In July, I predicted that the Republicans would lose control of the House in this year’s election and that the Senate would end up 50-50. At the time, this prediction (especially as to the Senate) was pessimistic compared to what most other Republicans and conservatives were predicting. Over the next two months, though, it would become more or less the conventional wisdom.
During October, I became a bit more pessimistic, thinking that the election might well leave Republicans with 48 or 49 Senate seats. In a sense my thinking was the same — the Republicans probably will lose all the close races — but two additional races (Tennessee and Virginia) had become close.
I’m still pretty concerned. Tennessee has moved in the right direction, but the polls indicate that to get to 50 seats, the Repubs have to win one in a toss-up state or pull an upset elsewhere. The odds say, they’ll get that one seat, if not more. But any last minute swing in favor of the Dems would probably mean victory for them in both chambers. Moreover, there often is a last minute swing in one direction or another, and it isn’t always in favor of the Republicans. Recall 2000. With Iraq sitting heavily on the minds of voters, it’s plausible to believe that a late swing will favor the Dems this year.
That the polls aren’t showing such a swing is mostly irrelevant. The kind of swing I’m talking about is, by definition, one that the polls don’t pick up. However, some of the polls provide comfort. The most significant is polling that apparently shows Republicans faring better than before on issues pertaining to Iraq. As I said, if there’s going to be a swing towards the Dems, then Iraq will probably fuel it. If the polls are mildly encouraging for Republicans on Iraq, that could be a big deal.
In the end, therefore, I’ll keep my fingers crossed and stay with my prediction that the Republicans keep 50 seats. With respect to the House, I feared that a late swing to the Dems might enable them to pick up 30 seats or more. For the reasons stated above, I now think that Democratic gains more likely will be in the low to mid 20s.
UPDATE: I should have added that a two to three point swing in the Republican direction would mean perhaps 52 Senate seats and House losses of under 20. I tend to think the Repubs have already had their “swing.” It brought Steele, Chafee, Burns and maybe others into contention and saw Corker separate from Ford in the polls. Oddly, it does not seem to have helped Talent or Allen much. But who knows? Maybe that was only the beginning.
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