Predicting The GOP Sweep Of 2010

LIke most political junkies, I’ve been keeping a close eye on the polls—and the polls are showing that this Tuesday will be a very bad day for the Democratic Party. Here are some quick-and-dirty observations on what to expect tomorrow:

The House

This is looking to be a year much like 1994, when the GOP took 54 House seats. The averages are all showing around a 50 seat gain for the GOP this year. But this is not a typical mid-term election. This is a potential wave election, and there are races that are normally not even remotely competitive that suddenly are down to the wire.

Take a race in my own backyard – the 8th District in Minnesota. Incumbent Jim Oberstar has been in Congress since the Cretaceous Period, and usually gets well over 60% of the vote. But this year, he’s running dead-even with this Republican challenger, Chip Cravaack. This same basic scenario is taking place across the country—the 17th District of Illinois where Phil Hare may well lose, the 1st District of Maine where Chellie Pingree is in trouble, the 3rd District in Nevada where Dina Titus is down by 10 points according to a recent Mason/Dixon poll. It’s one thing for a few vulnerable incumbents to be taken down in a midterm election—but this year features a whole slew of Democrats who are not in good shape.

I’m predicting a gain of about 55 GOP seats—one more than 1994. And that’s just going by the polls. My gut says that the polls may be understating GOP gains. Nate Silver of The New York Times gives 5 reasons why the “super wave” scenario could be right. I’m not willing to go out on a limb and say that this will be that kind of electoral tsunami—but it’s well within the range of possibility.

The Senate

My head says that a GOP takeover of the Senate is unlikely—but my gut says that it’s possible. There are a few races that are sure-fire GOP takeovers. In order for the GOP to take the Senate, they need to pick up a total of 10 seats and secure all their seats. At this moment, there are no GOP seats likely to flip. Republican candidates are virtually assured wins in North Dakota, Indiana, and Arkansas. (3). Based on the polls, Sharron Angle will narrowly defeat Harry Reid in Nevada. (4). Pat Toomey looks to have secured a decent lead in Pennsylvania. (5). Colorado is going to be close, but it looks like Ken Buck will pull out a win. (6). In a normal year, Russ Feingold should be safe. This year, a virtual unknown rode from an op-ed on health care to the U.S. Senate. That gives Wisconsin to the GOP—which seems amazing, but the polls are clear. (7). That leaves the GOP with another three seats to take the Senate.

Illinois is close, but it seems like Mark Kirk has what it takes to win, especially in a GOP year like this. That gives the GOP a total of 8 seats.

Delaware is not a pickup opportunity. Christine O’Donnell won’t even get close, even if she doesn’t get utterly blown out. Castle would have easily won. Same with Connecticut: Linda McMahon has the money, but she just can’t close the sale, even against a highly problematic Democratic candidate. California is proving to be another disappointment. For all of Carly Fiorina’s money, she can’t seem to pull ahead of Boxer. While a Fiorina win is not impossible, it seems highly unlikely. California has become a Democratic stronghold. The sensible people have already left.

So where can the GOP get those next two seats? Watch for West Virginia first. If the GOP takes the West Virginia race, that will be a sign of a huge night for the GOP. Gov. Joe Manchin was expected to walk away with the race—but GOP challenger John Raese has made this a close race. If Raese can pull off a win, that will put the GOP well on track to retake the Senate.

The next race to watch is on the other end of the country. Dino Rossi has run his share of close races in Washington, but has always seemed to fall just short. But this year may well be different. If this year will really see a major GOP sweep, Rossi may be that last vote that gives Republicans control of the Senate.

The Eastern Seaboard will be a good bellwether for the state of the race. If Pat Toomey wins decisively in Pennsylvania, and Raese wins in West Virginia then it will be a very good night for the GOP. If Manchin wins in West Virginia, the Democrats will probably retain the Senate.

My guess is the GOP win a total of 8 seats: ND, AR, IN, PA, IL, CO, WI, and NV. But WV is a wildcard: the polls give a slight edge to the Democrats, but this political season seems more likely to create an upset than others.

The Lowdown

Every poll is showing this to be a major GOP year. There are years that confound the polls, but the evidence that there will be a massive pro-Democrat groundswell that will counter the GOP momentum is lacking. If the polls are to be confounded, it’s more likely in under-predicting the GOP’s gains.