RNC Chairman Michael Steele said on Sunday that Republicans would claim a successful election in November even if it resulted in them not taking control of the House of Representatives.
"First off we need 39," Steele told CNN's State of the Union. "If we get 39 seats and take the majority that's success. If we get 37 seats that's success. Keep in mind, I mean we've got to keep this thing in context here. We were a party out of power. We were a party that on the covers of magazines around this country were called an endangered species. We were going to be regionalized, marginalized to the lower, you know, portions of the political spectrum. We have battled our way back here, so to have the kind of night that we're anticipating on Tuesday is not just a blessing but it comes from the hard work of our candidates out there engaging with the people."
In a purely numerical sense, Steele is right. A switch of 37 seats, even in a mid-term election, would be historically vast. But the context is different this cycle. For starters, the 2010 elections will, for better or worse, be compared with the 1994 results, when there was a 54-seat swing in membership from Democrats to Republicans in the House. Secondly, the GOP has raised expectations for pickups well beyond 37. Talk has, for weeks, circled around the idea of 50, 60 or even 70 pickups. At one time, it was reported that 99 seats were in play.
The GOP may be unable to meet those expectations, but they were the ones who set them. And while Steele may be trying to change the narrative, so long as the GOP has a net gain of 39 seats in the House, and with it gains control of the chamber, the party will claim success on November 2.