In the middle of this President's Day Weekend, it's a good time to take a look at the current prospects for the House elections.
First, as thing stand currently, the Republicans have 232 Representatives to 200 Democratic Representatives, but that number will go down to 199 on Wednesday when Representative Robert Andrew's resignation takes effect leaving four vacancies. Between the current vacancies and the seats held by Republicans, Democrats need to pick up nineteen seats total to take control.
Second, at the present time, only one of the vacancies has a special election date scheduled before the general election -- Florida's 13th District (formerly held by the late Republican Representative Bill Young. No date has been announced yet for either Florida's 19th (formerly held by Republican Trey Radel) or for New Jersey's 1st District (Representative Andrews District). North Carolina's Twelfth District (formerly held by Democrat Mel Watts -- the new head of the Federal Housing Finance Agency) will not be filled until the general election in November.
Looking at these four vacancies, both of the Democratic vacancies are in seats in which Obama received more than 65% of the vote in 2012. The Democrats should keep these seats going into the next Congress. Florida's 13th District leans Democratic, and there is a good chance that the Democrats will win the special election. Either way it is the type of swing seat that both parties would like to win in November. Florida's 19th went solidly for Romney. If the Democrats do well in November, they should take three of the four seats, reducing the number needed for a majority to sixteen.
Third, in the remaining seats, to date, thirty-three members of Congress have announced that they will not be seeking re-election (many running for other offices, but some retiring). Of these thirty-three, twenty-one are Republicans and twelve are Democrats. While filing deadlines have only passed in seven states, the next six weeks will see filing deadlines pass in another twenty-three states. In other words, there is still time for some more retirement announcements, but it is unlikely that we will have many more.
The twenty-one Republicans represent the following districts: Alabama's 6th, Arkansas's 2nd, Arkansas's 4th, California's 25th, California's 31st, California's 45th, Georgia's 1st, Georgia's 10th, Georgia's 11th, Iowa's 3rd, Louisiana's 6th, Minnesota's 6th, Montana (at-large), New Jersey's 3rd, North Carolina's 6th, Oklahoma's 5th, Pennsylvania's 6th, Texas's 36th, Virginia's 10th, Washington's 4th, and West Virginia's 2nd. The problem is that the majority of these retirements are from what should be safe seats -- 8 of these Republicans represent districts in which Romney got 60% or better, and another 7 represent districts in which Romney got between 55% and 59%. So only six of these retirements represent good pick-up opportunities for the Democrats (but only one of the six is in a district in which Obama got more than 55%).
On the other hand, the twelve Democrats represent the following districts: California's 11th, California's 33rd, Hawaii's 1st; Iowa's 1st, Maine's 2nd, Michigan's 14th, New York's 4th, New York's 21st, North Carolina's 7th, Pennsylvania's 13th, Utah's 4th, and Virginia's 8th. As with the Republicans, most of these open races are in safe seats with Obama getting 60% or more in six of the twelve and between 55% and 59% in another two districts. Of the remaining four, two (Utah's fourth and North Carolina's 7th) are districts that Romney won with over 55% of the vote.
In short, considering the vacancies and the open seats, the Democrats probably have a good shot at a net gain of five seats. That however, still leaves the Democrats twelve seats short. There are thirteen other seats currently held by the Republicans that President Obama carried. Several of them, however, have strong Republican incumbents. While a lot could happen in six months to change the picture (e.g. some of the stronger incumbents like Representative King in New York could decide to retire, tea party challengers could take out somewhat moderate incumbents in swing districts) and put more seats into play, it is currently looking like a very uphill fight to regain control of the House.