302 Days to Go

By Rich Galen | January 6, 2014 | 9:29am EST

Add this to your Outlook right now: Election day is November 4, 2014 - the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. 302 days from today.

All 435 voting U.S. House seats are up for election as are 35 Senate seats. There are 33 seats that would be contested in the normal rotation for the Senate but there are also special elections in Hawaii and South Carolina to fill vacancies.

This election will be the mid-term election in the second term of President Barack Obama's Presidency. Historically this is not good news for members of the President's party. In recent history only in 1998, the second mid-term of President Bill Clinton's administration, has the party of the incumbent picked up seats in the House.

In that case Democrats went plus five in the House, and did not lose any seats in the U.S. Senate.

As we move into the election year here's the line-up as of today:

-- In the House, Republicans hold 232 seats; the Democrats hold 201 and there are two vacancies. Democrats need a net gain of 17 seats to take control.

-- In the Senate, the split is 53 Ds, 45 Rs and two Independents (who caucus, and almost always vote, with the Ds so effectively the split is 55-45). Republicans need a net gain of 6 seats to take control.

Of the 35 Senate seats, 21 are currently held by Democrats, 14 by Republicans.

Not only are Democrats defending more seats in the Senate than Republicans, but six of those seats are in red states - states won by Mitt Romney in the 2012 Presidential election. Another six are being defended in swing states.

But, Republicans have proven over the past decade or so, that they are perfectly capable of screwing up excellent opportunities for pick-ups by nominating wholly unqualified candidates (read, Christine "I am not a Witch" O'Donnell) or qualified candidates who say untenable things (remember Todd "Legitimate Rape" Aiken).

The best news for Republican chances in the Senate is that Barack Obama will still be President in November.

As of last night, the summary of Obama approval/disapproval numbers had him at an average of 42.4 approve, 53.8 disapprove. This will not make many Democrats up for re-election in red states beg for a Presidential appearance.

Over in the House only a handful of races are competitive.

A fact that appears to be lost to cable news anchors is that when Republicans redistricted states to make the R districts stronger; they had to put the Ds somewhere - so them moved them into Democratic districts making them stronger, too.

Nothing is a crucial to the future of the known universe to a Member of Congress - R or D - than his or her own re-election so Democrats in unassailably safe D districts think that smooth sailing into election day is just as it should be.

I have been saying for almost a year that high-end programs like Immigration will have a far better chance of being considered in the House when the filing deadlines have largely passed. Members of both parties are not nearly as concerned with the November elections as they are being challenged on their left or their right (depending upon their affiliation) in a primary, so keeping their legislative heads down until mid-summer is a good political plan.

There is no way to know, 302 days out, what the big story going into election day will be. It might still be the many failing facets of Obamacare, but it might be Syria or Russia or Immigration or jobs or any number of hot-button issues.

For the GOP there is the looming specter of the Tea Party and other conservative-or-die organizations.

Mullpal Stacy Carlson is helping me edit 15+ years of MULLINGS into a possible book and she found this bullet point from February, 1999: "One of the principal differences between the GOP and the Democrats is this: The Democrats understand the nature and use of power. If they have it; they use it. If they don't, they bend every effort to get it. Republicans remain confused over the differences between a political movement and a political party."

Still true after all these years.

On the Secret Decoder Ring today: Links to Christine O'Donnell and to Todd Aiken, to's summary of Senate races and to Real Clear Politics' Obama approval polls. Also the Mullfoto of a sign taped to a street light in Old Town that might be the beginning of a novel.

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