2010 Is Equal To Or Greater Than 1994

Patrick Ruffini at The Next Right:

I might be setting myself for a healthy serving of crow on November 3rd, but I get a distinct feeling that the GOP may be headed toward to a seat gain in the House of epic proportions — somewhere over 50 seats and well above the historical high point for recent wave elections (the 50-55 seats we experienced in elections like 1946 and 1994).

All in all, I don’t think a 70 seat gain is out of the question.

I’ll admit that a lot of this is prediction is pure gut. I probably sounded crazy when I said Marco Rubio kinda had a shot against Crist a year ago, and that Scott Brown kinda had a shot against Coakley, but if anything I wished I’d been even bolder in those predictions given the roller-coaster volatility of this political environment.

Not all elections are created equal. In most elections, most incumbents have an impregnable advantage and elections are fought between the 40-yard-lines.

This is not one of those elections.

It’s true that people are pissed, etc. etc. It’s true that Republicans benefit from an enthusiasm gap, etc. etc. But when you see numbers like dissatisfied independents lining up 66 to 13 percent behind the Republican candidate for Congress, and Republicans leading by 20 among very enthusiastic voters, all the momentum — not most of it — is in one direction. That last bastion of political stability — incumbent advantage — is inoperative in this political environment as incumbency has been become tantamount to a four letter word. Just 49 percent would re-elect their Congressman, compared to 40 percent who would throw the bum out. That’s significant. Usually, people want to throw Congress over the ledge while toasting their Congressman.

Andrew Sullivan:

Just begging for that Von Hoffmann Award are we, Patrick? So much can happen between now and then. This is a volatile electorate and a core part of the Democratic base – Hispanics – have just been put on notice by the GOP.

Michael Barone at The Examiner:

Lest you write off his projection that a 70-seat Republican gain (which would leave Republicans with a 248-187 majority, larger than any they have won since 1928) keep in mind that Ruffini was one of the very first to predict that Marco Rubio could become the leader in the Florida Senate race and that Scott Brown had a very real chance to win in Massachusetts. Here I should add the usual caveats about how opinion can change and the balance of enthusiasm could change even faster. But the Democrats’ current tactic of prioritizing legislation to weaken Republicans’ standings (among all voters on financial regulation, among Hispanics on immigration, among young voters on cap-and-trade and the environment) doesn’t really address their current problem, which is that the Democrats’ standing among voters is at a record low and that they’re getting pasted in polls despite the fact that the Republicans’ standing among voters is not particularly high.

Ruffini seems to be thinking along the same lines as Democrat William Galston who, as I noted in a blogpost earlier this morning, believes that the Democrats’ political prioritizing could “turn all-but-certain Democratic losses into a rout of historic proportions.” Historic indeed: not even David Broder has a living memory of the 1928 election.

Peter Wehner at Commentary:

Democrats should read this, and weep. The midterm elections may not be as bad as Ruffini predicts — but they will very, very bad. Virtually every bit of polling data points to an epic loss by Democrats.

Mr. Obama may indeed be a political miracle worker — but for Republicans, not Democrats.

James Joyner:

Even in a “normal” year, we’d expect a lot of Republican gains.  First, it’s an off-year election and the president’s party almost always loses seats.  Second, there are a bunch of Democrats holding seats that were specifically drawn to elect Republicans.

The main thing holding me back from jumping on Patrick’s bandwagon here is that we don’t have a Newt Gingrich this year.  Further, there’s no pro-Republican wave to ride.  So, essentially, he’s counting on the GOP to pick up 70 seats — a full 16 percent of all the seats and 28 percent of the seats currently held by Democrats — on the virtue of sheer anger at the status quo.

Again, I’ll emphasize that I didn’t predict the magnitude of 1994 or 2006, either.  I tend to be overly conservative in my estimates of outcomes, taking the steady state as the default position absent compelling polling data to the contrary.    And even I think the Republicans have an outside chance — but just an outside chance — of taking back both the House and Senate.   But 70 seats?  With this gang leading the charge?  I’ll believe it when I see it.

Daniel Larison:

Four years ago, a presidential party in the sixth year of a deeply unpopular President’s administration lost just 30 seats. This year, the presidential party is coming off of two elections in which they won over 50% of the vote, and we are headed into the first midterm election during the administration of a President whose RCP average approval rating is currently 48%. It would be extremely odd for a presidential party to lose more than 30 seats with Presidential approval that high, especially when that average rating has never dipped below 46% since inauguration. Indeed, it has remained remarkably stable over the last five months. In 1993-94, Clinton’s Gallup approval rating dropped into the mid-30s on occasion before recovering to 46% by the time of the election, and Obama’s Gallup approval rating currently stands at 51% and has never dropped below 45%. If that 51% rating were to hold, the average loss for a presidential party with a presidential approval rating of 50-59% is 12 seats. Obviouly, economic weakness and political issues specific to this Congress are going to make things worse for the Democrats than that, but it is still something of a reach under these circumstances to project a 30-seat loss, to say nothing of 50 or the absurd 70.

My view is that a 30-seat prediction is at least reasonable, but Republican gains of more than 25 seats still seem unlikely. Depending on how toss-up seats fall, my guess is that Democrats will lose between 18-23 House seats and probably five seats in the Senate. It is difficult to find the actual districts where this 40-seat takeover is going to happen. Yes, things could change, we could continue to have a recovery without any decrease in unemployment, and the majority could foolishly pursue an immigration bill this year that could seriously harm them. It is also possible that enough voters will remember how the Republicans governed when they were in power and recoil from them as the year goes on much as people in Britain have started recoiling from Labour as polling day approaches.

Republican pundits and analysts who have been enthusing over the impending mega-victory they are going to win have already made sure that they will lose the expectations game. Not content with aggressive predictions of winning control of the House, which has already potentially set them up for the appearance of failure, some have been pushing the expectations of Republican gains beyond what any modern American political party can possibly deliver under present circumstances. Between Marco Rubio’s “single greatest pushback in American history” hype, increasingly unrealistic claims about Democratic weakness, and wild predictions of unprecedented postwar midterm gains, anything short of a resounding Republican triumph will be seen as a missed opportunity at best and a disaster at worst.

Something Ruffini does not address in his post is the extent to the which the public continues to blame Bush for both deficit and economic woes. That doesn’t mean that Democrats can rely on anti-Bush sentiment for a third straight election, but it has to weaken the appeal of the GOP when the party’s prominent figures continue to try to rehabilitate and praise Bush and effectively reinforce the identification between the current party and the Bush era. According to the new ABC/Post poll, the GOP itself continues to have very poor favorability ratings, its Congressional leadership loses in match-ups against Obama on most issues, and it continues to trail Democrats on being trusted to handle “the main problems” the country faces. Even in the generic ballot, respondents have been moving back to the Democrats (a three-point GOP lead has turned into a five-point deficit since February in the ABC poll), and the generic ballot average now gives Republicans just a 1-point advantage. Perhaps I am missing something, but this does not seem to have the makings of an unprecedentedly large Republican blowout win. Instead, it looks like things are shaping up for a modest and perhaps even below-average performance for the non-presidential party.

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