2010 Bigger Than 1994?
Patrick Ruffini goes all in with this one:
I might be setting myself for a healthy serving of crow on November 3rd, but I get a distinct feeling that the GOP may be headed toward to a seat gain in the House of epic proportions — somewhere over 50 seats and well above the historical high point for recent wave elections (the 50-55 seats we experienced in elections like 1946 and 1994).
All in all, I don’t think a 70 seat gain is out of the question.
Now, I find this extremely unlikely. The 1994 Republican Revolution — which, in all candor, I did not anticipate — took a perfect storm: An extremely unpopular and scandal-ridden Democratic president, a bad economy, a series of major scandals rocking the incumbent Congressional party, the charismatic leadership of Newt Gingrich, a change in campaign finance laws that made retiring extremely lucrative for incumbents, and so forth. Aside from the bad economy, we really don’t have any of this going on right now.
That said, Patrick adduces some compelling arguments:
The-politics-is-just-getting-crazier thesis. Crist-Rubio. Scott Brown. NY-23. How many situations have we been faced in the last 12 months where the side once given less than 10 percent odds has surged to become the favorite, if not the winner? That’s a function of political volatility and voter anger, but it’s also a reflection of the fact that the stakes are higher.
Indeed, there are reports of seemingly safe incumbents, like Utah’s Bob Bennett, being in trouble in the primaries.
A new ABC News-WaPo poll shows anti-incumbent sentiment to be off the charts: “Nearly six in 10 said they’ll instead look for someone new come the fall elections.” That’s shocking. Hating Congress while loving your own Congressman is is a longstanding American tradition. People are indeed off-the-wall upset with the status quo.
There is a tendency to underestimate waves. This wave has been on the horizon for a while, but those who were around in 1994 will remember how it took everyone by surprise, with even a more mild 40-seat gain needed to take control regarded as a remote possibility in October.
This was also true to an extent with the Democrats in 2006. The Democrats’ 30-seat gain was the high end of mainstream projections, but things really turned south for Republicans in late September with the Mark Foley scandal. In September, Republicans were seen as an even bet to keep the House on Intrade, and the bar the Democrats needed to clear then was a piddling 15 seats.
There’s no question about this. Even in 2008, where everyone sane expected Obama to win, people — again, myself included — were surprised by the magnitude of his win. He took states that he simply shouldn’t have by riding a wave of enthusiasm.
We are coming off two successive, ahistorical Democratic wave elections. Democrats have managed to swing something like 52 House seats in the last two elections. They are at an historic high water mark, as President Obama recently acknowledged.
The fact that Democrats were able to pad their majority in 2008 would not have happened but for the fact that Obama changed the electorate. As I noted right after the election, Republicans in Congress were killed by the fact that young people voted straight ticket — for Obama and then for Democrats in Congress.
I fully agree with this. Even in a “normal” year, we’d expect a lot of Republican gains. First, it’s an off-year election and the president’s party almost always loses seats. Second, there are a bunch of Democrats holding seats that were specifically drawn to elect Republicans.
The main thing holding me back from jumping on Patrick’s bandwagon here is that we don’t have a Newt Gingrich this year. Further, there’s no pro-Republican wave to ride. So, essentially, he’s counting on the GOP to pick up 70 seats — a full 16 percent of all the seats and 28 percent of the seats currently held by Democrats — on the virtue of sheer anger at the status quo.
Again, I’ll emphasize that I didn’t predict the magnitude of 1994 or 2006, either. I tend to be overly conservative in my estimates of outcomes, taking the steady state as the default position absent compelling polling data to the contrary. And even I think the Republicans have an outside chance — but just an outside chance — of taking back both the House and Senate. But 70 seats? With this gang leading the charge? I’ll believe it when I see it.