Monday, May 25, 2009

2010 Congressional Projection Update

It is still a long way until the 2010 election (526 days to be precise), but as usual, I'm on top of the latest polls to give you a view of what is to come. As things stand today, things still look pretty bleak for the GOP. The battlefield and public opinion are still not in their favor and I don't see a path at present for them to retake either house of congress. Of course, 526 days is a lifetime in politics, so everything could still change, but here are how things are stacking up today.

The Senate
Key Changes from Last Projection
Colorado -- moves from a toss-up to a lean Republican pick-up -- a new poll shows Sen. Bennett (D) with a -7% approve minus disapprove. This one looks ripe for the taking.

Illinois -- moves from lean Democratic hold to toss-up -- Sen. Burris (D) is so unpopular that he must be defeated in the primary for the Dems to have a chance and the eventual nominee may be wounded, even in this very blue state.

Kentucky -- moves from toss-up to lean Democratic pick-up -- Sen. Bunning (R) is the most unpopular member of congress and still says he is running -- he losses in polling to all possible Democratic contenders. Similar to Illinois in reverse, the GOP must get him gone to hold the seat.

Ohio -- moves from toss-up to lean Democratic pick-up -- state continues to trend blue in this open seat and potential match-ups show the Democrats with a 6% or 7% lead.

North Carolina -- moves from toss-uo to lean Republican hold -- recent polls show Sen. Burr (R) with a 4% to 5% lead over likely challengers. This one is still close, but back in the GOP column

Georgia -- moves from safe Republican hold to lean Republican hold -- shockingly, this race appears to be within 5%.

So, the state of things is:
Safe Democratic Holds (8)
Hawaii, Maryland, New York (2), Oregon, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin

Lkely Democratic Holds (5)
Delaware, Indiana, Nevada, North Dakota, Pennsylvania

Lean Democratic Holds (2)
Arkansas, California

Lean Democratic Pick-ups (2)
Kentucky, Ohio

Toss-ups (2D, 2R)
Illinois (D), Connecticut (D), New Hampshire (R), Missouri (R)

Lean Republican Pick-up (1)

Lean Republican Hold (3)
North Carolina, Florida, Georgia

Likely Republican Hold (5)

Alaska, Arizona, Iowa, Kansas, South Dakota

Safe Republican Hold (6)
Alabama, Idaho, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah

Current Senate
(assuming Al Franken is seated): 58 Democrats, 40 Republicans, 2 Independents (both caucus with Democrats -- 1 Socialist, 1 Independent Democrat)

Projected Range 2010 Senate:
57-61 Democrats, 37-41 Republicans, 2 Independents

Central Projection
(evenly splitting toss-ups): 59 Democrats, 39 Republicans, 2 Independents

So at least now, Republicans don't stand to gain much ground and could actually lose a few seats. Mid-term elections historical tend to, but do not always, favor the party out of power. The best case scenario for the GOP is probably for them to pick-up all the toss-ups and move the polls about 5-6% where they could pick-up all the "lean Democratic" seats as well. This scenario would see them potentially 7 additional Senate seats, which would leave the chamber with 50 Democrats, 48 Republicans and 2 Independents. Still Democratic control, with the Independents caucusing with Republicans, but it would give them all kinds of new options in terms of fillibustering legislation that they do not have today. I don't consider this the likely scenario at this point (the most likely scenario is my central projection), but it is certainly not outside the realm of possibility that the GOP could gain 5 to 6% nationally between now and November 2010.

The House

Current generic polling shows a range in the polls of Democrats +1% to Democrats +8%, with a central average of Democrats +5%. This gives us the following range projection range:

Potential Range: from +1 Democrats to +22 Republicans

Central Projection: +8 Republicans

Current Make-up of the House:
257 Democrats, 178 Republicans

Projection Range:
235-258 Democrats, 177 to 200 Republicans

Central Projection:
249 Democrats, 186 Republicans

2008 was an absolutely horrid year for the GOP in House races, with the Democrats winning over 55% of the vote nationally for House seats and sweeping in the largest Democratic majority since the 1992 elections. Of course, in a historical testament to how quickly things can change, you will recall that Democrats turned around and lost the house in 1994 with former Rep. Newt Gingrich (R)'s Contract with America. I could point out that most of the Contract, which included a balanced budget ammendment to the constitution, repeal of the marriage penalty, tort reform and congressional term limits was never passed (although other elements, such as a child tax credit, did become law), but that is beside the point. A focused Republican party with a clear vision could take back seats. The House is currently more Democratic than the country's core philsophy, so I expected the GOP to make gains in 2010. Whether they are the modest gains I am presently projecting or something more substantial depend on the GOP's vision and the President's performance over the next 2 years. I do not, at present, see a path for the GOP to retake the House, but as I said, at lot can happen in 526 days.

The Upcoming Supreme Court Fight
Word is that President Obama may name his nominee to replace Supreme Court Justice David Souter as early as tomorrow. The leading candidates are rumored to be Sonia Sotomayor (a liberal federal circuit judge of Puerto Rican heritage), Diane Wood (a moderately liberal federal appeals court judge), Elena Kagan (U.S. solicitor general) and Jennifer Granholm (Democratic governor of Michigan, born in Canada.) Sotomayor would be the first Hispanic ever appointed to the high court and all 4 of the reported nominees would be only the third woman appointed (Sandra Day O'Connor was the first appointed by Ronald Reagan and Ruth Bader Ginsberg appointed by Bill Clinton was the second.)

Republicans such as Sen. John Kyl (R-AZ) have already threatened a fillibuster, although it appears pretty clear that barring an unqualified nominee, they would not have the votes to block a nominee as the 57 Democrats would likely be completely unified, the 2 Independents are likely to vote with the Democrats and moderate Republicans such as Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) are unlikely to vote to uphold a fillibuster for a qualified nominee.

It does show how quickly things change. I recall a few short years ago, the Republican argument that fillibusters were wrong for judges and threatening "the nuclear option" to end the fililbuster for judicial nominations. Democrats decried this potential tactic as an affront to Democracy. Funny how both parties have now exactly reversed their traditions.

Oh well, prepare for some contrived drama.

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