Saturday, June 9, 2012

A Tightening Race Thanks to Bad Circumstances and Bad Strategy, The All Out Battle for Congress

Days Until the Election: 150
Projected Popular Vote Total: Obama +0.9%
Projected Electoral Vote Total: Obama 303-Romney 235

Projected Senate Total: Republican 50, Democratic 48, Independents 2
Projected House Total: Republican 260, Democratic 175

The Top of the Ticket
Lousy employment news isn't helping President Obama, but neither is a campaign that is off-message and a Presidency that seems out of ideas on the economy.  Infighting among Democrats, including Newark Mayor Cory Booker and former President Bill Clinton over private equity has been a complete distraction, eliminating any air space for him to fight presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney.  With the stimulus money spent, monetary policy about as loose as it can possibly be (between near zero interest rates and quantitative easing) and both payroll and income tax cuts extended through the end of this year, it's not clear at all where the President goes from here on the economy.

While the electoral count doesn't look any different than my last posting, the national polls have tightened significantly and the close states make a Romney win look more viable than it did just a few weeks ago. 

Ratings shifts from my last map:
Colorado - from Likely Obama to Lean Obama
Wisconsin - from Lean Obama to Likely Obama
Michigan - from Strong Obama to Likely Obama
Maine - from Strong Obama to Likely Obama

Mitt Romney's road to the White House is fairly simple now.  Win the states he is presently leading (i.e. hold on to Missouri, North Carolina and Florida) and win the Lean Obama states.  Ohio, Colorado, Iowa and Virginia have a combined 46 electoral votes.  If Romney takes that path, it will give him 281, more than enough to win.  He can afford to give up either Iowa or Colorado, but Ohio and Virginia are must-haves, just as they have been all race.

Do I hear a call to Rob Portman for the Veep spot?

The Senate
The Democratic Party has a near-impossible task of retaining the Senate in 2012, with all of the unlikely upsets they pulled off in the sweep of 2006 up for re-election and a slim majority.  They are hanging on by a thread at the moment, with just enough seats to hold the majority, assuming Bernie Sanders (Independent/Socialist - Vermont) continues to caucus with the Democrats and that likely Maine winner Angus King does as well (as he is expected to), plus the Democratic ticket wins at the top.  But they have a lot of seats at risk.

Excluding the seats up for election this time,  there are 37 Republicans and 30 Democrats who will return to Washington next year.

Of the 33 races up for grabs, here are my latest projections:
Safe or Strong Democratic (13)
California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Washington, West Virginia

Safe or Strong Independent (2)
Maine, Vermont

Likely Democratic (1)

Lean Democratic (4)
Florida, New Mexico, North Dakota, Virginia

Lean Republican (6)
Indiana, Massachusetts, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, Wisconsin

Likely Republican (2)
Arizona, Nebraska

Safe or Strong Republican (5)
Mississippi, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Wyoming

So, in the range of likely scenarios, Republicans could up their total to as many as 54 seats or, if the national tide somehow turns, fall back to 42.  Clearly there is a lot yet to be decided in the Senate.

The House
Republicans have a massive structural advantage in this year's House elections thanks to redistricting.  Republican victories in state houses and gubernatorial races over the past few years have given them the right to draw a lot of congressional districts to their advantage.  Plus, the continued practice of drawing black-majority districts (a product of the Voting Rights Act) naturally concentrates heavily Democratic black voters in a smaller number of House districts, leading to a few solidly Democratic districts in urban areas and a number of modestly Republican seats in the suburbs and exurbs.

How big is the GOP structural advantage?  Looking at the Cook Partisan Voting Index, which measures how much more Republican or Democratic a district is than the nation as a whole, with the new house districts we see:
Solidly Democratic Districts (RPI +10 Democratic or higher) = 111
Likely Democratic Districts (RPI of 5 to 9) = 44
Lean Democratic Districts (RPI of 1 to 4) = 37
Toss-Up Districts (RPI = 0) = 9
Lean Republican Districts (RPI of 1 to 4) = 45
Likely Republican Districts (RPI of 5 to 9) = 78
Solidly Republican Districts (RPI +10 Republican or higher) = 111

What this means is that if the Congressional vote split exactly 50/50, the GOP would win between 234 and 243 seats, a solid majority in either case.  For the Democrats to get to the magic number of 218, they would need to win nationally by about 2%.

And at the moment, they trail in the generic ballot by 2%, leading to a very solid GOP majority.

A lot could change in this projection as a few point swing can have big effects on the House total.  But it sure looks good for the GOP in the House at this stage of the game.

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