Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's drive to regain the majority for Democrats now has more modest possibilities -- like gaining a net five seats instead of the 25 needed to take over or possibly dropping a seat or two the GOP, Politico reported.
In searching for the reason, Democratic strategists, pollsters, insiders and third-party operatives have found that state-level Republican dominance in redistricting created a more GOP-friendly map, Medicare wasn't as resonant with the voters and President Obama isn't as popular as he was in 2008 -- not to mention that Democrats still can't overcome the Republican advantage in campaign spending.
Obama's national numbers aren't nearly as forceful as in 2008 when they helped lift up Democratic congressional candidates across the country.
"There was a wave that was supporting us in many different ways in 2008, and obviously this was a very different election," said Paul Maslin, a Democratic pollster.
The GOP cash juggernaut was hard to overcome, too, Maslin told the Washington publication. Both parties could raise cash, but GOP-aligned outside groups also were far outspending their Democratic counterparts.
"Republicans were well-financed enough to defend their majority," Maslin said.
Putting Medicare in play didn't go over well either, Politico said.
Finally, Republican gains at the state level during the 2010 midterm didn't bode well for Democrats because the GOP dominated the once-a-decade redistricting process.
"Structurally, they had a lot of places where they could reinforce incumbents," Democratic pollster Dave Beattie said.
Democrats have acknowledged that they must find a way to be more competitive in conservative districts if they want to regain the majority, Politico said, noting that's exactly what Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel did when he was a House member and ran the Congressional Campaign Committee that enjoyed success in 2006.
"You have to recruit and compete nationally because you can't just win in the safest seats in the country," Beattie said. "You need to compete in seats that are on the other side of the playing field."