2010 Election Predictions

We've been talking about the 2010 elections since, oh, the day after the 2008 elections.   Now, it's time for final predictions.

Johnny Carson as Carnak

We’ve been talking about the 2010 elections since, oh, the day after the 2008 elections.   Well, our long national nightmare is almost over, with just one more full “working day” between us.   So, let’s make some predictions.    We’ll start with three nationally-known “expert” prognosticators and then weigh in with our own.

Larry Sabato:

Republicans +8 Senate seats, +55 House Seats, +8-9 Governorships

He does a prediction for each of the 435 House seats and each of the open seats in the Senate.   He couches his predictions with a lot of wiggle room:

We believe the GOP will hold all its open seats (FL, KY, MO, NH, OH). This is quite an accomplishment in itself, since the early assumption was that at least a couple would switch sides. In addition, Republicans will probably pick up most of the following: AR, CO, IL, IN, NV, ND, PA, and WI. The closest appear to be CO, IL, NV, and PA. These races, especially the first three, are so tight that a strong breeze could change the result, so the GOP may well come up one or two short in this category. By the way, if Republicans do win the +8 we have projected, then they only have to unexpectedly pick off two of the following states to take control: CA, CT, WA, or WV. CT seems least likely, WA most likely-but any of the foursome would be an upset.

In our pre-Labor Day analysis, however, we noted a historical anomaly: Since World War II, the House has changed parties six times, and in every case, the Senate switched, too. In five of the six cases, most prognosticators did not see the Senate turnover coming. (Only in 2006 did some guess correctly, including the Crystal Ball.) So if we have a big surprise on election night, this could be it, despite the pre-election odds against it.

Putting names to it, he’s picking Ricky Rubio and Rand Paul to win and not getting specific on the Harry Reid-Sharron Angle matchup.

He’s oddly not considering Alaska — in which incumbent Lisa Murkowski lost the Republican primary — as an open seat.  On his breakdown chart, he has it as “likely R” but defines it in a dubious way:   “It could be close and take many days to determine the winner, but it does not matter since Democrat Scott McAdams will not win and either Miller or Murkowski would sit in the Republican caucus. It matters to Alaskans whether Miller or Murkowski takes the seat, but not to the Crystal Ball’s tally.”

Nate Silver:

Republicans +7 Senate seats, +54 House seats, +6 governorships.

Of the most ballyhooed races:

  • Alaska: 66.7% chance Miller, 29.0% chance Murkowski, 4.3% chance McAdams
  • California: 92.9% chance Boxer wins, 7.1% chance Fiorina
  • Nevada: 77.2% chance Angle, 22.8% chance Reid
  • Illinois: 66.7% chance Kirk, 33.3% chance Giannoulias
  • Florida: 89.9% chance Rubio, 9.6% chance Crist, 0.6% chance Meek
  • West Virginia: 75% chance Mankin, 25% chance Raese
  • Kentucky: 97.4% chance Paul, 2.6% chance Conway
  • Connecticut: 100% chance Blumenthal, 0.1% chance McMahon
  • Delaware: 100% chance Coons, 0% chance O’Donnell


Republicans + 8  Senate seats, +63  House seats , +7 governorships.

  • Alaska: 35.7 Miller, 34.7 Murkowski, and 25.3 McAdama but no polling from the last two weeks.
  • California: Boxer +6.5 (49.5-43)
  • Nevada: Angle +4 (49-45) as of Wednesday’s Mason-Dixon poll.
  • Illinois: Kirk +2.8 (43.8 – 41)
  • Florida: Rubio +12.4% (43.2 – 30.8 – 19.3)
  • West Virginia: Mankin +4.8% (47.8 – 43)
  • Kentucky: Paul +9.2% (51.2 -42)
  • Connecticut: Blumenthal =11% chance (54 -43)
  • Delaware: Coons +15.8 (53.3 – 37.5)

James Joyner:

Republicans +8 Senate, +57 House, and +7 Governorships

I haven’t followed the individual House races or the governor’s races all that closely so won’t bother with much analysis.   I’m basically just aggregating the aggregators on these, figuring that the right answer is somewhere between the others.

As for the most-talked-about Senate races:

  • Alaska:  This is the hardest of the races to predict because Miller’s a flake and Murkowski is a write-in.    But I think the combination of early/absentee ballots cast before Miller’s major gaffes and the vagaries of the write-in process are such that Miller will pull it out.
  • California:   This race looked interesting for a while but Boxer will win fairly handily.  It’s the upset I’d most like to see but it ain’t gonna happen.
  • Nevada:  Harry Reid will join a long line of Leaders going down to defeat during a wave election.
  • Illinois:   By rule, someone has to win.  Republican Kirk will win it despite his party’s recent implosion in the Land of Lincoln.
  • Florida:   Rubio wins it going away.
  • West Virginia:  Democratic Governor Mankin is who I’d bet on here.   It’s also the non-tossup where I wouldn’t be shocked to see the underdog win because of the wave effect.
  • Kentucky:  Paul wins easily.
  • Connecticut:   Blumenthal in a TKO.
  • Delaware: Coons in a blowout.  This hasn’t been much of a race and, sadly for Republicans, it could have been.  Indeed, Mike Castle would likely have won easily.

Doug Mataconis:

Governors (GOP gain of 7)

I haven’t paid much attention to the Governor’s races either, so I don’t have much reason to disagree with the forecasts from the experts. However, I will say that it’s worth paying attention to the races in Colorado and Rhode Island, where independent candidates (Tom Tancredo in Colorado and Lincoln Chafee in Rhode Island) stand a fairly good chance of pulling off a victory on Election Day. The other interesting thing about the Colorado race is that the Republican nominee, Dan Maes, has collapsed in the polls over the past month. If he gets less than 10% of the vote, then the Colorado GOP will be relegated to “minor party” status for the next two years, which could cause serious problems for the GOP during the 2012 Presidential race.

House of Representatives (GOP gain of 55)

Again, I haven’t paid enough attention to specific races to made predictions, but there are several districts worth keeping an eye on. Republicans are likely to pick up at least two states here in Virginia (the 2nd and 5th Districts) and may pick up two more (the 9th and 11th Districts) if we do end up with the wave election that some are forecasting. Elsewhere in the country, several Democratic incumbents seem to be in trouble including Alan Grayson and Ron Klein in Florida, Maurice Hinchey in New York’s 22nd District, Jim Marshall in Georgia, and, most improbably, Barney Frank in Massachusetts. All of these districts are in danger of flipping Republican this year.

Senate (GOP gain of  7 )

  • Alaska — Despite the fact that he has suffered through a series of needless mis-steps over the past two weeks, I think Joe Miller ends up pulling off a victory here. Lisa Murkowski has a war chest and name recognition, but given the difficulties of a write-in campaign, that isn’t going to be enough to send her back to Washington. That said, however, expect a possibly protracted fight over how to count disputed write-in ballots in this race.
  • California — A month ago, Boxer looked vulnerable but she’s pulled ahead in the polls and looks headed to another close win.
  • Colorado — Ken Buck wins, a GOP pickup
  • Nevada — I’m going to stand by the prediction that I made on Wednesday night that Harry Reid pulls off an incredibly narrow victory here. This is another state where I think we’re likely to see post-election vote challenges, and possibly litigation
  • Illinois — I’ve said more than once that this race will come down to which candidate the voters hate the least. In this election, though, with Republicans surging, I think Kirk pulls off a win.
  • Florida — No question, Marco Rubio wins
  • West Virginia — John Raese has given Joe Manchin much more of a fight here than anyone thought possible. In the end, though, I think Manchin’s popularity as Governor, his explicit efforts to distance himself from the President and the Democratic Congress, and West Virginia general tilt toward Democrats in statewide races, will be enough to keep this seat in the Democratic column
  • Kentucky — Rand Paul wins
  • Connecticut — Blumenthal wins, although by a much smaller margin than anyone thought possible six months ago.
  • Delaware — Chris Coons wins handily, while Christine O’Donnell contemplates which media job offer she’ll accept.

Dodd Harris:

Governors: GOP +8

House of Representatives: GOP +6862
UPDATE: 11/1/10): I believe, based on the widening of the last minute polls (as I predicted would happen over a month ago), that I’ve been a little too cautious with this prediction. So I’ve bumped it up a few points.

Senate GOP +8

  • Alaska — My gut says Lisa Murkowski will pull it out, but (as noted above) early voting (and Alaskan Operation Chaos) may give Joe Miller an edge.
  • California — Boxer. sigh
  • Colorado — Ken Buck
  • Nevada —Angle
  • Illinois — Kirk
  • Florida — Marco Rubio relegates Charlie Crist to well-deserved obscurity
  • West Virginia — I think John Raese pulls it off.
  • Kentucky — Rand Paul blowout
  • Connecticut — Blumenthal
  • Delaware — Chris Coons wins by a much smaller margin than people expect
  • Washington — Dino Rossi in a close one

Alex Knapp:

House: GOP + 42+/-5

Yeah, I’m going to be gutless on the House races. My gut tells me that the GOP will pick up a majority, but I would not be shocked if the Democrats held on to a razor thin margin, either. The structural indicators (GOP, incumbent seats, mid-term election) give a baseline GOP gain between 45-55. Polls seem to indicate 55. BUT… there were a lot of Tea Party winners in toss up districts, and Tea Party candidates have been, in House elections, polling better than results. So it’s tough to call. PROBABLY a GOP victory, leading to the first time in history a orange-skinned man has been in line for the Presidency. But I think the polls are overstating it. I don’t think the GOP will pick up more than 50.

Senate: GOP +6 / GOP-ish Independent +1

Obviously, a GOP pickup in the Senate is simply not in the cards. I mostly agree with the folks above, except I think that Manchin will win in West Virginia. I think Murkowski will win in Alaska. I think Angle will win Nevada, a testament to economic considerations trumping common sense.

Governors: I haven’t been paying close enough attention to any race but Colorado, where I pick that Tancredo will lose and the GOP will get over 10% and keep their ballot access.

Dave Schuler:

House: GOP +47

Senate: GOP +7

Republicans take control of the House, Democrats hold on to the Senate, both by narrow margins. I suspect that some of the struggling incumbent Democrats will close in the final days of the campaign and that even the most reliable pollsters are under-polling young voters and black voters.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, 2010 Election, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. sam says:

    Republicans pick up 35 seats in the House, and thus do not regain control, and 7-8 seats in the Senate.

  2. John Burgess says:

    I’ve just invested in a chain of forensic housecleaning companies, all in the blue states. The messes from all the exploding heads come 11/3 are gonna make me rich, I tell you, rich!

  3. PD Shaw says:

    psssss, sam I think you accidentially made a typo on your house prediction.

  4. EJ says:

    “63 House seats ( plus another 40 toss-ups),”

    The RCL 63 house seat average is assuming the tossups slip 50-50. So its not 63+40 toss ups. Its 43 to 40 toss ups and the mid point in their range is 63.

  5. sam says:

    “psssss, sam I think you accidentially made a typo on your house prediction.”

    No I didn’t, that’s what I think will happen, or close to that. I think the Republican/Tea Party wave thing has been hyped. Just a gut feeling.

  6. James Joyner says:

    The RCL 63 house seat average is assuming the tossups slip 50-50. So its not 63+40 toss ups. Its 43 to 40 toss ups and the mid point in their range is 63.

    Right. Just an editing glitch on my part: I had their raw numbers originally and then added in the adjusted numbers but forgot to remove the parenthetical.

  7. John Peabody says:

    ..kudos for putting the portriat of Carnac the Magnificent at the top of the post. Anyone who recognizes it instantly is, as they say, “of a certain age”.

  8. mantis says:

    I think Dewey will beat Truman.

  9. rodney dill says:

    I think Dewey will beat Truman.

    He did beat Truman… I read it in a newspaper. (or at least in a photograph of a newspaper)

  10. PD Shaw says:

    @sam, I don’t think we have a lot of good polling on a lot of House races, so I think there is a greater possibility that any of these predictions may be completely off. But I believe I heard that 45 or 49 seats held by Democrats voted for McCain in 2008, so if the Republicans pick up less than 50 seats, I think it may indicate something has been over-hyped.

  11. Steve Plunk says:

    I predict change and then hope. The opposite of the last election.

  12. PD Shaw says:

    I’ll just make my Illinois predictions: The Republicans win the Governor’s seat and the Senate seat. The Republicans will also net one seat in Illinois.

    I have to say though that Nate Silver 67.7% probability that Mark Kirk (R) wins the Senate seat seems to very much overstate the certainty.

  13. PD Shaw says:

    The Republicans will also net one House seat in Illinois.

  14. sam says:

    Speaking of elections, nothing underhanded here, right?

    ‘Operation Alaska Chaos’: Right-Wingers Pushed Flood Of AK-SEN Write-In Candidates

    The flood of write-in candidates in the Alaska Senate race was pushed by Big Government’s Dan Riehl and the conservative group Conservatives 4 Palin in an attempt to hurt Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s own write-in campaign and give Republican nominee (and tea party favorite) Joe Miller a boost.

    Beginning on Riehl’s Big Government blog and dubbed “Operation Alaska Chaos” by C4P, Miller supporters were encouraged to file as write-in candidates so Murkowski’s name would be buried on the official list of candidates. It worked.

    Things had been going well for Murkowski’s campaign, with the Alaska Supreme Court this week overturning a lower court’s ruling that would have prevented voters from seeing a list of write-in candidates when they go to the polls. Now it seems that might have been a mixed blessing for Murkowski.

    The filing deadline for write-in candidates was yesterday, and the full list came out today, with well over 100 names.

    Nothing fraudulent here, right?

  15. Pete says:

    Not fraudulent, unless the names are bogus. The names could be of any number of Tea Party activists, or republicans. If no laws are broken, where is the fraud? If you want fraud, go live in Chicago.

  16. jwest says:

    Republican gains: 92 House seats, 11 Senate, 9 Governors.

  17. Pete says:

    Sam, as an addendum:

    Yesterday, Lisa Murkowski’s hired guns threatened radio host Dan Fagan, and more importantly, the station that airs Fagan’s show, with legal action for allegedly illegal “electioneering.” The station, unlike Murkowski, who is flush with millions of dollars from vested corporate interests, does not have a budget for a legal defense. So it did what any small market station would do when threatened by Beltway lawyers charging $500 to $1000 an hour – they pulled Dan Fagan off the air.

    Does all this sound heavy handed? It is. It is an interference with Dan Fagan’s constitutional right to free speech. It is also a shocking indictment against Lisa Murkowski. How low will she go to hold onto power? First, she gets the Division of Elections to change its write-in process – a process that Judge Pfiffner correctly determined had been in place without change for 50 years. She is accepting financial support from federal contractors, an act that is highly questionable and now pending before the FEC. And today, she played her last card. She made it clear that if you disagree with her and encourage others to exercise their civic rights, she’ll take you off the air.

    The concept of “electioneering” involves several issues, but typically refers to campaigning at the polls, which is appropriately banned. Under federal law, it can also mean paying for advertising on broadcast media during a federal election cycle, and it requires disclosures if done by groups and corporations. Fagan used satire to mock Murkowski’s write-in efforts and encouraged Alaskans to run as write-in candidates. That is not illegal. That is free speech.

  18. Pete says:

    Sorry, I should have given credit to “Hot Air” for the above comments.

  19. sam says:

    “Not fraudulent, unless the names are bogus. ”

    Bullshit. It’s fraud if the people’s whose names are on the list are there solely to make things difficult for Murkowski and have not intention of serving if elected.

  20. sam says:

    “Yesterday, Lisa Murkowski’s hired guns threatened radio host Dan Fagan…”

    So what? That sucks, too.

  21. Pete says:

    Eat your heart out.