jack Murtha In Pennsylvania and David Scott in Georgia.
But the economic meltdown has made the House a target-rich environment for Democrats.
Over the past month, the number of GOP-controlled seats listed as “leaning Democratic” or toss-ups has grown from 36 to 45, according to the non-partisan Cook Political Report.
At the same time, the number of Democrat-controlled seats in danger of flipping the other way dropped from 18 to 11 – a dramatic shift that portends big, big trouble for the already-besieged House GOP.
For the Democrats to hit 40, Democratic challengers would have to knock off incumbents who are currently regarded as relatively safe. That still seems unlikely, operatives on both sides say, but some Republican incumbents previously thought to be safe – including Texas Rep. Michael McCaul – are suddenly finding themselves with narrowing single-digit leads.
If McCaul continues to lose ground to Democrat Joe Doherty, the DCCC might throw resources into the race – and the committee is also “keeping a close eye” on another Texas Republican incumbent, Rep. John Culberson, according to a person familiar with the situation.
McCaul’s campaign is worried. In a email to volunteers obtained by the Austin American-Statesman, his campaign manager, Jack Ladd, warned that his boss has been threatened by strong Democratic turnout in early voting in the Lone Star State.
"This is very bad news," Ladd wrote. “If you think your friends are volunteering, they are not. I know I'm not going to sit down and die, and I know you will not either. There are only 12 days left, and this is not a lifelong commitment, we are asking you just give part of a day or days and help keep CD10 Republican."
POLL OF THE DAY: Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss leads Democrat Jim Martin by a 46-to-44 margin, according to an InsiderAdvantage/Poll Position poll, with a plus/minus 3.8 percent margin of error
AD OF THE DAY: What do John Ratzenberger (Cliff Clavin from "Cheers"), Victoria Jackson (of '80s SNL fame), Steven Baldwin (brother of Alec), Robert Davi ("Die Hard") and Pat Boone have in common? They're all urging Minnesotans not to vote for Al Franken, in a new ad from the National Republican Senatorial Committee poking fun at Franken's Hollywood connections.
PLAY OF THE DAY: Former Rep. Scott McInnis (R-Colo.) isn’t a fan of his one-time colleague, Republican Senate candidate Bob Schaffer, who is trailing Democrat Mark Udall. "I would have beat Udall, that wasn't the issue," McInnis told the Colorado Independent. "Frankly, I have more difficulties with the right wing of my party then I do with taking on a Democrat.”