Saturday, October 2, 2010

US Midterm Elections Predictions

The US midterm elections are one month from today, so it is time for a few predictions.

What are the Mid-term Elections?
But first, for my Canadian readers, we need a quick primer on what the mid-term elections are all about. The president is elected ever four years and is limited to serving two terms. Halfway through the term, elections are held for all 435 seats in the House of Representatives and approximately one-third of the 100 US Senate seats. Senators serve 6 year terms and House of Representatives members serve two year terms. The two bodies together are known as "Congress." All legislation must be approved by both and spending and tax legislation must originate in the House. In addition, approximately 35 of the 50 Governors and many of the members of the state legislatures are elected every two years.

The mid-term elections are usually seen as a referendum on the president's performance and the party of the president usually (though not always) loses some seats. President Obama's approval rating has fallen sharply during the past year and is somewhere in the mid 40s depending on the poll. Real Clear Politics averages the various polls and currently shows Obama as having a 45.3 approval and a 49.7 disapproval rating for a -4.4 rating overall. as an average of polls conducted last week by Newsweek, Fox, Rasmussen, Gallup, CNN and others.

So this means that 37 Senate seats and 435 House seats are up for election next month. The Democrats hold a majority of 255 seats in the House and a majority of 59 seats in the Senate. They had a 60 seat "super majority" until January, when Massachusetts Republican Senator Scott Brown was elected in a special election to replace the deceased Ted Kennedy. A super majority is important because any 41 senators can vote together to prevent a bill from coming to a vote in the Senate.

House of Representatives
With all 435 seats up for re-election, this is in effect a national election. The Democrats currently hold 255 seats and the Republicans hold 178. 218 are needed for a majority, so the Republicans would need to gain 39 in order to take control of the House.

Real Clear Politics ranks 190 seats as either safe Democrat, likely Democrat or leaning Democrat and 207 seats as safe Republican, likely Republican or leaning Republican. 38 seats are toss-ups.

The Charlie Cook Report, a highly respected and neutral polling company, sees 50 seats as toss-ups and forecasts a net Republican gain of at least 40 seats.

The Senate
The Democrats currently hold 59 seats (counting the 2 Independents in with them) and the Republicans hold 41. But 18 of the 41 Republican seats (almost half) are up for election this year and only 19 of 59 Democratic seats (only a third) are up for election. So the Republicans must take away 10 out of 19 Democratic seats without losing any of their own in order to win control of the Senate. Each Senator is elected in a state-wide popular vote and each state has two senators. Only of of each state's senate seats is up for election in a given year. This explains why most analysts don't think that the Republicans will win the Senate this year despite a general lead in the polls for the Republicans.

Real Clear Politics ranks 48 seats as likely Democrat or leans Democrat and 47 seats as likely Republican or leans Republican with 4 seats being considered toss-ups. This represents a gain of 6 seats for the Republicans plus however many of the toss-ups they gain. Real Clear forecasts a 51-49 Democratic majority with the Republicans having gained 8 seats and lost none.

Rasmussen Polls ranks 7 seats as solid Democratic and 2 as likely Democratic for a total of 9. They rank 17 as solid Republican and 7 as likely Republican for a total of 24. Four seats are considered toss-ups. No Republican seat is in the Democratic or toss-up column, but 3 Democratic seats are ranked as solid Republican, 3 as likely Republican and 4 as toss-ups. So the Republicans need to defend all their own seats, win the Democratic seats that are in the solid and likely Republican columns and then sweep the 4 toss-ups.

The Charlie Cook Report predicts a gain of 7-9 senate seats for the Republicans.

It appears that the Republicans are heading for big gains next month and control of the House is virtually assured. Even if the Democrats manage to hold on to their Senate majority (which is probably a fifty-fifty proposition right now), the conservative Republicans in the Senate will have the votes (40) to prevent bills from being voted on. If the Republicans have 48 or 49 seats and the Democrats manage to peel off 6 or 7 Republicans to vote for a given bill, the remaining Republicans will still be able to block it. If this had been the case last year, the health care legislation would not have passed.

With 58% of Americans favoring repeal of the bill, this is an expression of the democratic majority. What we are seeing here is an example of the self-correcting mechanism in the American political system. The Democrats have governed from the left and have alienated the vast middle of American politics - the basically conservative Independents who are favoring the Republicans 2-1 this year after electing what they thought was a centrist Barack Obama in 2008.

Personally, I believe that conservative voters are extremely enthusiastic about voting and the liberal base of the Democratic Party is shocked by the negative public reaction to their extreme leftist agenda. This kind of "enthusiasm gap" is hard to measure in polls. So I predict that Republicans will win control of the Senate and gain about 55-60 seats in the House. This will effectively end Barack Obama's ability to further implement his leftist agenda and will lead to gridlock between Congress and the President. This will set the stage for a possible primary challenge to Obama and the Republicans winning the presidency in 2012.

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