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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Charlie Cook And The 'Gigantic' Republican Midterm Wave

Handicapper Charlie Cook in a piece at the National Journal (Paid subscription now required) explains how it appears there will be a "gigantic Republican 2010 midterm election wave in the House," saying it is not a huge surprise given there were plenty of signs over a year ago.

The Senate on the other hand, Cook admits, is not as easily predicted with the "bizarre ups and downs."

It’s easy to look at what appears to be a gigantic Republican 2010 midterm election wave in the House and feel a little slack-jawed, but not so much surprised. There were plenty signs well over a year ago that Democrats were facing grave danger, but even when expecting an onslaught, one can still be shocked at its size and unrelenting force. It would be a surprise if this wave doesn’t match the 52-seat gain on Election Night in 1994, and it could be substantially more.

Cook, in the National Journal piece linked above, goes on to explain the ins and outs of the Senate races that will determine the outcome of who controls the Senate after the November 2, 2010 midterms but predicts an 8 seat pickup for the GOP in the Senate but cannot give that prediction with any confidence due to the changing landscape of the individual races.

On the other hand, the Senate picture is incredibly confused. There is no clear narrative in the Senate, just bizarre ups and downs. Republicans could easily find themselves picking up as “few” as seven or as many as 10 seats. An 8-seat pickup seems about right, but that is not written with a great deal of confidence; there are way too many races separated by very few points. In some cases it is weak GOP candidates who are causing the red team to underperform, in others it is because some of these battles are in states less hospitable to the GOP. The strong Republican tailwind that exists in much of the country is not so strong in California and Washington, and there are higher and more durable Democratic bases in states like Illinois and Pennsylvania that keep Democrats in the hunt. It is not uncommon to hear strategists say that if the environment for House Republicans is so good (or so bad for House Democrats), then the GOP gains could get truly massive and those dynamics would likely tip the closest Senate races in the same direction. There is probably some merit to that argument. But it also seems that the problem-children candidates for Senate Republicans have been called out more than their House GOP counterparts. The GOP candidates with more exotic backgrounds and blemishes seem to be paying a greater price for it in the Senate than in the House.

As I have been saying for months, the House of Representatives was the GOP's best shot of taking control of at least one house of congress and as of a year ago, the thought that Republicans even held a chance to take control of the Senate seemed like an impossibility and yet, now, a year later, there are actual odds, slim at best, that the GOP has a chance at the Senate.

Personally I do not think the Senate will flip over to GOP control, even understanding that in a wave election anything is possible, and should they, it will be a welcome surprise.

Democratic leaning Nate Silver from FiveThirtyEight explains the reason the Senate is unlikely to flip control, it is not the candidates, it is the fact that one one third of the Senate seats are up for reelection.

The reason that Democrats are likely to hold the Senate but not the House — the necessary and sufficient reason — is because only one-third of the Senate is up for re-election every year. If the whole Senate were up for re-election, Democrats would lose it and lose it badly.

Take a look at our Senate forecast map. There’s a lot of red there. Part of that, yes, is because Republicans tend to do better in the middle of the country where the states are physically larger — but that kind of misses the point.

Right now, among the 37 Senate elections, we have Republicans favored in 25, Democrats favored in 11, and one other (Colorado) that’s too close to call. If Democrats have a relatively good election night, they will win about one-third of the available Senate races. And if anything, the states that are voting for Senate this year are slightly blue-leaning. If the entire Senate were up for re-election in this political climate, the Republicans would be favored to earn a filibuster-proof majority, and might even earn a veto-proof majority!

Control of the Senate in the 2010 midterms was always a long shot for the GOP to attain but Republicans have still fought for every seat possible because taking as many as they can, say six, seven or even eight, will limit the possibility of strict party line votes as they have been able to obtain with the high majority Democrats have held these last years.