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8/31/2009
TRENDS FOR 2010 BEGINNING TO WORRY DEMOCRATS

Yes, it’s way too early to make any predictions, but then, pollsters and pundits wouldn’t have anything to write about which means they’d be out of a job for a year or so.

Actually, the value of predictions today is relevant to the current political debate over health care. Leading analysts who gauge the mood of the public on a month to month, even week to week basis, see outliers that may - or may not - be indicative of trends.

Trends represent long term outlooks rather than the “snapshot” that polls generally give us. Get enough snapshots of how people are thinking, and you can trace how people are feeling about an issue on a graph. That’s the essence of strategic polling and politicians - even this far out from the 2010 election - ignore the information at their own peril.

So when several of the best analysts in the industry examine the trendlines, as well as the 50-60 congressional districts where vulnerable members from both parties are fighting to remain in office, they put two and two together and come up with scenarios for the election based on science, their own experience, and hunches born out of their insights gleaned over many years of watching politics.

What these pollsters are seeing does not bode well for the Democrats as explained by Josh Kraushaar of Politico:

After an August recess marked by raucous town halls, troubling polling data and widespread anecdotal evidence of a volatile electorate, the small universe of political analysts who closely follow House races is predicting moderate to heavy Democratic losses in 2010.

Some of the most prominent and respected handicappers can now envision an election in which Democrats suffer double-digit losses in the House - not enough to provide the 40 seats necessary to return the GOP to power but enough to put them within striking distance.

Nate Silver, an unconventional but deadly accurate pollster who runs the must read site 538.com - and a Democratic consultant - managed to scare the beejeebees out of liberals at the recently concluded Netroots convention:

At the mid-August Netroots Nation convention, Nate Silver, a Democratic analyst whose uncannily accurate, stat-driven predictions have made his website 538.com a must read among political junkies, predicted that Republicans will win between 20 and 50 seats next year. He further alarmed an audience of progressive activists by arguing that the GOP has between a 25 and 33 percent chance of winning back control of the House.

“A lot of Democratic freshmen and sophomores will be running in a much tougher environment than in 2006 and 2008 and some will adapt to it, but a lot of others will inevitably freak out and end up losing,” Silver told POLITICO. “Complacency is another factor: We have volunteers who worked really hard in 2006 and in 2008 for Obama but it’s less compelling [for them] to preserve the majority.”

Is Silver being an alarmist or is there really a 1 in 4 or 1 in 3 chance that the GOP can pull off a shocker?

If history is any guide, Nate may have something there. Opposition gains in off year elections are a tradition in American politics with the party out of power winning back seats in 10 of the last 12 such elections. (The average gain has been about 13 seats).

But realistically, there would have to be a huge backlash - even bigger than 1994 - for Republicans to regain control of the House. The re-election rate for modern gerrymandered congressional districts tops 98% and the GOP would have to knock that percentage down to 90% in order to gain back the House.

A tall order, that. But the Democrats did it in 2006. And given the volatility of the current political climate, it is not beyond imagining, although Silver’s estimate of Republican chances to regain control is not shared by other seasoned pros.

I think that Nate is being deliberately provocative. The stars would have to align just right for a GOP takeover of the House to materialize. A perfect storm of failed health care reform, a double dip recession, and perhaps higher than expected inflation could combine to cause the kind of collapse in the political fortunes of Democrats that would give the GOP control of the House. I would place the chances of this occurring somewhere between “Impossible” and “Highly Improbable” - say, from zero to 5%.

If the economy improves faster and better than expected, that would alter the trends and Democratic losses may be held to a minimum. There are a lot of variables there as well, but I would put the chances of that happening slightly higher than a GOP takeover; say, 5-10%.

But most analysts - even Democratic ones - see the possibility 14 months from election day, that Republican gains could top the average of 13 seats by as much as a factor of 2. That seems reasonable to me - especially given the number of very vulnerable Democrats who won in 2006 and 2008 in districts normally carried by Republican presidential candidates.

Another factor that is an unknown will be congressional retirements. The GOP had 29 members leave office more or less voluntarily in 2006 (4 members declined to run because of ethics problems), and the Democrats captured all of them. We’ll have a better idea of who might be leaving after the first of the year.

As for the senate, I would say GOP chances of a takeover are even less than the House; say, between a “Cosmic Impossibility” and “When Hell Freezes Over.” And that’s being optimistic.

Seriously, the Republicans have too many seats to defend and not enough vulnerable Democrats to have a chance for an upset. Even if the Perfect Storm Scenario laid out above plays out, winning 11 seats is just too steep a hill to climb. If the GOP can gain 3-4 seats - still a tall order - they could consider the election a success.

But if the current trends showing double digit gains for Republicans in the House and those modest gains in the Senate play out, it would put the GOP in position to make a realistic run for control in 2012 when a winning president’s coattails can make the difference.

It would still be a long shot - I’m thinking that the first real chance for the GOP to regain control is in 2014 if Obama is re-elected and 2016 if a Republican wins in 2012 - but given the eye-popping deficits Obama will be running, anything is possible.

By: Rick Moran at 8:34 am
6 Responses to “TRENDS FOR 2010 BEGINNING TO WORRY DEMOCRATS”
  1. 1
    theblackcommenter Said:
    8:56 am 

    Deficits won’t bother people if the economy is propped up by infusions of cheap cash, which is what I predict will happen. I suspect that the delay in releasing stimulus monies will end in time for there to be some economic progress near election time and then Dems can run on economic “success” of their policies, even though they are just paper profits due to an inflated currency.

    There will of course be a lag between the boom and the bust but one just long enough to get BO back in office in 2012. Combine that with a lackluster candidate (a la Bob Dole) and 2016 is the next realistic shot.

  2. 2
    Scott Said:
    9:30 am 

    Do you mean http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/ ? I went to 538.com and got a vile domain squatter who deserves no links.

    Ooops! Copied the link right from the Politico article. Should have taken the link from the website.

    Thanks for the heads up.

    ed.

  3. 3
    jackson1234 Said:
    11:36 am 

    Who would have thought as little as three months ago there would be a possibility the House majority could change hands? Charlie Cook, who has a good record, believes it is just as possible the GOP could pick up more than 20 seats than win less than 20 seats. Stu Rothenberg, who earlier this year claimed it impossible the GOP would retake the House in 2010, has started to do a walk back of sorts. His record is quite good, too.

    A GOP-controlled House in 2010 is a long shot but possible now. The best result for the GOP, I think, would be a narrow Dem majority wehrein that party’s brewing civil war between moderates and liberals would reach fever pitch.

    As for the Senate, it likely ain’t gonna happen. Then again, unlike the House, the Senate has frequently shifted parties in recent decades because this nation despite all the “Part X is Dead” bullshit remains split down the middle. Again, a few months ago most observers didn’t think the GOP would gain Senate seats and that seems more than likely now.

    It is a long way off, but one thing seems certain: Obama has done to his party in a matter of months what it took Bush eight years to accomplish—greatly (but certainly not permanently) weaken it. Perhaps that is the bright spot to this Administration.

  4. 4
    YES! Political experts see double digit losses for Democrats in 2010 elections! | Political Byline Pinged With:
    1:30 pm 

    [...] Right Wing Nut House,  Don Surber, Wake up America, Sister Toldjah, Another Black Conservative, Flopping Aces, American [...]

  5. 5
    The Year Of The Tiger May Bring Elephants To The District « Around The Sphere Pinged With:
    8:19 pm 

    [...] Rick Moran: Is Silver being an alarmist or is there really a 1 in 4 or 1 in 3 chance that the GOP can pull off a shocker? [...]

  6. 6
    charles Said:
    8:27 am 

    Well the Dems and obama have exploded the deficit with a stimulus that hasn’t worked and a serious of other spending sprees in about every department. The only answer the Dems have to our problems is the government. How about this we eliminate the income tax replace it with a tariff or 12 to 15 percent sales tax to support the military and let people solve there own problems. When there hungry let them get there own food, when there out of work let them find work, and let the market handle the economy without government intervention. If you got rid of the Department of Transportation people would have the money from that to purchase cars or take cabs. We don’t need a big government we don’t even need a middle sized government. We need an army and we need border security and that’s all I feel the Fed should do, because they would do one thing and get it right.

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