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August 31, 2009
Experts see significant GOP gains in 2010 but not enough to win back House
Yes, it's way too early to make any predictions, but then, pollsters and pundits wouldn't have anything to write about which means they'd be out of a job for a year or so.
Actually, the value of predictions today is relevant to the current political debate over health care. Leading analysts who gauge the mood of the public on a month to month, even week to week basis, see outliers that may - or may not - be indicative of trends.
Trends represent long term outlooks rather than the "snapshot" that polls generally give us. Get enough snapshots of how people are thinking, and you can trace how people are feeling about an issue on a graph. That's the essence of strategic polling and politicians - even this far out from the 2010 election - ignore the information at their own peril.
So when several of the best analysts in the industry examine the trendlines, as well as the 50-60 congressional districts where vulnerable members from both parties are fighting to remain in office, they put two and two together and come up with scenarios for the election based on science, their own experience, and hunches born out of their insights gleaned over many years of watching politics.
What these pollsters are seeing does not bode well for the Democrats as explained by Josh Kraushaar of Politico:
After an August recess marked by raucous town halls, troubling polling data and widespread anecdotal evidence of a volatile electorate, the small universe of political analysts who closely follow House races is predicting moderate to heavy Democratic losses in 2010.Nate Silver, an unconventional but deadly accurate pollster who runs the must read site 538.com - and a Democratic consultant - managed to scare the beejeebees out of liberals at the recently concluded Netroots convention:
At the mid-August Netroots Nation convention, Nate Silver, a Democratic analyst whose uncannily accurate, stat-driven predictions have made his website 538.com a must read among political junkies, predicted that Republicans will win between 20 and 50 seats next year. He further alarmed an audience of progressive activists by arguing that the GOP has between a 25 and 33 percent chance of winning back control of the House.Is Silver being an alarmist or is there really a 1 in 4 or 1 in 3 chance that the GOP can pull off a shocker?
If history is any guide, Nate may have something there. Opposition gains in off year elections are a tradition in American politics with the party out of power winning back seats in 10 of the last 12 such elections.
But realistically, there would have to be a huge backlash - even bigger than 1994 - for Republicans to regain control of the House. The re-election rate for modern gerrymandered congressional districts tops 98% and the GOP would have to knock that percentage down to 90% in order to gain back the House.
A tall order, that. But the Democrats did it in 2006. And given the volatility of the current political climate, it is not beyond imagining, although Silver's estimate of Republican chances to regain control is not shared by other seasoned pros.
If health care reform fails completely - if no bill is passed - all bets are off and the Silver Scenario may come into play. Or if the economy improves faster and better than expected, that too would alter the trends and Democratic losses may be held to a minimum.
But most analysts - even Democratic ones - see the possibility 14 months from election day, that Republican gains could top the average of 10-12 seats by as much as a factor of 2.
And that would put the GOP in position to win the presidency and the House back in 2012.