September 3, 2010


Sixty Days to Go: The Crystal Ball's Labor Day Predictions (Larry J. Sabato, Director, U.Va. Center for Politics, September 2nd, 2010, Crystal Ball)

Given what we can see at this moment, Republicans have a good chance to win the House by picking up as many as 47 seats, net. This is a “net” number since the GOP will probably lose several of its own congressional districts in Delaware, Hawaii, and Louisiana. This estimate, which may be raised or lowered by Election Day, is based on a careful district-by-district analysis, plus electoral modeling based on trends in President Obama’s Gallup job approval rating and the Democratic-versus-Republican congressional generic ballot (discussed later in this essay). If anything, we have been conservative in estimating the probable GOP House gains, if the election were being held today.

In the Senate, we now believe the GOP will do a bit better than our long-time prediction of +7 seats. Republicans have an outside shot at winning full control (+10), but are more likely to end up with +8 (or maybe +9, at which point it will be interesting to see how senators such as Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, and others react). GOP leaders themselves did not believe such a result was truly possible just a few months ago. If the Republican wave on November 2 is as large as some polls are suggesting it may be, then the surprise on election night could be a full GOP takeover. Since World War II, the House of Representatives has flipped parties on six occasions (1946, 1948, 1952, 1954, 1994, and 2006). Every time, the Senate flipped too, even when it had not been predicted to do so. These few examples do not create an iron law of politics, but they do suggest an electoral tendency.

The seat switches are probably coming in Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware (but only if the eventual GOP nominee is Rep. Mike Castle), Indiana, North Dakota, and Pennsylvania. We expect Republicans to pick off at least a couple of these states: California, Illinois, Nevada, Washington, and Wisconsin. While it is possible that Republicans will lose one or two of their own open seats, the only 50-50 chance of that right now is in Florida—and it might not happen even there. There can also be unanticipated shockers if a GOP wave develops. While we rate Gov. Joe Manchin (D) the early favorite to fill the late Sen. Robert Byrd’s seat, his Republican opponent, John Raese, is a self-funder in a strongly anti-Obama state.

The inescapable conclusion is that the Senate is on the bubble, with only a slight lean at Labor Day toward Democratic retention.

The statehouses will provide the third leg of the Republicans’ 2010 victory. We have long suggested the GOP would gain a net +6 governorships. We now believe they will win +8. This boon to the GOP for redistricting will be enhanced by a gain of perhaps 300 to 500 seats in the state legislatures, and the addition of Republican control in 8 to 12 legislative chambers around the country.

Republicans are likely or even certain to gain the governorships in Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. We believe the GOP candidates also have an edge in Illinois and Oregon—both of these quite surprising. Democrats will also pick up a few statehouses to cut their losses: Hawaii is near-certain, with fair to good shots in Connecticut, Minnesota, and Rhode Island (though we currently retain the last two as toss-ups).

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 3, 2010 5:30 AM
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