Democrats Look to Erode GOP House Majority

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By Leigh Ann Caldwell

The 2016 Congressional elections are less likely to be about which party will control the House and more about whether Democrats can eat into the GOP's sizable majority.

Since their seismic landslide in the 1994 midterm elections, the Republican Party has held control of the House of Representatives for all but four years, between 2007 and 2011.

And that balance of power is unlikely to shift in 2016 with the GOP holding an historically large majority - their largest since the 1929 Congress - that it is difficult to imagine a scenario where Democrats will take back control of the House. Even Democrats admit that.

But in order to have a chance of winning back control in subsequent election cycles, Democrats need an impressive year.

Republicans hold 247 seats compared to 188 Democratic seats. Democrats need a net gain of 29 seats to win back the majority but their sights are on picking up a substantial number in a general election where the political winds are far more favorable.

The most obvious opportunities for Democrats to win are in the districts currently represented by a Republican that President Obama won in his 2012 re-election bid. That number is 25.

The next logical place for possible Democratic pick up is in seats that are evenly split among Republicans and Democrats or lean slightly more Republican. Democrats are often more confident in presidential election cycles because Democratic voters are more likely to vote in presidential years.

Since Republicans have such a huge majority, they will inevitably have to play defense. While there are races they can pick up, the majority of their work will be to defend the seats they already have.

With a new speaker of the House in Rep. Paul Ryan and the discontent within the party over the direction of the Republican Party, the Republicans are up against a difficult set of dynamics.

Furthermore, a year before the election, the game is far from set. Even some borders of Congressional districts aren't decided. In Florida and Virginia, district lines have been challenged and the courts are likely to modify the boundaries, which would have a big impact on the outcomes of some races in those states.

Both Democrats and Republicans are also still recruiting candidates, which is a crucial first step to winning on Election Day.