2010 Midterms Record-Setting

November's elections will set modern records for most Senate seats and governorships on the ballot.

The ubiquitous Larry Sabato notes that this November’s midterm elections will break some records:

  • 2010 features the most U.S. Senate seats on the November ballot (37) since 1962.
  • 2010 also has the most elections for governor ever on the same ballot (also 37).
  • 2010 has produced one of the highest percentages of Democratic-versus-Republican House line-ups in modern history. Fully 405 of House races out of 435 have both a Democrat and a Republican running for the seat—the gold standard of basic two-party choice in democracy. Democrats have nominated 410 candidates for the House and Republicans have an even larger number, 430. For the GOP this is the most congressional districts they have ever contested.

Given how few House seats are competitive, it’s actually remarkable that all but a handful are contested.   The others are flukes:  We’ve had an unusual number of deaths and other premature departures from the Senate and we seem to have standardized gubernatorial calendars somewhat.  My guess is that the latter trend will continue and we’ll eventually decide that off-off-year elections, such as we have in Virginia, are both a waste of taxpayer money and a means of lowering turnout.

As to Sabato’s crystal ball, he’s currently projecting the GOP to pick up 7 Senate and 32 House seats — not quite enough to take over either chamber.  He currently rates six Senate races as toss-ups:  California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Nevada, and Pennsylvania. Obviously, if this turns out to be a wave election, Republicans could come close to running the table there and take over the chamber.

My ideal outcome would be for Republicans to fall just short, thus keeping the pressure on the Democrats and not stoking a false sense that the electorate is wild about the leadership’s agenda.

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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.