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2010 Governor

Sabato's Crystal Ball

The Democrats’ Fab Four, Revisited

Sandwiched between the Democrats’ disappointing 2002 election cycle and their 2010 “shellacking,” the party made significant gains during the three, mid-decade intervening elections of 2004, 2006 and 2008. And nowhere were the party’s gains more impressive than in four states: Colorado, New Hampshire, Ohio and Virginia. This quartet of states has emerged as a purple battleground over which the two major parties have recently fought for political supremacy and, by extension, majority status nationally. And they are an interesting mix of states, at that: Colorado is a fast-growing Interior West state with a sizable Hispanic population; New Hampshire is an iconoclastic New England state whose southern counties have been steadily colonized by Boston suburbanites; Ohio is an aging, post-industrial Midwest state that has steadily lost jobs and residents to other parts of the country; and Virginia is a split-personality state coupling a white, conservative Appalachian spine and a multi-ethnic, Northern Virginia tech park explosion. Despite these differences, 2010 proved prosperous for the GOP in all four. Let’s look at results in federal races and governors contest in each state (party identifiers are omitted below because, except where noted otherwise, every 2010 victor mentioned is a Republican and every defeated candidate

Thomas F. Schaller


The memorable Republican victories of 1994 and 2010 are already linked as the two largest midterm landslides of the last half century. But one was not a duplicate of the other. The GOP came out of this year’s election with more seats in the House of Representatives than they did 16 years ago, but short of the total the party amassed then in Senate seats and governorships. And while Republicans captured both the Senate and House in 1994, this year they won only the House. Yet in each of the landslides they emerged with a clear majority of the nation’s governorships and scored healthy gains in state legislative races – both particularly important these days on the eve of the next round of congressional redistricting. In short, while there are similarities between the two elections, there are also notable differences as well. On the House side, Republicans gained a net of 52 seats in 1994, which lifted their total to 230. This year, they have already registered a net gain of 60 House seats, with several races to be decided. As of Nov. 15, the GOP total of House seats in the 112th Congress stood at 239. That is already

Rhodes Cook

2010 By the Numbers

SENATE 37 The number of Senate races on the November ballot, the most since 1962. 2 The number of appointed U.S. senators to survive the election, Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). The four others didn’t run: Ted Kaufman (D-DE), Roland Burris (D-IL), George LeMieux (R-FL), Carte Goodwin (D-WV). 1 The number of senators ever elected as write-in candidates. If Republican Lisa Murkowski’s apparent lead in November 2nd balloting can survive the slew of legal and procedural challenges, she would become the second ever, joining Republican Strom Thurmond of South Carolina who accomplished the feat in 1954. $608,964,299 The total amount spent by candidates for U.S. Senate this year. Republican candidates barely outspent their Democratic rivals, $304 million to $289 million, while the remainder of the $609 million spending spree was racked up by Independent and third-party candidates. HOUSE 97 The likely number—pending a handful of recounts—of first-term members of the U.S. House, the most since 1992 and the second greatest number of House freshmen since 1948. 5 The number of new House members who have served in the chamber previously. Three were Republicans who lost in 2008 but reclaimed their old seats in this election: Tim Walberg in

Larry J. Sabato

The Results Are In!

Tuesday night marked the end of yet another successful season for the Crystal Ball, the fifth congressional election cycle in which we have offered our predictions. It was a historic night for Republicans and a sobering one for Democrats who had seen the past two election cycles go their way. Because we believe in fundamentals as much as campaigns, we were convinced the election was over—as far as the basic outcome—by August. That’s why we at the Crystal Ball were the first to forecast a solid GOP takeover of the House, doing so before Labor Day. At that time we projected +47 net Republican gains as a floor, not a ceiling. It was certainly perceived as audacious at the time, but turned out to be a harbinger of what was to come—both from the campaign and from our fellow analysts. In addition, we kept with our tradition of calling every single House race, which is unique among the nationally-recognized ratings services. In the end we achieved 98% accuracy, which is more than we expected in such a topsy-turvy wave year. At the same time, we never once in 2010 could find the 10 seats that the GOP needed in order

Larry J. Sabato

Election Eve Special

SENATE The following are the closest Senate races as of election eve: AK, CO, IL, NV, PA, WA, and WV. The Crystal Ball predicts a net gain for Republicans of 8 seats in the Senate. They must pick up 10 seats to control the majority. GOVERNOR We have decided to change our rating in only one contest: Connecticut Governor. Republican Tom Foley appears to have popped up in the last few days to lead Democrat Dan Malloy in a very close match-up. Malloy has led for months, but the GOP tilt of 2010 has given Foley the extra altitude he may need. If Foley wins it will be remarkable, since Republicans have controlled the governorship of Connecticut consistently since the election of 1994. Connecticut is generally considered a Blue Democratic state. Keep your eyes on the following highly competitive races for potential upsets: CA, CO, CT, FL, HI, IL, MA, MN, OH, OR, and VT. The Crystal Ball predicts a net gain for Republicans of 9 governorships. HOUSE In the House, the Crystal Ball continues to project a net gain of +55 seats for the GOP. Republicans need only a 39 seat pick-up to capture the majority. Of course, there

Larry J. Sabato and Isaac Wood


The time has finally come in this two-year election cycle to make the final calls. Thanks to everyone who has helped us by providing background info, tips, private polls, observations, and constructive criticism. We operate on the proverbial shoestring and we’re outside the Beltway (a plus and a minus), so we can always use the assistance. Our tradition is that we make a prediction in every contest. We’ve been studying these states, districts, and candidates for many years, and we feel entitled! We’re proud of our record over the years, but inevitably we will be wrong with some calls. Apologies for those in advance. Students sometimes ask how I ever got into this game. I first published a state-by-state set of predictions in 1978. To my surprise, the exercise turned out well. In 1980 I won a DC-based election pool, and with that cash incentive, I was hooked. (No, I haven’t bet on elections in decades, and professional prognosticators shouldn’t.) HOUSE The Crystal Ball was the first nonpartisan ratings service to call the House for the Republicans this year. Before Labor Day we issued a projection of +47 net gains for the Republicans. We based this both on a district-by-district

Larry J. Sabato


NEXT WEEK: The Crystal Ball makes its calls. We will update our overall numbers in every category, and pick a winner in each race. We’ll be right in some, wrong in others. But hey, that’s the fun of it! Join in our fun, same time, same place, October 28th. THIS WEEK: Below we list our latest ratings for Senate, Governor, and House, as well as links to our coverage of every single Senate and Governor race, plus all of the competitive races for U.S. House. SENATE The Crystal Ball predicts a net gain for Republicans of 8-9 seats in the Senate. They must pick up 10 seats to control the majority. For full analysis of each individual Senate race, please click here. GOVERNOR The Crystal Ball predicts a net gain for Republicans of 8 governorships. They currently hold 24 governorships to 26 held by Democrats. For full analysis of each individual governor’s race, please click here. HOUSE The Crystal Ball predicts a net gain for Republicans of 47 seats in the House. They must pick up 39 seats to control the majority. There are 116 competitive House races as of today. Democrats currently hold 99 House seats that are rated

Larry J. Sabato


As alert readers of the Crystal Ball will note, we have not changed our projection of +47 Republican net House seats in many weeks. We made this prediction prior to Labor Day, and we were the first to say definitively that, in our estimate, the new House would be controlled by the GOP. At the time, our number startled many, though it now seems less surprising with just 19 days to go in the campaign. As we pledged six weeks ago, we will tweak our House number in the final days of the campaign. If we were to do so today, we would expand the GOP gains by single-digits. But we see no reason to change it just now since (1) we’ve been pleased to see other nonpartisan prognosticators moving ever closer to our number; and (2) factors specific to the closest House contests will play out over the dwindling days of the 2010 campaign. We retain confidence in our prediction as an approximation of the final results. Concerning the Senate, the Democrats still appear to have a small edge to maintain narrow control—but Republicans have the opportunity to run the table, win a net +10 seats, and gain a

Larry J. Sabato


In every election cycle there are contests that one party “should” win but does not, usually because its partisans have chosen unwisely in the party primary. These are the ones that got away, to the consternation of party leaders who want to win above all else. Before identifying these lost (or possibly lost) contests, let’s remember that nothing in the Constitution or laws requires a party’s voters to pick winners. As in the now-famous Delaware Republican primary for Senate, a majority appeared inclined to use the ballot to send a message to the party establishment, rather than select a candidate who could actually become senator. That is the voters’ right. By no means has this phenomenon been restricted to Republicans over the years. For example, Democrats sometimes chose the same route in the late 1960s and early 1970s to demonstrate their unhappiness with party leaders about the Vietnam War or the lack of openness in the party. Tea Party adherents in 2010 understand this impulse. While Christine O’Donnell’s followers insist that everyone else will eat crow on November 2nd, you cannot find many election analysts who believe she will be in the winner’s circle, while moderate Congressman Michael Castle (R)

Larry J. Sabato

Midterm Morsels

For now, we are comfortable with the overall projections that we have in the Senate (+7-8 Republican seats) and for Governorships (+8 Republican seats). But that doesn’t mean all the individual contests around the country are static. We have a few ratings changes to announce, and the Crystal Ball also has other races on a watch list. Alaska Senate: A couple of very recent polls have shown Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R/I) making a race out of it as a write-in, following her narrow GOP primary defeat by Tea Party candidate Joe Miller. We’re a bit dubious, since a write-in takes some effort, and a candidate’s backing in pre-election surveys is unlikely to be matched by real votes in the election. Nonetheless, it is now a contest with an indeterminate winner, though we suspect Miller will win in the end. Three things are quite likely. First, Democrat Scott McAdams is going to finish third. Second, the more of his votes that defect to Murkowski, who is considerably more moderate than Miller, the more likely the incumbent is to win. And third, since either Miller or Murkowski will sit in the GOP Senate caucus, the election result doesn’t affect control of the

Larry J. Sabato

Midterm Morsels

Below we list some changes to our Senate and Governor ratings in a few key states, as well as a smattering of thoughts on a few other races of note. Next week the Crystal Ball will revisit some of our House ratings, with several significant changes in the works. Stay tuned. OHIO GOVERNOR (CHANGE: Toss-Up to Leans R) With the national and state economy in the dumps, incumbent Democratic Governor Ted Strickland’s campaign seems to be headed that way as well. A slew of polls, both partisan and independent, now show a discernible edge for the Republican nominee, former Congressman John Kasich. The television ad war is in full swing; the candidates met last week in their first debate; and Vice President Joe Biden has been making frequent trips in an attempt to boost Strickland’s fortunes. Despite a ratcheting up of rhetoric on both sides, it will take a major change in the midterm election atmosphere to alter the trajectory of this contest. Change from Toss-Up to Leans R. OHIO SENATE (CHANGE: Leans R to Likely R): What is happening in the Ohio Governor’s battle is even more apparent in the U.S. Senate contest in the Buckeye State. All of

Larry J. Sabato

Midterm Morsels

Just having issued our Labor Day predictions, we’re not quite ready to call any of the remaining toss-ups or change any ratings (with one prominent exception), but we thought we’d share our current inclinations on a few of them in “nutshell” form. Colorado Senate: After a visit last week, it’s more obvious than ever that the Republicans have completely blown their good opportunity to win the state governorship. Their tarnished nominee, Dan Maes, has been abandoned by just about everyone in the party after revelations about his past, and former Congressman Tom Tancredo (R) is splitting what remains of the GOP vote by running as an independent. As we have said for some time, Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper (D) is the unofficial Governor-elect. But what we picked up was interesting. Like many competitive Purple states, Colorado wants to send the Democrats a message. Since they cannot do it for Governor, they appear more likely to pay the postage in the Senate race, by supporting Republican nominee Ken Buck, a Tea Party candidate, against appointed Sen. Michael Bennet (D). Several sharp political observers in the Centennial State pointed this out to us. An odd psychology may be at work. It’s still

Larry J. Sabato


For decades I’ve advised students to let the facts speak for themselves, while avoiding the indulgence of shouting at the facts. In other words, we should take in all the available, reliable information; process it; and let the emerging mosaic tell its story—whether the picture pleases or not. The human (and partisan) tendency to twist facts into pretzels in order to produce a desired result must be avoided at all costs. We’ve been patient and cautious here at the Crystal Ball as a year’s worth of facts has accumulated. We’ve sifted the polls, cranked up the models, and watched the candidates and campaigns closely. All political observers have “gut feelings” about an election year, but feelings make for good songs and lousy predictions. Forecasting is an imprecise art. People who get too far ahead of the facts or are too insistent about what will happen are usually partisans—openly or in disguise. The Crystal Ball’s predictions are clinical. We are fond of people in both parties. We cheer for no one. 2010 was always going to be a Republican year, in the midterm tradition. It has simply been a question of degree. Several scenarios were possible, depending in large measure on

Larry J. Sabato

Caught in the Tide

Governors are key players in the American federal system. In addition to administering complex bureaucratic organizations with vital responsibilities and multi-billion dollar budgets, they are expected to propose their own legislative programs, work closely with their state’s congressional delegation, communicate their goals to the public, and lead their state parties in elections. Moreover, in recent years the nation’s statehouses have frequently served as launching pads for presidential campaigns. Four of the last six presidents served as governors before moving on to the White House and several of the leading contenders for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination are current or former governors. Given the vital role of governors in American politics, it is somewhat surprising that political scientists have paid scant attention to gubernatorial elections. While there is a vast literature on congressional elections, only a handful of studies have focused on gubernatorial elections, perhaps because they appear to be so idiosyncratic—shaped by local candidates and issues. But appearances can be deceiving. I present evidence in this article that gubernatorial elections are strongly influenced by national political tides and that their outcomes can be predicted with a high degree of accuracy by the same factors that predict the outcomes of congressional

Alan I. Abramowitz


One reason why people are attracted to politics is because, like sports, there are usually clear winners and losers. Moral ambiguity and shades of gray may overwhelm other sectors of life, but not the bottom-line of elections. Only finality on November 2 really matters. Raising more money or winning a primary or seeing your opponent sink into a scandal is a kind of victory, but it’s transient. Still, you savor what you can on your way to Judgment Day. Here’s a sampling of winners and losers from the last week. We could do a list like this every week, and in a way, we do. This time, we’re making it explicit. JAN BREWER—WINNER. The interim unelected Republican governor of Arizona, who succeeded Janet Napolitano when she joined the Obama Cabinet in early 2009, was regarded as weak from the start. Democrats were aghast at her social conservatism, and ambitious Republicans saw her as an easy mark in the 2010 primary. Then she sponsored a sales tax increase of one cent for the next three years to plug the state’s budget holes, and much of the anti-tax GOP base started looking for other candidates. Several pols obliged, and state Treasurer Dean

Larry J. Sabato