Will Pro-HSR Democrats Retake the US House?
Since the beginning of 2011, the Republican Party has been in control of the US House of Representatives. One of the effects has been to bring a halt to any new federal high speed rail funding, as House Republicans are vehemently opposed to it. That gave anti-HSR forces in California a big boost, as it called into question whether any new federal HSR funds would materialize – without which the project would have a hard time getting funded. Reporters generally assumed that Republican control of the House would be a lasting reality, and that therefore the prospect was dim that the federal government would ever give another dime in HSR funds to California.
But as ESPN’s Lee Corso might say, “not so fast, my friend!”
The notion that Republican control of the House was some sort of sure thing was never defensible, and reporters should not have assumed so. And as recent polling now makes clear, Democrats may just retake the House after all:
Since the Democratic National Convention earlier this month, and especially as the Mitt Romney campaign has imploded, Democratic candidates across the country have seen a significant boost in their poll numbers. A lot of this is due to the Democratic base getting energized to vote this November, but swing voters are also starting to break for Democrats. The timing couldn’t be better – this late in the campaign, it’s going to be very difficult for Republicans to reverse a Democratic advantage.
Of course, the poll is just a generic national ballot, and control of the House is decided in 435 races. But the national ballot is a good predictor of partisan control. In 2006 it showed that Democrats were likely to retake the House that year, and they did so. In 2010 it showed that Republicans were likely to win the House, which they also did.
It only takes 25 seats switching from red to blue to make San Francisco Congresswoman and strong HSR advocate Nancy Pelosi the Speaker of the House again. One of the seats they’d need is California’s 10th Congressional District. In 2010 Jeff Denham won that seat and since being in Congress has led the attack on the high speed rail project, even though his constituents would benefit from it. Well, recent polling nows shows Denham trailing his Democratic opponent, Astronaut Jose Hernandez, 46-44.
Earlier this year, President Obama proposed a budget that included nearly $50 billion for high speed rail, more than enough to fund construction of the Central Valley HSR line out to Southern California and allow operation of trains, the key link in bringing in private funding. That’s the same amount of funds House Democrats called for in 2010. California Congressional Democrats are strongly for HSR funding as well.
There’s still six weeks to go until the election. But if everything breaks right, a pro-HSR majority could be back in control of Congress. And it’s clear that President Obama would use that majority to push through a long-term HSR funding package. I don’t want to get too excited, but things could be coming together well for the California HSR project here in 2012.