Looking for that big wave

Tom Schaller takes a look at Republican prospects for taking control of the House. He considers two scenarios: (1) the “regular wave” scenario in which both parties hold all of their “likely” and “leaning their way” seats, but the Republicans pick up all of the toss-ups and (2) the “big wave” scenario in which the GOP wins all of the toss-ups plus the races that lean Democratic.
In the first scenario, the Republicans gain 36 seats, just slightly short of what’s required to control the House. In the second scenario, they pick-up 61 seats.
Schaller also compares this year’s race to 1994, the last big wave Republican year. He finds that in 1994, the majority the Democrats were defending was regionally uniform – in every region of the country, the Dems controlled between 58 percent and 60 percent of the seats. That’s no longer the case. Currently, the Democratic share ranges from a southern low of 43 percent to a northeastern high of 82 percent.
In this year’s big wave scenario, the Republicans make major gains in the Northeast and Far West. In the regular wave scenario they don’t, and their pick-ups in the South and Midwest aren’t sufficient to capture the House.
Schaller suggests that the pivotal districts will be neither working class ones that can be expected to turn Republican due to disaffection with the economy, nor districts with large minority populations that the Dems can hold if they maintain something like 2008 turn-out levels. Instead, he thinks that affluent white voters hold the key to which party will control the House come next January.
If so, this seems like pretty good news for Republicans. But it does suggest that the quality of our candidates matters quite a bit. For affluent swing voters, party affiliation isn’t likely to be enough even in a Republican year.

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