Thursday, September 2, 2010

Larry Sabato's Labor Day Predictions

At the clip is Time's Mark Halperin, making the case for a massive blowout in November, with a tidal wave washing out as many as 60 Democratic House incumbents.

But Political Scientist Larry Sabato provides a more scholarly projection, "
The Crystal Ball's Labor Day Predictions":

For decades I’ve advised students to let the facts speak for themselves, while avoiding the indulgence of shouting at the facts. In other words, we should take in all the available, reliable information; process it; and let the emerging mosaic tell its story—whether the picture pleases or not. The human (and partisan) tendency to twist facts into pretzels in order to produce a desired result must be avoided at all costs.

We’ve been patient and cautious here at the Crystal Ball as a year’s worth of facts has accumulated. We’ve sifted the polls, cranked up the models, and watched the candidates and campaigns closely. All political observers have “gut feelings” about an election year, but feelings make for good songs and lousy predictions. Forecasting is an imprecise art. People who get too far ahead of the facts or are too insistent about what will happen are usually partisans—openly or in disguise.

The Crystal Ball’s predictions are clinical. We are fond of people in both parties. We cheer for no one.

2010 was always going to be a Republican year, in the midterm tradition. It has simply been a question of degree. Several scenarios were possible, depending in large measure on whether, or how quickly, the deeply troubled American economy recovered from the Great Recession. Had Democratic hopes on economic revitalization materialized, it is easy to see how the party could have used its superior financial resources, combined with the tendency of Republicans in some districts and states to nominate ideological fringe candidates, to keep losses to the low 30s in the House and a handful in the Senate.

But conditions have deteriorated badly for Democrats over the summer. The economy appears rotten, with little chance of a substantial comeback by November 2nd. Unemployment is very high, income growth sluggish, and public confidence quite low. 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.

Obama’s job approval ratings have drifted down well below 50% in most surveys. The generic ballot that asks likely voters whether they will cast ballots for Democrats or Republicans this year has moved increasingly in the GOP direction. While far less important, other controversies such as the mosque debate and immigration policy have made the climate worse for Democrats. Republican voters are raring to vote, their energy fueled by anti-Obama passion and concern over debt, spending, taxes, health care, and the size of government. Democrats are much less enthusiastic by almost every measure, and the Democratic base’s turnout will lag. Plus, Democrats have won over 50 House seats in 2006 and 2008, many of them in Republican territory, so their exposure to any sort of GOP wave is high.

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.
There's more at the link (and Sabato discusses GOP Senate prospects, the view on the governors' races, etc.).

As noted at the few times I've written about this, I personally wouldn't make predictions unless based on a district-by-district analysis of partisan electoral trends. So here we have in Sabato's analysis the kind of approach that's probably best for making projections, and that's topped off with the electoral modeling and the shares of the generic ballot. See my previous post, "
How Bad For the Democrats in 2010?"

So, yeah, I guess JBW was smart not to take me up on the wager challenge. But bet or not, I'm not going to hesitate from a bit of gloating on election night. The administration is awful and the Dems just suck. And I'm not going be shy of saying good riddance.


JBW said...

Of course I'm smart Don but even an idiot would know better than to take that silly-ass bet. Speaking of idiots, I do remember trying to make a bet with a tubby neocon that exactly what Sabato is predicting wouldn't happen. If you'd just had the sack to make a bet that you weren't absolutely sure you'd win you could be rubbing my nose in it right now and spending my cash in November. Too bad. See ya in 2012, chubs.