Battleground 2004: (1) House of Representatives

Elections are held every two years for the entire House of Representatives (H.o.R.) compared with the four-year Presidential term. Unlike the British Prime Minister, the President can't lose his job because the H.o.R. elections go badly for him. Also, the President can't alter the election timetable to suit his political purposes, unlike the British Premier.
The House has not historically been under the control of a Republican Party majority. From 1955 to 1995, the Democrats held continuous control of the House. However, since the 1994 Newt Gingrich-inspired campaign focused on a 'Contract with America' that coincided with a series of scandals involving Democrat politicians, the House of Representatives has become increasingly a Republican stronghold.
To give an idea of the problem for the Democrats, the 2000 census led to the re-apportioning of seats to the House of Representatives according to population flows since 1990. The second table on this page shows how this affected the different states. Broadly speaking the North East and Mid West each lost ten seats, the South and West gained ten.
As a result we see a healthy majority in the H.o.R. for the Republicans of 21 (out of 435). In 2002, the Republican Party's ability to mobilize its supporters into a better turnout than the Democrats was decisive and added to the boundary changes. In 2004, the intensity of this year's election campaign is likely to lead to higher turnouts than in 2002. As a result, the Democrats could make gains in the H.o.R., even without a change in public support for either Party. The intensity of support is the issue and it is difficult to measure.
A cautious assessment at this stage would be to say that a victory for the Democrats in the House this year would be an excellent result, but that no gains would be very poor.

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