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Guest: What are Democrats’ chances this November?

BY STEFFEN SCHMIDT - GUEST OPINION | APRIL 14, 2010 7:30 AM

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I recently dusted off my political crystal ball to answer the most pressing issue on people’s minds: “How will the Democrats fare in 2010?”

Here is what the future looks like:

“As we head toward November’s mid-term elections, the outlook remains dire for Democrats. For the trajectory of this campaign season to change in their favor, two things need to happen — unemployment must drop significantly, and the public’s attitude toward the new health-care reform law must become much more positive. Neither seems likely, though.” That’s according to Charlie Cook in the National Journal.

Chris Cillizza, writing for the Washington Post, reports that there is some consensus among independent analysts that the Republicans could gain 25 seats in the House and might even win a majority in the Senate. A non-scientific poll of readers of his column found that 44 percent believe the Democrats will hang on to majorities in both the House and Senate, with 32 percent saying the Democrats will lose control of both.

I always check on Intrade, the online trading market because over the long run it has proven to be very accurate and has much better graphics and more buzz than other online markets for politics. As I write this, Intrade predicts a seven-seat gain for Republicans in the Senate. As for House of Representative races, the stock price for Democrats winning has been declining, while the GOP winning stock has been sharply rising. The overall prediction from Intrade stocks is that the Republicans will gain 35 House seats.

Remember that all of this depends on the Democrats failing to regain the confidence of voters by better explaining the health-reform bill and on the economy staying in the doldrums with weak job creation (which is what many economists predict for many years into the future).

Dave Cook, writing in the Christian Science Monitor, reports that when it comes to gubernatorial races, Gov. Jack Markell of Delaware, who chairs the Democratic Governors Association, refused to say exactly how many races the Democrats could win. That’s in stark contrast to the prediction by the Republican Governors head Haley Barbour’s prediction that the GOP would win 30 gubernatorial races.

One other prediction problem is that there are many races in which candidates have not yet been chosen in primaries. That means we are projecting purely on the history of states and districts’ past voting behavior. These numbers can still change depending on who the final contenders are in November. Also, there are nine tossup states (they can go either way), which is a huge overall number for Senate races. They include Nevada, Colorado, New Hampshire, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. There are also 28 tossup states for House races, according to the Cook Political Report.

I think, overall, the political climate suggests that it’s the Republicans to lose. However, given some of the uncertainties in their brand — the impact of the Tea Party movement, Michael Steele, the flamboyant chairman of the Republican National Committee, and some intense primary races, such as the Arizona contest with Sen. John McCain — these “favorables” could vanish in the sand of time between now and November.

Steffen Schmidt is a professor of political science at Iowa State University. He provides weekly political analysis for Iowa Public Radio and periodically in Spanish for CNN en Español. He also serves as chief political and foreign correspondent for InsiderIowa.com.


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