Israel Vs. Walden Showdown on ‘The Daily Rundown’

by Nathan L. Gonzales July 22, 2013 · 10:17 AM EDT

The two House campaign chiefs faced off on MSNBC’s “The Daily Rundown” Friday morning. But how close was their analysis of the House playing field to reality?

“We will have a handful of primaries on our side of the aisle,” said Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel, to his counterpart in the House GOP, Greg Walden. “Greg and his party have a holy war on their side of the aisle.”

This is one of the most common political narratives today. If you’re a political reporter and can’t think of a new story, write about Republican primaries.

But while the threat of primaries may influence the voting habits of some GOP members, GOP primaries are not a threat to the Republican majority in the House.

Republicans are headed for competitive primaries in New Hampshire’s 1st District, Florida’s 18th District, Florida’s 26th District, Arizona’s 9th District, and maybe a handful of others. Those primaries could influence the party’s ability to compete in those seats in 2014. But Republicans don’t need to win those districts in order to stay in the majority.

GOP primaries have been, and could continue to be, a much bigger problem for Republicans on the Senate side. But that wasn’t the topic of Friday morning’s discussion.

The House districts that are most likely to host the most contentious GOP primaries are in safe Republican seats.

Daily Rundown host Chuck Todd brought up the Idaho’s 2nd District, where Rep. Mike Simpson is headed for a battle with a Club-for-Growth-backed challenger. Republicans will have crowded and competitive primaries in three open seats in Georgia and Rep. Michele Bachmann’s seat in Minnesota. But those are all in strong GOP districts that Democrats don’t have much of a shot at winning anyway.

And like Israel said, his party has primaries that could factor into Democratic chances of holding or taking over seats in the fall. Some of those seats include Ohio’s 6th District, Florida’s 2nd District, California’s 31st District, Massachusetts’ 6th District and North Carolina’s 7th District.

The size of the House landscape also depends on whether your office is off South Capitol Street or you are a dispassionate observer.

“We need 17 seats to win the House,” Israel said. “We have 52 in play.”

When the New York congressman talks about 52 districts in play, he is talking about 52 districts where his party is playing offense.

According to our latest House ratings, there are 48 House races in play. But that includes just 22 GOP-held seats. That means Democrats might be playing offense in 52 races, but less than half of those have a serious chance of changing partisan hands at this stage in the cycle. Democrats are also playing defense in 26 districts.

In order to regain the majority, Democrats need to win 43 of the 48 districts that are currently competitive. They need to win all the seats that they are currently favored to win and lean or tilt their way. Then they have to sweep the pure tossup races. And Democrats have to win all 10 races that tilt or lean to the GOP, as well as half of the races where Republicans are favored.

It’s possible, but certainly not an easy feat.