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Democrats haven't lost house yet

There's a lot of talk in political circles these days about staggering losses at the polls for Democrats in five weeks. Several pollsters have predicted, Democratic powerhouse Charlie Cook included, that Democrats were doing poorly enough to poss...

There's a lot of talk in political circles these days about staggering losses at the polls for Democrats in five weeks.

Several pollsters have predicted, Democratic powerhouse Charlie Cook included, that Democrats were doing poorly enough to possibly lose the U.S. House this fall. That turned into rumor mill claims that made the necessary loss of 39 seats or more a fait accompli. Allow me to step up and say, I'm not so sure.

I'm not saying I see the Democrats holding securely onto the House. That will depend, as it always does, on Get Out The Vote or GOTV efforts. Yes, Republicans are more energized than Democrats. That in and of itself will have a huge impact on voter turnout. The economy's in the tank. And voters are boomeranging, as they frequently do two years out, against landslide gains for one party in the 2008 elections.

All that said, I am not the first of the tongue-wagging class to make the case that Democrats are in somewhat better shape than conventional wisdom would allow. One well-respected online political analyst has stepped way out ahead of me:

"This week the Crystal Ball publishes a prediction that suggests the House majority may stay with the Democrats, written by Professor Alfred G. Cuzan of the University of West Florida."

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Pundit and political science Professor Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia, author of the Crystal Ball, also goes on to say an analysis of all 435 House seats shows Republicans picking up some 47 of them. If his overall analysis, which contradicts Prof. Cuzan's analysis, is correct, control of the House does indeed go to the GOP.

But I have nagging doubts, and here's why. First, the economic news since Labor Day, when likely voters start paying clearer attention, has been somewhat better than it was this past summer. The Dow is flirting with the 11,000 level, housing prices are rising, there was a report out this month that the recession actually ended in June 2009 (as unbelievable as that feels) and construction for part of the housing market was better in August than projected. All the Democrats need is for the unemployment rate to drop and consumer confidence may drive more Democrats and Independents to the polls than August's economic data would have done.

Second, the Republicans are acting a bit too cocky. House Minority Leader John Boehner has responded to reporters' questions about what he would do differently as speaker and prompted headlines such as: "John Boehner is champing at the bit to take Nancy Pelosi's job come January?"

Cockiness or even perceived cockiness is not a positive attribute in politics. Politicians know it isn't over 'til it's over and Boehner should tamp down his public aspirations less he look like an absolute fool after the polls close.

Lastly, when the bumbling meritocracy known as the Washington Conventional Wisdom establishment climbs completely on one train headed in one direction, that's a signal to me an unseen train is heading in the other direction on the same track. A crash is coming. It's just like the stock market. When it's oversold most analysts know it in their gut. When it's too low but the fear is still out there, Warren Buffett jumps in. He's said so publicly and while his mega-portfolio has certainly bounced up and down over time, in the end his contrarian approach to investing works.

No one doubts Democrats will lose seats in both Chambers of Congress this November and lots of them. But my crystal ball is not as positive as those of others in my trade that their losses will exceed the magic number of 39.

Erbe is a TV host and writes this column for Scripps Howard News Service. E-mail her at bonnieerbe@CompuServe.com .

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