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Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 12/ 8/2010

Democrats face tough climb back to the House majority in 2012

By Chris Cillizza

1. While House Democrats will almost certainly pick up seats in the 2012 election, it looks tough -- though not impossible -- at this very early date to imagine they will re-take the majority they lost in November thanks to a combination of micro and macro political factors.

The micro story is best illustrated by the new House race ratings unveiled by Charlie Cook and his team at the Cook Political Report on Tuesday. Cook rates 20 Republican-held seats as either toss-ups or leaning toward the GOP while he carries four Democratic seats in the toss up category and another 11 in "lean Democratic".

It's striking that despite the 63-seat Republican pickup on Nov. 2, there is (relative) parity when it comes to the number of seriously endangered districts the two parties will have to defend in 2012.

The same is true when you look at the seats won with under 55 percent of the vote, a traditional demarcating line of vulnerability. (Again, big kudos to the Cook Report for the data.) Fifty-seven Republicans winners claimed victory with under 55 percent as compared to 45 Democrats; among those who won with 49 percent or less -- the most vulnerable of the vulnerable -- there were ten Democrats to just seven Republicans.

Numbers, of course, can be used to tell differing stories. As we wrote last month, there are 63 Republicans who will hold districts carried by President Obama in 2008. Of that group, 13 were also carried by Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) in the 2004 election including five in Pennsylvania alone.

Still, even if Democrats win that baker's dozen of double Democratic seats, they will be only halfway to the 25-district pickup they need to retake control.

And, that brings us to the macro view, which is dominated by the onrushing 2011 reapportionment and redistricting process.

The lasting legacy of the 2012 election may not, in fact, be the five dozen (or so) seats that Republicans picked up at the House level but rather the massive gains that they made at the state legislative level -- gains that give them an incredibly strong hand heading into redistricting.

As Republican pollster Glen Bolger noted in a recent blog post -- in which he claimed the GOP could not lose the House majority in 2012 -- the GOP controls the line-drawing process in 193 districts as compared to just 44 for Democrats.

That represents a drastic shift from the last decennial redistricting when Democrats totally controlled line-drawing in 135 seats as compared to 84 for Republicans.

As the 2010 election proved, politics is unpredictable. But Democrats have less certain pickups than you might assume following the party's deep losses last month and face difficult odds in the redistricting process. And that makes the majority further away for Democrats that it might initially appear.

2. Minnesota GOP gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer is expected to concede the race to former Sen. Mark Dayton (D) today, according to multiple news outlets in the state.

The formal announcement is expected this morning at 11:30 eastern time.

Emmer's campaign on Tuesday lost a fight another legal fight when the Minnesota Supreme Court issued an opinion that undercuts Emmer's potential to sue over the results of his still unresolved race.

The court's opinion expounded on a decision last month to deny Emmer's petition to force counties to reconcile the number of ballots cast with the number of voter signatures.

In an 18-page opinion, the court indicated that Emmer's push to count the number of voter signatures at each polling place and compare it to the number of votes does not pass muster. The court said counties could also rely on voter's receipts to count the number of votes.

The decision was written anonymously by the justices, which according to Minnesota Public Radio's Tom Scheck, could make it more difficult for Emmer to sue.

Minnesota Republican Party Chairman Tony Sutton responded: "While we are disappointed in today's decision from the Minnesota Supreme Court, we will continue to take this process one day at a time."

Dayton's camp said the decision "makes it clear that any effort to file a legal contest on this matter would lose in court."

3. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) enters the 2012 election in strong shape, according to a new poll from Democratic-leaning automated pollster Public Policy Polling.

The PPP poll showed 59 percent of Minnesotans approved of the job Klobuchar is doing, with just 29 percent disapproving. Those sky-high numbers are increasingly rare these days, as voters across the country have soured on once-popular, longtime senators.

Klobuchar, who was first elected in 2006, also performs well in head-to-head matchups will several Republicans, leading all comers by double digits -- including Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

Pawlenty, of course, has shown much more interest in a potential presidential run than a Senate run. He would trail Klobuchar 53 percent to 43 percent, though, if he opted to run for Senate.

Pawlenty fares the best of any Republican. Klobuchar also leads former Sen. Norm Coleman by 14 points, Rep. Michele Bachmann by 17 points, GOP gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer by 18 points, and Rep. Erik Paulsen by 18 points.

It's not yet clear whether Minnesota will become a top priority for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Despite Minnesota's status as a (sort of) swing state, Klobuchar appears to be on solid footing.

4. Freshman Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.), who lost his re-election bid last month to Republican Rep.-elect Daniel Webster, isn't ruling out another run for his seat in 2012.

Asked recently whether he might run again, Grayson told The Fix that he hasn't made up his mind yet but will likely make a decision before mid-2011.

Grayson said that the general economic environment and the amount of support he's able to muster in his district will be among the factors he considers as he weighs a potential bid.

Grayson's camp sent out an email Tuesday morning asking his supporters to "offer a comment, an idea, a suggestion, a hope, or a prayer" to Democratic Reps. Raul Grijalva (Ariz.) and Keith Ellison (Minn.), the two chairmen of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

"In January, I will no longer be in Congress," Grayson wrote. "But the truth is that whatever power I have had always came from you. From people with a conscience. Reps. Ellison and Grijalva recognize that, too. Let them hear from you."

Grayson is among several defeated Democrats considering bids to re-take their seats; Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-W.Va.), who lost a primary earlier this year, also recently said that he's mulling a 2012 run.

5. Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Michael Capuano on Tuesday became the latest member of Congress to float the idea that President Obama may face a primary challenge in 2012, although he cautioned that he didn't think the idea of a challenge to the president would be useful for the party.

"I don't live in an ivory tower. I have to pick the best amongst those people who are running, and it may or may not be President Barack Obama's reelection," Capuano said in an interview on Fox News

Capuano endorsed Obama during the 2008 Democratic presidential primary, calling him "somebody who's both a dreamer and a doer." The Massachusetts Democrat, who ran unsuccessfully for the seat of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) earlier this year, is also widely considered to be a potential contender against Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) in 2012.

Late last week, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) suggested that
outgoing Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) may challenge Obama; Feingold's camp has ruled out a White House bid.

With Felicia Sonmez and Aaron Blake

By Chris Cillizza  | December 8, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Fix  
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Next: Republican Randy Altschuler concedes to New York Democratic Rep. Tim Bishop in final undecided House race

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