Based on recent political trends, in particular the triumph of Republican Scott Brown in the special election to fill the late Teddy Kennedy’s Senate seat in Massachusetts, political scientist Larry Sabato — who has an excellent record in making political predictions — now estimates that in 2010 the GOP has a chance to reduce the Democrats’ Senate majority to 52 seats.
The University of Virginia’s Sabato writes on his Crystal Ball website:
With Tuesday night’s upset by Republican Scott Brown in Massachusetts, the GOP gained more than just a 41st vote to disrupt the Obama agenda. As attention turns to the midterm elections in November, the Republican Party has strong momentum. A few months ago, even GOP leaders said that taking over the Senate was a pipe dream, and it is still not probable. But as some independents sour on the Democratic Party, the possibility for a GOP majority can no longer be dismissed out of hand. More likely, next year’s Senate will still have a Democratic majority but be much more closely balanced between Democrats and Republicans.
In fact, it is likely that the Republicans will gain at least 3 to 5 Senate seats in November. Even more startling, in the aftermath of the Massachusetts special election, Republicans would do even better IF the general election were being held today. The Crystal Ball projects that the Democratic majority in the Senate would be reduced to just 52 seats if November’s contests were somehow moved to January.
Luckily for the Democrats, the election is not today. By November the economy may be in much better shape, and some of the current controversies may appear less significant. Contests that would tip to the GOP today could easily wobble back to the Democrats (such as Missouri and Pennsylvania). That is why we still classify them as toss-ups overall.
At the same time, given Tuesday’s Bay State results, the Republican Party will search for, and possibly find, credible challengers for some Democratic senators believed to be safe until now. Imagining themselves as Scott Brown (on the victory stage, not in a Cosmo photo spread), a few “A” list Republicans might take a second look at the Senate and decide to jump in.
Among the senators who could be endangered by a new wave of Republican entries are Evan Bayh (Indiana), Kirsten Gillibrand (New York), Patty Murray (Washington), and Russ Feingold (Wisconsin).
Sabato also notes that a lot can happen between now and the elections so this is his analysis as of now. Go to the link to read the entire piece.
A word on Sabato: He has an superb recording in predicting elections unlike some ideological analysts who make a bundle selling books and working as talking heads making partisan predictions that don’t pan out and are quickly forgotten by their partisans. He is REQUIRED READING for serious political junkies who want to study politics, versus those who only want to read what they already agree with before they read it. He analyzes without talk radio political culture style ideological demonization (and has been blasted by people on both the right and left when they don’t like his predictions). As the Center’s press release notes:
The Crystal Ball has an unrivaled record of accuracy. The Crystal Ball was the most accurate in election projections in both 2006 and 2008. In each of those years, the Crystal Ball achieved 100% accuracy in its Senate race projections, the only publication to correctly predict every single Senate race in the country. In 2006, the most recent midterm election, the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism labeled the Crystal Ball as the most accurate political website in the nation.
Sabato notes that if it winds up with a 50-50 split and GOPers can convince Connecticut Independent Sen. Joe Lieberman to jump ship they could effectively control the senate. He concludes:
A lot can happen in a short time, as Tuesday showed anew. Democrats have plenty of chances to ward off this ‘Nightmare on November Street’ if the economy and Obama’s approval ratings rebound over the next nine and a half months. For the moment, though, the Democrats’ nightmare is the Republican dream scenario, as our Senate rankings suggest.
Go to the link to see his detailed chart on each race.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.