BY JOHN FUND – With only 60 days to go before the mid-term elections, political analysts are laying down their early predictions.
First out of the gate is Larry Sabato, the media savvy director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. Over the last decade his “Crystal Ball” analysis has picked the correct winning candidate in 98% of House and Senate races and accurately forecast the Democratic waves of 2006 and 2008.
This year, Mr. Sabato believes “Republicans have a good chance to win the House by picking up as many as 47 seats, net. . . . If anything, we have been conservative in estimating the probable GOP House gains, if the election were being held today.”
In the Senate, he forecasts a GOP gain of eight or nine seats. At nine seats, the chamber would be tied, leading either to a power-sharing arrangement akin to what was concluded in early 2001 or to a reevaluation of their status by senators such as Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Ben Nelson of Nebraska, either of whom is thought capable of switching his allegiance to Republicans. “The inescapable conclusion is that the Senate is on the bubble, with only a slight lean at Labor Day toward Democratic retention,” Mr. Sabato says.
An underappreciated part of Mr. Sabato’s analysis concerns likely Republican success in key gubernatorial and state legislative races, putting the GOP in a strong position to influence the 2010 redistricting. Mr. Sabato believes Republicans will win a net of eight governors, enhanced by the “addition of Republican control in 8 to 12 legislative chambers around the country.”
Mr. Sabato’s gloomy forecast for Democrats hinges on the fact that “unemployment is very high, income growth sluggish, and public confidence low.” His Crystal Ball sees little chance of those conditions changing before Election Day. “The Democrats’ self-proclaimed ‘Recovery Summer’ has become a term of derision, and to most voters — fair or not — it seems that President Obama has over-promised and under-delivered.”
The likely upshot? This November, voters will overwhelm incumbents they view as being part of the problem in Washington and their state capitals.
John Fund is an editorial writer for the Wall Street Journal.