Sunday, March 7, 2010

2010 Federal Round-Up, Assessing the Latest Employment Picture, Health Care Clock Ticking

2010 Round-Up
Let's take a look at the latest.

First, the Senate:
We have 10 races with fresh polls and of these, 3 move in rating category. The net of these changes are marginally favorable to the GOP, with 2 moving to the right and 1 moving left.

First, the moves:
Pennsylvania -- moves from Lean GOP Pick-Up to Toss-up - Arlen Specter leads Pat Toomey by 7 points in a new Quinnipiac Poll. Toomey had been leading by single digits in polls in recent weeks, so this could be a fluke or be overly generous, so I'm not ready to move this back into Specter's column until I see more data.

Colorado -- moves from Toss-Up to Lean GOP Pick-Up - both Buck and Norton lead incumbent Democrat Bennett in three new polls with spreads of 5 to 9%.

North Carolina -- moves from Lean GOP Hold to Likely GOP Hold incumbent Republican Burr is up by 16% in the latest Rasmussen Poll and has led every poll from every firm so far in 2010.

Now the other 7 races with fresh polling data that reconfirm existing race ratings:
Arkansas -- latest Rasmussen poll shows 3 potential GOP opponents leading incumbent Dem Lincoln by 2 to 9 points. The race remains a Lean GOP PIck-up.

Nevada -- the latest polls have the 2 potential GOPers leading Majority Leader Reid by 9 to 13 points. This one is close to moving back a notch right, but for now it remains a Lean GOP Pick-Up.

Indiana -- a bevy of polls have come out since Bayh's announced retirement and the spread has been anywhere from even to +10% GOP. We'll leave this a Lean GOP Pick-Up, although it clearly could move in either direction, depending on the candidates.

Connecticut -- Blumenthal is still up by a very comfortable spread of 26 to 29 points in the latest polls. This race remains a Safe Democratic Hold.

New York (Gillebrand) -- Gillebrand is up by 2 points against Pataki in a new poll. This race stays a Toss-Up.

Illinois -- A new Research 2000 Poll has Dem Giannoulis at +7%, an earlier Feb Rasmussen Poll had GOPer Kirk at +6%. This race stays a Toss-Up for now.

Ohio -- Republican Portman leads by small, but consistent spreads of 3 to 5 points in 3 different polls. This race stays a Lean GOP Hold.

Missouri -- Republican Blunt still +7% in latest Rasmussen poll. Remains a Lean GOP Hold.

So, this leaves us with:
Safe Democratic Holds (4)
Maryland, Connecticut, New York (Schumer), Vermont

Likely Democratic Holds (3)
Washington, Hawaii, Oregon

Lean Democratic Holds (2)
California, Wisconsin

Toss-Up - DEM Controlled (3)
Pennsylvania, New York (Gillebrand), Illinois

Lean GOP Pick-Up (5)
Arkansas, Nevada, Delaware, Indiana, Colorado

Lean GOP Hold (5)
New Hampshire, Kentucky, Ohio, Missouri, Arizona

Likely GOP Hold (5)
North Carolina, Georgia, Alaska, Kansas, Florida

Safe GOP Pick-Up (1)
North Dakota

Safe GOP Hold (8)
Louisiana, Iowa, South Dakota, Alabama, Idaho, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah

Net Projection: GOP +6 to 9 Seats (10 needed to control Senate)
Best Case GOP (all leaners) - GOP +11 Seats
Best Case DEM (all leaners) - DEM +4 Seats

Still in the same place we have been for all of 2010, with the GOP poised to make big inroads in the Senate, but shy of enough to win control.

In the House:
The generic polling has actually tightened somewhat, with the average of averages in our poll of polls showing the GOP at +0.7%.

This implies: GOP +31 Seats

So, again, the GOP stands to make substantial gains, but is shy of the number (39 to 40, depending on how you count it) needed to gain an outright majority.

The Latest Employment Report
For the month of February, the unemployment rate remained at 9.7%, retaining the gains that were made in January. The unemployment rate is off from its high of 10.1% but is still hovering at a level that is among the highest of the past 30 years.

Those "underemployed" -- working part time for economic reasons increased from 8.3 million to 8.8 million. The number of those "marginally attached", that is those that are not officially counted as unemployed because they have either given up and stopped looking or are not looking for other reasons, remained constant at 2.5 million.

So, in total, the "underemployment rate" increased form 16.7% to 17.1%.

Not good news in total, but some bright spots.

First, the official unemployment rate held on to gains for the month, which few (other than myself) predicted. Secondly, the entire increase is due to "underemployment", that is, people are working, just not getting as many hours as they would like...the discouraged number didn't increase nor did those that were outright unemployed.

So, in total, we still have a long slog to get back something that resembles more normal unemployment rates, but things continue to stabilize.

There has been a lot of speculating on the winter weather adversely impacting the report, and the BLS acknowledge that it surely did have a negative impact, but they are not able to precisely quantify the effect. If true, that SHOULD mean a more favorable report in March, all else being equal. We'll stay tuned.

Stimulus funds continue to slowly trickle out. Spending against President Obama's signature economic program so far is as follows:
Tax Cuts -- $92.8 billion out of $288 billion spent (32.2%)
Spending -- $194.9 billion out of $499 billion spent (39.1%)
Total Bill -- $287.7 billion out of $787 billion spent (36.6%)

Health Care Clock Ticking
There have been a lot of "deadlines" in the health care debate -- remember Labor Day 2009? How about the end of 2009? The latest theory in the political class is that if Congress doesn't act by Easter, the bill won't happen. While timelines can help to clarify the debate, they are all artificial. The only real deadline for reform this year is the adjournment of Congress. After that, bills that have already been passed expire, Representatives and Senators head to the campaign trail and, eventually a new congress comes in, one likely to be a lot less favorable to doing anything on the scale that President Obama is looking for.

Having said that, President Obama has been turning up the heat over the past week with a fire that many would've liked him to show a year ago. Nancy Pelosi is searching for a way to satisfy enough Blue Dogs and abortion opponents in her caucus to get to passage.

You'll know this is for real when a vote gets scheduled in the House. So far that has not happened. That means that Pelosi doesn't have the votes, not yet.

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