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2010 House

Sabato's Crystal Ball


Over the last generation a cottage industry has built up decrying the lack of competition in congressional elections. Not only have the House reelection rates been high, but so have the margins of victory. In each election from 1998 through 2008, no more than 15% of House winners were elected with less than 55% of the total vote in their district. But there are signs that the era of such pro-incumbent results may be ebbing. In 2010, the level of competition in congressional elections spiked. The number of sub-55% winners (often described as “marginals”) jumped to 25% of the entire House, the highest percentage in any election since 1992. And this quantitative measurement does not include such high-profile races as those involving Democratic Reps. Alan Grayson of Florida and Chet Edwards of Texas, where the incumbents lost in a landslide. Rather than an aberration, the 2010 results could very well portend the start of a new, more competitive era of House elections—one that could last at least as long as the economy remains sluggish, voters remain disgruntled, and Congress appears dysfunctional. For much of the last few decades, there were compelling reasons for a dearth of competition in House races.

Rhodes Cook

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


A simple map of House gains in November 2010 is quite revealing. Source: Compiled by Joe Figueroa, U.Va. Center for Politics Every red dot represents a Republican pick-up (66 in all). The three blue dots are the sum total of Democratic takeovers in GOP districts (Delaware-AL, Louisiana-2, and Hawaii-1). The net Republican gain appears to settling in at 63. Thirty-three states gave the GOP at least one additional seat. The Election Day “wave” for the Republicans produced a bumper crop of 23 new seats in the South and Border States, where the GOP traditionally does well. This region accounted for more than a third of total Republican gains. But the key to the Republican House takeover occurred in the North Central states through the industrial Midwest. Pennsylvania (5), Ohio (5), and most surprisingly, New York (6) and Illinois (4) joined Indiana (2), Maryland (1), Michigan (2), Minnesota (1), New Hampshire (2), and New Jersey (1) in shifting a regional total of 29 to the GOP. A good deal of this is simply a restoration of the pre-2006 status quo. Republicans lost some previously safe seats in the Democratic years of 2006 and 2008, and what goes around, comes around. Take

Larry J. Sabato


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

House Race Changes

Polling, independent expenditures, and the general intensification of campaigns across the country provide us with new clues about the November outcome that is in store. Our overall view of the Republican wave remains the same, at a GOP net pick-up of 47 seats, but we now know more about which seats are truly endangered and where each side was just tilting at windmills. This week, we make 26 changes to our House ratings. Among our changes this week, there is a lone bright spot for Democrats. In OH-13, incumbent Betty Sutton looks to have dodged the danger, as her GOP challenger has pulled his ads and seems to have thrown in the towel following allegations of sexual harassment. We move this race from Leans Democratic to Likely Democratic. Most of the movement, however, is in the Republican direction. For the first time this year, the Crystal Ball is moving Democratic-held seats into the Likely Republican category. Democrats have now tipped their hand about where they will be concentrating their resources and these seven open seat races did not make the cut. As a result we move the following races from Leans Republican to Likely Republican: AR-2, IN-8, KS-3, LA-3, NY-29,

Isaac Wood

House Ratings Changes

With the Crystal Ball shifting 21 House race ratings in their direction last week, the national picture looks bright for Republicans, both from a birds-eye view and also from a race-by-race perspective. This week we nudge three more Democratic-held House seats into more competitive categories, as we hone in on where exactly the GOP gains we have long projected will come from. As a result of these changes, Democrats now hold 28 seats we already have leaning towards the Republicans, and they are playing defense in another 22 districts they currently hold which we list as “Toss-Ups.” For their part, Republicans hold just two seats currently rated “Leans Democratic” plus two additional “Toss-Up” seats. All together, we consider 95 Democratic-held districts to be competitive at this juncture, while only 17 Republican seats are in play. IL-11 (Halvorson-D): Rep. Debbie Halvorson’s 2008 victory went from nail-biter to blowout, as she ended up with a 58%-34% margin of victory despite running in an open seat race in Republican territory. With a stronger Republican nominee on the ballot, no hometown Obama coattails to ride, and the Democratic brand now severely tarnished, this election never seemed as easy. Her GOP opponent is 32 year-old

Isaac Wood

House Ratings Changes

As Election Day nears, more of the House election picture comes into focus. While our overall view of the level of Republican gains remains unchanged at +47 seats, we are changing the ratings of many key races as the list of endangered seats, and their relative degrees of vulnerability, becomes clear. This week we are changing the ratings of 21 House races, all in the direction of the GOP, including 10 seats formerly listed as Toss-Ups that are now leaning into the Republican column. Toss-Up to Leans Republican (10 races) AZ-01 (Kirkpatrick-D): When an incumbent releases a month-old internal poll showing her statistically tied with her challenger and significantly under 50%, it is a sure sign she is feeling the heat. That is the case for Ann Kirkpatrick, a freshman Democrat who finds herself in the unenviable position of hailing from a state where GOPers are fired up about everything from immigration to the economy and itching to send a message to Obama. Republican Paul Gosar, a dentist, is her general election opponent and is already up on television with help from the NRCC, which seems to be all-in on ensuring her defeat. With state winds blowing in the GOP

Isaac Wood

Will the Republicans Win Back the House in November?

This week the Crystal Ball publishes a prediction that suggests the House majority may stay with the Democrats, written by Professor Alfred G. Cuzan of the University of West Florida. While Professor Cuzan makes a compelling case, the Crystal Ball’s unique dual method—examining all 435 House races individually and incorporating the result of statistical analysis based on past elections and developed over many years by Professor Alan Abramowitz, one of our Senior Columnists at the Crystal Ball—has pointed to a House gain of +47 seats for the GOP, which would deliver the majority into Republican hands. We urge our readers to consider Professor Cuzan’s analysis and arguments, and decide for themselves which outcome they believe is more likely. – Larry J. Sabato, Editor For the Republicans to regain control of the House of Representatives this year, they need to wrest away 40 of the 257 seats the Democrats won in 2008.  Put differently, the Democratic representation needs to be reduced by almost 16%.  To evaluate the likelihood of that eventuality, we begin with the well-known fact that historically the party of the president, the incumbents, almost always incurs a net loss of House seats in midterm elections.  As shown in

Alfred G. Cuzán

What to Expect in 2010

The Gallup Poll’s final likely voter poll has proven to be a highly accurate predictor of the results of midterm elections for the House of Representatives. In 13 midterm elections between 1950 and 2006 for which Gallup estimated the preferences of likely voters, the correlation between the Republican margin among likely voters in the final pre-election poll and the actual Republican margin in the national popular vote is an impressive .94. Moreover, the average difference between the predicted Republican vote margin and the actual Republican vote margin in these 13 elections is only 2 percentage points. Given the accuracy of the Gallup’s final likely voter poll in predicting the outcome of the national popular vote for the House of Representatives, it is not surprising that this poll also does a very good job of predicting the division of seats between the parties. The correlation between the Republican margin among likely voters in the final pre-election poll and the number of House seats won by Republicans in the election is .91 which means that the final likely voter poll explains 82 percent of the variation in Republican House seats. Despite the strong relationship between the results of Gallup’s final likely voter

Alan I. Abramowitz

House Ratings Changes

GA-2 (Sanford Bishop-D): After nearly two decades in Congress in a Southwest Georgia district that is nearly 50% African-American, Democrat Sanford Bishop was not exactly at the top of many Republican target lists. Given the Republican wave that seems to be brewing, however, and the potential for a greatly diminished minority turnout in 2010, he suddenly is in a fight for his political life. State legislator Mike Keown will be the GOP standard-bearer and he should be able to keep up financially with Bishop, who had just $400,000 in the bank at the end of June. In a midterm year, and especially this one, Bishop could be vulnerable, so we are moving this from Safe Democratic to LIKELY DEMOCRATIC. KY-3 (John Yarmuth-D): This race has been something of a sleeper, as Democrats felt incumbent John Yarmuth could hold his own in a district that usually goes slightly Democratic in presidential years. In a midterm year, however, the two-term congressman could be endangered as a new SurveyUSA poll indicated, showing Yarmuth with just a two-point advantage, 47%-45%. Yarmuth’s GOP opponent is Todd Lally, a veteran of the war in Iraq, who Republicans think can capitalize on the frustration with DC and

Isaac Wood