By Eric Kulisch
The presidential election will be very close because the economy is improving too slowly to provide a decisive boost to President Obama, but Democrats likely will pick up five to 15 seats in the House of Representatives, political analyst Charlie Cook told a gathering of port officials Monday.
Democrats would need to gain 25 seats to retake control of the House. That’s a tall order, but Republicans captured so many seats in 2010 that they’re bound to follow precedent and give some back, the publisher of the Cook Political Report
and a popular commentator for NBC News
and National Journal
, said in a lunch address to the American Association of Port Authorities’ spring conference in Washington.
Democrats in the Senate, for their part, are also overexposed because of the number of seats they picked up in the 2006 elections, Cook said. There are 23 Democratic senators up for re-election in November compared to 10 Republicans. Democrats also lead Republicans seven to three in open seats, which are difficult to hold onto, he added.
Cook said Democrats have 10 seats in danger, while there are three Republican seats in danger of going to the other party. Republicans need a three seat net gain if they win the White House (vice presidential tie breaker on votes) or a four-seat net gain without the presidency to control the Senate.
During his folksy, 1.5-hour analysis of the political landscape, Cook described Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney as a middle-of-the-road, economic conservative who doesn’t inspire passion from voters and has had to tack so far to the right to appease the primary electorate that his positions on issues like abortion don’t sound credible.
He tacked heavily to the left when he campaigned for elected office in Massachusetts.
“To me Romney running for the Senate and governor of Massachusetts as a social and cultural liberal was like a flag of convenience. It was like a Liberian freighter that’s probably never been to Liberia,” Cook said, using a maritime analogy well understood by his audience.
“It’s just what he needed to do.”
Cook also poked fun at other candidates, saying Texas Gov. Rick Perry dropped out of the race because he “proved that English was a second language” – a reference to his many public gaffes.
He also extolled Newt Gingrich’s skill as a debater even though “he only recently would be a nominee for husband of the year.”
Gingrich had affairs that led to two previous divorces.