Washington (CNN) - In the battle for Congress, 41 is the crucial number. That's the number of seats the Republicans need to win back from the Democrats in next year's midterm elections to take control of the House of Representatives.
Next November, all 435 seats in the House, where Democrats hold an 258-177 advantage, are up for grabs. After winning back Congress in the 2006 contests and increasing their majorities in the 2008 elections, the Democrats will be playing defense next year. Making matters tougher for the Democrats, the country's political landscape has changed this year, mostly to the benefit of Republicans. But will it be enough to get them to 41?
"President Barack Obama's standing has weakened, Democrats are on the defensive on the economy, spending and health care, and key midterm voting groups, including seniors and Independents, are moving away from the Democrats and toward the GOP," says Stuart Rothenberg, editor and publisher of the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report.
Of the 39 House Democrats who earlier this month voted against their party's health care reform bill, 31 come from districts that Sen. John McCain won in last year's presidential election. Of the remaining eight, six come from districts in which Obama won less than 55 percent of the vote.