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2006 General

Sabato's Crystal Ball

Dear Friends,

I hope that this Thanksgiving finds you in the best of spirits. As this thrilling election season winds down, I would like to take a moment to tell you more about the University of Virginia Center for Politics. I hope that our mission and activities might inspire you to include us in your philanthropic plans this year. As a member of the Center for Politics’ staff, I am proud to report that for the 2006 election cycle the Larry J. Sabato Crystal Ball has been highly successful, accurately predicting a gain of six Senate Seats and 29 House seats for Democrats. Forecasting a gain of seven governorships, the Crystal Ball was within one seat of the actual results. We were honored last week to see the Crystal Ball recognized by the Pew Research Center and the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Project for Excellence in Journalism as the leader in the field of political predictors, noting that the Crystal Ball, “came closer than any other of the top ten potential predictors this cycle.” Several major national networks recognized the Crystal Ball as being the most accurate source of election predictions in 2006: “I’m a big fan of your Crystal Ball predictions… Congratulations

UVA Center for Politics

9th Annual American Democracy Conference

Elections are the seminal event in the life of our democracy. Not only do they set the direction of our republic, campaigns and elections help to shed light on America’s state of political health. It is altogether fitting then, that an examination of our democracy and its current state take place in conjunction with those elections. Each year, shortly after the November elections, the University of Virginia Center for Politics, in partnership with National Journal’s The Hotline, presents the annual American Democracy Conference. Growing from the first National Post Election Conference in 1998, these gatherings now not only examine the last election cycle, but also attempt to discuss the state of American democracy and its prospects for the future. This year the Center for Politics brings the 9th Annual American Democracy Conference to the nation’s capital. The conference, co-hosted with National Journal’s The Hotline, will bring leading journalists, Beltway insiders, and academics together to examine: “The 2006 Midterm Elections and the 2008 Presidential Election.” The event is free and open to the public with advance registration, and it will be held at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center on Thursday, November 30, 2006. More information will soon be

UVA Center for Politics

Post-Election 2006: Playing the Numbers Game

It’s been a long election season–seemingly much longer than midterms past–and your Crystal Ball is happy to have served our good readers right up until the end. As we mentioned in our final pre-election release, it’s been a wild ride as the dynamics of dozens of races have changed greatly from the spring to the summer and into the fall. To our Democratic readers out there, we say congratulations; To our Republican readers, we offer our condolences and a reminder that American politics is cyclical. To the many readers who have contacted us in the last two days to acknowledge the Crystal Ball’s success rate this year, we say thank you. This was a closely contested midterm election that saw party control of both chambers of Congress up for grabs, and through hard work and maybe a little bit of luck, the Crystal Ball accurately predicted a gain of 6 Senate Seats and 29 House seats for Democrats. Predicting a gain of 7 governorships, the Crystal Ball was within one seat of the actual results. To paraphrase the Sugar Hill Gang, we don’t mean to brag and we don’t mean to boast, but hopefully this year we’ve been like hot

Larry J. Sabato Matt Smyth and David Wasserman


NOTE: Races we consider “Late Breakers”–those in which we have changed our outlook or prediction since Thursday–are denoted by arrows identifying the direction of momentum. Red arrows () indicate momentum for the Republican candidate, while blue arrows () signify momentum for the Democratic candidate. Dear loyal readers, What a wild ride it’s been! As the midterm madness of 2006 draws to a close, the Crystal Ball is reminded just how quickly the facts of our politics can change. Just last year, we and many others wrote in awe of the 21st Century structural obstacles Democrats faced in putting a sizeable number of GOP-held seats in play. We even speculated that “an entrenched lack of competition may be all the anti-itch medication the GOP needs” to preserve congressional majorities. These days, of course, everyone is singing a much different tune. This year’s “sixth year itch” election has had its share of rollercoaster-worthy twists and turns, and overall, Republican fortunes have followed a gradually downward trajectory. Competition has expanded rapidly, even into the eleventh hour. For us, it’s this volatility that has made the 2006 midterm cycle both fun to watch and difficult to gauge. With one day to go, the situation

Larry J. Sabato and David Wasserman

Crystal Ball 2006: THE PREDICTIONS

Just how Democratic a year is 2006? Five days out, let’s rephrase the question this way: when’s the last time a major political party has failed to capture a single House seat, Senate seat, or governorship of the opposing party in a federal election year? We bet it’s never happened before, and it certainly hasn’t happened in the post-World War II era. After all, even when a party suffers miserable net losses, it usually picks up at least several consolation prizes in the form of open seat pickups or an against-the-tide incumbent defeat. Yet look at our 2006 predictions: at this moment, the Crystal Ball cannot identify a single election for Senate, House or Governor in which a Republican is likely to succeed a Democrat in office. Just imagine how devastating an absolute shutout would be in the eyes of history if this proves to be true! Sure, we could easily be fooled by more than a few outcomes in this regard on Election Night, and we would probably place the odds of this historical unlikelihood’s occurrence at no better than 50/50. But the very notion such a scenario is within the realm of possibilities is a testament to the

Larry J. Sabato and David Wasserman

Crystal Ball Table for October 26 Email

Table 1. How High the Midterm Wave? Year President HOUSE Gain or Loss SENATE Gain or Loss Size of Wave For or Against President 1946 Truman (D) -55 -12 High Against 1950* Truman (D) -29 -6 Medium Against 1954 Eisenhower (R) -18 -1 Low Against 1958* Eisenhower (R) -48 -13 High Against 1962 Kennedy (D) -4 +3 Low Neutral/For 1966* Johnson (D) -47 -4 High Against 1970 Nixon (R) -12 +2 Low Neutral/Against 1974* Ford (R) -48 -5 High Against 1978 Carter (D) -15 -3 Low Against 1982 Reagan (R) -26 +1 Medium Against 1986* Reagan (R) -5 -8 Medium Against 1990 Bush (R) -9 -1 Low Neutral/Against 1992 Clinton (D) -52 -9 High Against 1996* Clinton (D) +5 0 Low For 2002 Bush (R) +6 +2 Low For 2006* Bush (R) -20 plus -4 to -6 Medium or High Against * Indicates a “Sixth-Year Election.” 2006 losses based on current Crystal Ball projections.

Larry J. Sabato


Dear Friends of the Crystal Ball, We’ve been through a lot together this election cycle, and now we’re headed for the last round-up on November 7th. Your Crystal Ball staff will be tweaking our predictions right up until election eve, taking into account last-minute shifts, scandals, and surprises. But the outline of this election couldn’t be clearer: 2006 is a Democratic year. The analysts and observers are just debating how big a Democratic year it will be. Republicans are more despondent than they have been for decades, and party leaders have found it especially difficult to wear a brave face into battle throughout October. The good news for the party, though, is that elections are held in November. The ticking clock is becoming more audible in the background, but even in the precious twelve days left before Election Day, a narrowing window remains for the “Glum Old Party” to seize new momentum and recoup at least some of its grandeur. To be sure, the way most races have progressed this month, it would seem that just about the only scare-free Halloween fact for the GOP is that their nightmarish October is drawing to a close. Oddly enough, though, many Democrats

Larry J. Sabato

KILLER INSTINCT, KILLER WAVE – GOP Senate in Danger of Capsizing Too

Republicans don’t seem to be running for office these days, they look more like they’re limping. Severely crippled by the large forces of war and scandal, an unpopular President Bush and an even less popular GOP-led Congress appear to be inextricably joined in a three-legged sack race to Election Day as Democrats sprint ahead on an amorphous message of change. When’s the last time we have seen a president’s approval stuck in the mid-30s while a Congress led by his party received marks significantly lower? This week’s NBC/Wall Street Journal poll pegging approval of Congress way, way below sea level at 16 percent may be the most direct storm warning yet for the party with the most to lose, regardless of whether the figure is Foley-driven. What is so surprising is that the Republican Party has a terrific economy to tout, with the stock market rocketing through the roof, while inflation remains low and productivity high. So far, though, they have been unable to capitalize on all of the capital flowing into Wall Street. And speaking of the Democrats’ message: it’s as devoid of governing platform as it could be. It is age old and summed up by the Democratic

Larry J. Sabato

Template for Final Predictions

XX-00 – Outlook – Rep. First Last (X) will win reelection over First Last (X). Text text text text text text text text text text text text. >>>> Read more XX-00 – Outlook – First Last (X) will unseat Rep. First Last (X). Text text text text text text text text text text text text. >>>> Read more XX-00 – Outlook – First Last (X) will defeat First Last (X). Text text text text text text text text text text text text. >>>> Read more Arizona – Leans GOP – Sen. Jon Kyl (R) will win reelection over Jim Pederson (D). For Jon Kyl, the fact his lead has held steady through October is far more important than the fact his lead is modest. >>>> Read more Connecticut – Leans Lieberman – Sen. Joe Lieberman (D) will win reelection over Ned Lamont (D). In August, anti-Iraq War activists knew they could only send an immediate message by targeting Lieberman, but in November they finally have Republicans to target and Lamont has badly lost steam. >>>> Read more Maryland – Leans Dem – Ben Cardin (D) will defeat Michael Steele (R). Though Steele has had a comparatively good month, we just

Larry J. Sabato

A “Deep Blue Sea” in the 2006 Midterms?

Just a few weeks ago, President Bush and the GOP appeared to be staging a remarkable comeback that would have enabled the Republicans to retain their congressional majorities. The Foley scandal and the deteriorating situation in Iraq have changed all that, and it is clear that as of mid-October, there is a Democratic gale a blowin’. We all hope that Samuel L. Jackson isn’t eaten by a shark again, but it’s looking like the GOP’s worst fear might be about to surface. Democrats are moving up–some rapidly–in a wide range of competitive contests for the House, the Foley storm’s chamber of direct impact. For the first time this year, your cautious Crystal Ball now projects a Democratic majority of somewhere between 221 and 225 seats (with 218 needed for control). In fact, to reflect just how precipitously many GOP-held seats have drifted from safe harbor, we have had to jettison not only the “Dirty Thirty” but now the “Ferocious Forty” as well. In their place, meet the “Ferocious FIFTY” theaters of battle, 42 of which are currently held by Republicans. It is indeed noteworthy that since last month’s update, the Crystal Ball can now count an additional ten House districts

Larry J. Sabato

OCTOBER SURPRISE! (And a Leadership Demise?)

One sign that a party is heading downhill is when it literally gives away seats in Congress. In 1994, the Democrats did so. Twelve years later, the Republicans are following suit. Democrats seemed capable of just about one thing in 1994: hemorrhaging seats in Congress. Powerful Illinois Rep. Dan Rostenkowski (D) blew it in a district typically safe for his party after his indictment in a check kiting scandal, Nevada Rep. James Bilbray (D) was felled after it was revealed days before the election that his aide stood to profit millions from lands legislation he had sponsored, and Democrats frittered away more open seats than we care to count by clumsily nominating the weaker (and typically the more liberal) of two candidates in primaries. After all the wreckage had been surveyed, Democrats had lost a grand total of 54 seats, more than enough to forfeit their House majority. From the perspective of one month out from Election Day, it’s difficult to imagine how Republicans could suffer losses in a range anywhere near what Democrats suffered twelve years ago. But it’s still a familiar picture: this year, the GOP has been giving away seats in Congress as if they were extra

David Wasserman and Larry J. Sabato

THE LAY OF THE LAND IN 2006: Republicans Could Stay Dry on Higher Ground

The drumbeat has become the daily background noise in most Beltway political circles, as pervasive as it is percussive. It echoes on today, just as it has for well over a month: in just 40 days and 40 nights, Democrats will wake up to find that they have emerged from four years in the wilderness, having gained the necessary seats in one or both chambers of Congress to win a legislative check on President Bush and restore divided control of government. But not so fast! Yes, back at the beginning of last month, the Crystal Ball observed surer signs of a Democratic “micro-wave” gathering strength on its way to “macro-wave” status. And don’t get us wrong, the minority party remains poised to reap sizeable gains in Senate seats, House seats, and governorships, especially in places where the weakest Republican targets have seemed in danger of getting swept out to sea for many months. But with six weeks left to go until the midterm madness draws to a close, the Crystal Ball sees several indications that the tide may be turning back in the GOP’s favor–at least temporarily. Furthermore, some states are starting to look a lot less susceptible to a

Larry J. Sabato and David Wasserman

Dumb Questions for the 2008 Presidential Contest

Recently I was in a taxi cab in San Antonio, Texas, and tossed out my favorite query for cabbies: “What’s the dumbest question you’ve ever been asked in your cab?” A lovely Latino lady who had been driving passengers for years said, “That’s easy. Just the other day a man asked me when we passed the Alamo, ‘Why in the world did they build the Alamo in the middle of downtown San Antonio?'” Of course, the Alamo structure dates to 1744–long before there was a downtown San Antonio! The Crystal Ball is well aware that it was only last month the Crystal Ball published a piece entitled “Remember the Alamo” with regard to the 2006 battle for the House, but the city of San Antonio seems to be reminding us of all sorts of important lessons this year. Dumb questions for cabbies are one thing. But this early in a presidential contest, dumb questions can elicit revealing answers, because no one can be very sure what will really happen in two years. Let’s try a few: Do the early polls we see really matter? Most of the time, they do. The early frontrunners in the ubiquitous surveys of presidential preferences

Larry J. Sabato

ANGRY POLITICS: “Voters Gone Wild” in 2006

Watch out, folks! As of Tuesday, party nomination contests are “primarily” over (save for three states), and what a primary season it has been. But the same emotion that has characterized the summer primary season–the most powerful emotion in politics–shows scant signs of ebbing as we enter the fall. There’s a lot of anger on the campaign trail in 2006. And it’s anger that is manifesting itself in several different forms: DEMOCRAT vs. REPUBLICAN The normal kind of anger in an election year, but more intense than usual because of polarized feelings about President Bush and the Iraq War among Democrats, and the blogger efforts among Democrats. We are seeing this category of rage play out in most of the highly competitive battles featured in our (NEW!) HotRace Readings tables below. Whether the heated rhetoric has escalated over Iraq (as in Connecticut’s 4th District clash), the economy (as in Michigan’s gubernatorial melee), or corruption (as in New Jersey’s Senate bloodbath), an unusually high number of general election contests have already been nasty for many months. DEMOCRAT vs. DEMOCRAT The rarest public form of anger this year, yes, but it has produced the greatest cataclysm of 2006 so far, in

Larry J. Sabato and David Wasserman

THE POLITICS OF SAD MEMORY: Mega-Moments in Modern American History

The death of Nellie Connally a few days ago brought back an aching shock and a flood of unhappy memories for Americans about fifty years of age and older. The last survivor of the JFK assassination car in Dallas, Mrs. Connally was the final personified reminder of a day that will live in infamy, November 22, 1963. Even now, it is difficult for most older people to recall that day without experiencing anew the terrible horror of an unthinkable act–and feeling the awful melancholy of what might have been. By the way, Mrs. Connally was a prominent disbeliever in the single-bullet theory, an essential component of the lone-assassin conclusion of the Warren Commission Report . The single-bullet theory, devised by a Warren Commission staffer named Arlen Specter (now the senior U.S. senator from Pennsylvania) suggested that one bullet inflicted critical wounds on both President Kennedy and Governor John Connally of Texas. In a private conversation at the LBJ Library in the early ’90s, Mrs. Connally insisted to me that both she and her husband distinctly heard and reacted to the shot that first injured President Kennedy–and it was not the one that nearly killed Connally. John and Nellie Connally apparently

Larry J. Sabato