In one Democratic ad, a grunting, helmet-wearing actor portraying GOP Rep. Jon Runyan of New Jersey, a former football lineman, physically blocks seniors from Medicare benefits.
Another TV ad accuses Massachusetts House GOP hopeful Richard Tisei, an openly gay state senator, of being “too extreme” and links him to the tea party as it flashes pictures of Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich.
With the Nov. 6 election fast approaching, Democrats and Republicans dueling for House control are focusing on poll-tested themes in their attacks. Yet even as Republicans gauge what impact presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s recent struggles might have on House races, the outlook seems essentially unchanged. Democrats may gain a few seats and perhaps do a bit better than was expected weeks ago, but they seem unlikely to grab the additional 25 seats needed to take over the chamber.
Of the 435 House districts, only about 60 are considered competitive and roughly 30 others seem potentially in play, evidence of the limited targets both parties have for pickups. Unlike the national voting trends that produced large House gains by Democrats in 2006 and 2008 and then by Republicans in 2010, analysts don’t see either side’s candidates enjoying a decisive political wind this time.
“The electorate appears to be weary — weary of promises, and weary of any new, bold policy directions,” said Charles Stewart III, a political science professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who has studied Congress. “There’s no groundswell of public support” for either side.
Republicans controlled a peak of 242 House seats in this Congress, their high-water mark since just after World War II.
More money is certain to come from outside groups that can legally spend unlimited funds to help candidates.
Republican ads link Democrats to Obama, blaming them for the economy’s painfully slow recovery, the job shortage and the health care law. One such ad by the NRCC attacks Barrow for supporting Obama’s stimulus bill and voting to raise the government’s borrowing limit last year.
Democrats accuse Republicans of trying to kill Medicare and shower the rich with tax cuts, hurting the middle class by cutting education and diminishing women’s rights by seeking to curtail abortion.
As for Romney’s problems, including the secretly recorded video in which he said almost half the country is dependent on government, GOP leaders are studying the impact on House races but “no panic button is being pushed yet,” said Rep. Steven LaTourette, R-Ohio.