It’s time for a quick update on the 2012 Senate and Governor contests. Even though only two months have passed since our January roll-out, a surprisingly large number of shifts have occurred.
Commentary by Larry J. Sabato
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It is already obvious that control of the Senate will be up for grabs in 2012, with Republicans needing just 3 or 4 seats to take control (depending on whether the GOP wins the presidency and, along with it, the vice president’s tie-breaking vote).
Thanks to Tim Storey and his colleagues at the National Conference of State Legislatures, the Crystal Ball can share with you the most up-to-date picture of power control in the states. It is summed up nicely in the two maps and one graph, below.
Precisely two years from today, America will be inaugurating a president. But much sooner, the full-blown contest for the White House will begin.
Over the next four weeks, the Crystal Ball is going to roll out its very first look at the 2012 contests for Senate, Governor, House, and President.
A simple map of House gains in November 2010 is quite revealing.
The wreckage of the Democratic Party is strewn just about everywhere. President Obama’s carefully constructed 2008 Electoral College breakthrough is now just broken, a long-ago memory of what might have been a lasting shift in partisan alignment.
The number of Senate races on the November ballot, the most since 1962.
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).
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.
As alert readers of the Crystal Ball will note, we have not changed our projection of +47 Republican net House seats in many weeks.
In every election cycle there are contests that one party “should” win but does not, usually because its partisans have chosen unwisely in the party primary.
For now, we are comfortable with the overall projections that we have in the Senate (+7-8 Republican seats) and for Governorships (+8 Republican seats). But that doesn’t mean all the individual contests around the country are static. We have a few ratings changes to announce, and the Crystal Ball also has other races on a watch list.
Below we list some changes to our Senate and Governor ratings in a few key states, as well as a smattering of thoughts on a few other races of note. Next week the Crystal Ball will revisit some of our House ratings, with several significant changes in the works. Stay tuned.
Just having issued our Labor Day predictions, we’re not quite ready to call any of the remaining toss-ups or change any ratings (with one prominent exception), but we thought we’d share our current inclinations on a few of them in “nutshell” form.
For decades I’ve advised students to let the facts speak for themselves, while avoiding the indulgence of shouting at the facts. In other words, we should take in all the available, reliable information; process it; and let the emerging mosaic tell its story—whether the picture pleases or not. The human (and partisan) tendency to twist facts into pretzels in order to produce a desired result must be avoided at all costs.
At the Crystal Ball we receive many requests for information about the history of congressional elections, and there are many ways to look at this topic. In the two simple bar graphs below, we present one way to conceptualize a key part of the contests for Congress. How many incumbents lose for the House and the Senate?
Our astute political readership is well aware that the United States Senate has been divided into three classes since the beginning of the Constitutional Republic. That’s because, with a six-year term for each senator, only one-third of the Senate is elected every two years. Senators were elected by the state legislatures until the ratification of the 17th Amendment in 1913, of course, but the classes were maintained with the electoral reform, and as new states were added to the Union, the principle of “one-third every two years” has been continuous. While the U.S. House of Representatives is (theoretically) “refreshed” in its entirety by the People at each election, the Senate is much more stable, since two-thirds of the Senate membership is immune from popular uprising in any given election. Passions are given a chance to cool, or to reconstitute, before the next election rolls around.
Every campaign season is filled with the good, the bad, and the ugly—enough to fill a book. Here’s an interim selection of examples as we prepare to enter the full-blown general election season.
Everyone already knows the 2010 elections are significant and competitive. Let’s add record-setting to that description. Why?
One reason why people are attracted to politics is because, like sports, there are usually clear winners and losers. Moral ambiguity and shades of gray may overwhelm other sectors of life, but not the bottom-line of elections. Only finality on November 2 really matters. Raising more money or winning a primary or seeing your opponent sink into a scandal is a kind of victory, but it’s transient. Still, you savor what you can on your way to Judgment Day.