Senate Outlook

Its a bit dark to even tread this ground, as the landscape is difficult to paint rosy, even if one wanted a hopeful outlook, there's not much to go off.

Even with contests where it looks like the Democrats are very close, the number of undecideds is at 10% or greater. Its been more likely than not that those undecideds have broken to the Republicans in recent statewide elections.

But you might notice, in the past couple of weeks, the Republicans and their national megaphone are way off message with the GZM flap. Not that its an issue on which Democrats gain (far from it), but a day not talking about the economy is a day where Democrats are not defending the worst part of the record.

A look across the pundits.

The Fix merely ranks contests, and has never shown an inclination to go out on a limb and predict outcomes. It's eye candy to the prognosticator, but, reading between the tea leaves of the Chris Cillizza rankings seems to suggest a 50-47-3 makeup, with those 3 Independents caucusing with the Dems. The Democrats losing 6 seats sounds about conventional wisdom.

The thing that ticks me off about Charlie Cook is that, while he was late to the show in finding out the Democratic Wave elections of '06 and '08, he was quick to label '10 a Republican Wave election. No quicker than I was though, after seeing the '09 results, so I shouldn't mind too much. Cook is more straight-up toss-up city right now. The Democrats start with just 49 secure seats. In fact, the CT contest (rightly so) is on the bubble of making it 48. Its scary to think that in all of the previous 5 election cycles, the Senate contests tipped nearly all one-way or the other with the toss-ups. If it went that way (49), the Dem caucus would be left upon relying on Lieberman for the majority. Or, in the case of just 48, hoping that Crist wins.

Chances are, even in the extreme, the Democrats win at least one of the toss-ups. If I had to bet it'd be out on the west coast. I don't think the Republicans can sweep WA, CA, NV at this moment in time. I wouldn't be shocked at Dems losing 2 out of 3 of those though.

Over on The Rothenberg Report, Stuart and Nathan Gonzales show 5 Democratic seats going Republican. They project Republicans are likely to gain 5-8 seats. Right in the CW sweet spot.

Nate Silver says he's got a new model coming out. Right now the 538 rankings, based on their majority indicator, show 7 takeaways by the Republicans, and 1 takeaway by the Independent Crist from the Republicans. It yields a 49-48-3 makeup. Right on the bubble are IL and WA for the Republicans to takeaway.

Jim Geraghty counts 12 Democratic seats where Republicans are trying to take it away, even 13, with the mention of Oregon. Even the NRSC ("Republicans are now on offense in at least 12 Democrat-held Senate seats") are not that optimistic.

Mike Lux, whom has the stomach to gleefully endorse Alexi Giannoulias, doesn't really put forward a prediction.

Take it all together, and the biggest consensus is that Democrats will lose seats. Its only a question of how many. A depressing reality given how rosy things looked a mere 20 months ago, but here we are.

At thing point, I'll skip the possibility of Republicans taking control, and just apply Matt Stoller's Theorem to figure out the most annoying scenario. I'll go with that being the likelihood that Democrats will be relying upon Independents to make a majority. And if its Crist and Lieberman, then what we will likely see is a defacto Crist-Lieberman-McCain council of power in the Senate come 2011. They would decide that one of their own (maybe even pull in a few others in their gang?) is to be the majority leader. I don't even know if that's possible, but it sounds miserable.

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8 Comments

If I had to guess

we will struggle greatly to hold the Senate.  This cycle bears some resemblance to 2006 in the sense that there a large number of Democratic incumbents below 50, but with the lead.  In 2006 virtually everyone of the Republican incumbents went on to lose who were below 50. 

If that holds for '10, we will lose the following:

Arkansas

Colorado

Nevada

Wisconsin

California

It is tempting to note that with respect to Wisconsin and California that the seats are being fought on favorable ground to the Democrats.  This didn't save Brown, and my guess is the race is going to get worse for Democrats if the economy continues to struggle.  Another incumbent, Murray in Washington, is flirting with 50%, and I would rate as a tossup right now given the strange SUSA polling.

In addition to these 5, there are a number of open seats.  The Democratic seats in play are Indiana (almost a certain loss), Illinois (a true tossup) , Delaware and Pennsylvania.  Delaware and PA are moving in opposite directions, but my guess is both seats are losses. 

The only Democratic pickup that looks like a reasonable shot is Kentucky, and Paul just might lose the race.  The others are trending badly (Ohio, Missouri, NH), though we may have a shot in NC. 

And then there is Florida - a wild race if ever there was one.  Assuming Meek wins the nomination, the real question is whether Crist can hold onto enough GOP support to overcome the almost certain loss of African American votes.  I think predicting Florida at this point is next to impossible - but three way races are inherintly unstable.

BTW - my house model predicts the Democrats will lose 63 seats in the House.  The model is based on the models used to predict swings in British elections, and doesn't account for things like underfunded challengers.  In this sense it is almost high given the predicted 5 point advantage in the generic ballot.  But then there is no reason to think this advantage won't grow.

The model is here (I use the Cooke PVI if the incumbent isn't running)

https://spreadsheets.google.com/ccc?key=0Aq5zx_FMTYpxdGxhUWQ1WW5mbUl6cWdQVElfcjVjdkE&hl=en#gid=0

This election is most similar to 1992.  In 1992 the Recession technically ended well before November, and yet Bush's approval rating continued to fall as unemployment remained high.  The lesson to learn is that GDP is irrelevent in politics, and if people view unemployment as likely to say high for a significant period, that view will steadily erode Democratic support.  Reagn's approval rating reached 36% in the depth of the '82 Recession, and I would be surprised not to see Obama's fall in that range.

Lastly, I will say that there is huge volatility in these races. 

by fladem 2010-08-23 01:25PM | 0 recs
RE: If I had to guess

For the Democrats to sink to 194 seats in the House would be devestating. I don't think anyone in DC even see's that as remotely plausible.

However, the professional class in DC is so out of touch with the rest of the nation right now that disconnect wouldn't be a shock.

by Jerome Armstrong 2010-08-23 02:13PM | 0 recs
A 60 seat loss would end the Democratic party

We would probably never recover.  It was real great now to elect Obama, thinking this economy was fixable, wasnt it? 

by Kent 2010-08-23 09:17PM | 0 recs
Jon Tester wasnt a left wing nutbag

The way Carly Fiorina is.  Electing her in California would be like Texas electing Sheila Jackson-Lee to the Senate. 

If Democrats lose more than 50 seats in the House, Obama better watch his back because House Democrats will want to sink him into the Chicago lakefront with lead boots. 

by Kent 2010-08-23 09:15PM | 0 recs
The number 1 rule

I have about politics is this: people are far more likely to underestimate rather than overestimate the volatility in a given cycle.  The model I developed, crude in some ways, reminds us of the fact that the generic ballot is showing an average of a <b>16 point swing from 2008</b>, and that if it were to hold the size of the lanslide will exceed 1994.

by fladem 2010-08-23 02:26PM | 0 recs
Don't agree with all your points, but...

...a strong rec for excellent writing.

by Spiffarino 2010-08-23 03:20PM | 0 recs
I've been a bear....

for alomost a year--still sticking with 50-60 seat pickup with the GOP, though I'm now leaning to the higher end of that range.

I think one has to back to the 1920s to find the Dems under 200 seats in the House; I'll have to check that.

As for the Senate, I no have a 50-50 Senate, down from 52-53 Dems.  Crist won't win as Meek draws too may Dems away from him; in fact I think Crist will finish third, despite what Q says.

Senate control comes down to:  WA, CA, CT, NV, CO, IL and WI.  I think GOP will not win all of them, but could win four or five.  Yes I've included CT, and NC would be on this list if the DSCC would put some effort into that race.  They must not like Elaine Marshall.

 

by esconded 2010-08-23 03:42PM | 0 recs
Brad Ellsworth was an idiot

The only Democrat who could have won Indiana was Evan Bayh.  Democrats would have been better off just nominating Tamara D'Appitoo(sp) and have Ellsworth stay in his House seat.  Coats may be flawed, but he is in a state that hates Obama and wants a Republican Senate.  Nothing will stand in the way of that.

by Kent 2010-08-23 09:21PM | 0 recs

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