[T]hough Texas Republicans dispute any notion of losing their leverage, political experts agree the Republican brand name is in trouble.
"With all that happening, it's pretty inconceivable that Texas isn't going to participate at some level in a movement toward the Democratic Party," said Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University, who expects Texas Republicans to lose their House majority.
In the Houston area, Democrats are targeting the open seat held by retiring Rep. Robert Talton, a Republican, that covers Pasadena and southeast Harris County. Voters will choose between Democrat Joel Redmond and Republican Ken Legler.
Democrats also are targeting Republican incumbent John Davis and his southeast Harris County district. The district still favors Republicans, but Democrats are hopeful about their candidate, Sherrie Matula.
The second tier of targeted Democratic contests includes Kristi Thibaut challenging Republican incumbent Jim Murphy in western Harris County.
Republicans' best hope of defeating a Houston-area Democrat rests with Greg Meyers, who is challenging two-term incumbent Hubert Vo in southwest Harris County district.
Kelly Fero, a veteran Democratic strategist and campaign consultant, believes his party will get between five and 12 Texas House seats. Elections give voters a choice between the status quo and change, he said, "and this is as much of an election about changing the way things are as we have ever seen in our lifetime.
"The polling shows there is far greater intensity among Democrats and independents and even among moderate Republicans -- both nationally and in Texas -- to move in a new direction," Fero said. "And that means they blame the party in power, so Republican incumbents are likely to take it on the chin."
House Republicans picked up 13 seats in 2002 when the party benefited from new boundaries drawn in their favor in the redistricting process a year earlier.
Texas Democrats won five House seats in the 2006 election, which was another bad election cycle for Republicans nationally. But it will be difficult for Democrats to make additional gains because most of the GOP-held seats remain friendly for Republicans, said Eric Bearse, a GOP campaign strategist.
Democrats contend that aggressive efforts to increase voter turnout in Houston and Dallas will help their candidates in those areas.
"Democratic candidates have put themselves into a position to take advantage of a good political atmosphere," said Matt Angle, a Democratic campaign strategist.
But Republicans can point to tort reform -- which puts limits on lawsuits -- school accountability and a fairly healthy state economy to separate them from the national party, said Ted Delisi, a GOP strategist.
"I think there's a certain level of rock throwing when you are this close to the election and the economy is bad," he said.
As for Fero's prognostication, he's a bit more optimistic than I am - I can imagine a 12-seat pickup on the top end, if everything goes really well, but I think the floor is lower than five. It's not out of the question to me that the Dems could lose ground, though I think that's pretty unlikely. Dems are in about as strong a position as you could want, and unlike 2006 I think a lot more people will see it coming, but it's still going to take a few things to go well to capture the House. I feel pretty good about those things happening, but you never know.Posted by Charles Kuffner on October 16, 2008 to Election 2008