2012 Congressional Election Predictions

OTB bloggers give their best guesses on the House and Senate races.


James Joyner (Senate 53 D-47 R; House 244 R, 191 D):

Like most political junkies, I’ve followed the presidential race with intensity for what seems like forever. But I’ve only followed the congressional races, which are arguably just as important—probably more important in shaping domestic policy—casually. There are just too many races, too many unfamiliar candidates, and too many local variables that are off my radar screen.

The RealClearPolitics average has the Democrats picking up one seat in the Senate, taking their majority to 54 seats. But 11 states are still rated as toss-ups:

  • Massachusetts: The most-watched race of the cycle, Democrat Elizabeth Warren leads in every poll: D.
  • Missouri: Claire McCaskill leads every poll and Todd Akin is a world class douche: D.
  • Virginia: The polling’s all over the place on this one, with Tim Kaine having a tiny lead in the aggregate but I think Mitt Romney’s coattails give it to George Allen: R. (Conversely, if Obama ekes out a victory, Kaine wins, too.)
  • Montana: Democrat Jon Tester has the narrowest of leads in two lousy polls. One of them is Rasmussen: D.
  • Ohio: Democrat Sherrod Brown leads every single poll, although by very differing margins, and Obama should carry the state: D.
  • North Dakota: Republican Rick Berg leads every poll, most comfortably: R.
  • Wisconsin: Democrat Tammy Baldwin leads Tommy Thompson is almost every poll and Obama should take the state: D.
  • Indiana: Democrat Joe Donnelly leads every non-Rasmussen poll and Richard Mourdock has made an ass of himself: D.
  • Connecticut: Democrat Chris Murphy leads big in every poll except Mason-Dixon, which has him tied with Linda McMahon: D.
  • Nevada: Republican Dean Heller leads all the polls: R.
  • Arizona: Republican Jeff Flake has been leading for a years, although the race seems to be tightening: R.

That’s 7 of 11 toss-ups going Democrat–and going straight up with the polling has it 8 of 11.  So, I have the Senate staying exactly as it is now: 53 Democrats or Democrat-aligned and 47 Republicans.

In terms of the House of Representatives, I just don’t have enough information to make even educated guesses on individual races. As of Saturday morning, RCP has 224 Republicans, 178 Democrats, and 33 toss-ups. Of those toss-ups, 18 are currently Republican seats and 12 Democratic.  Looking for clues, we see that of the competitive Democratic seats, 10 lean Democrat, 5 lean GOP, and 12 are toss-ups. Of the competitive Republican seats, 25 lean GOP, 18 are toss-up, and only 5 lean Dem. From that, my instinct is that more of the toss-ups will break Republican overall. Call it 20 Republican, 13 Democrat.  From that SWAG, you get 244 Republicans and 191 Democrats in the next Congress.

Doug Mataconis (Senate 53 D-47 R; House 244 R, 191 D):

With so many Democratic seats vulnerable at the beginning of the cycle, this was supposed to have been the year that the GOP captured the Senate. From Claire McCaskill in Missouri to the open seats in North Dakota and Nebraska, to the Virginia Senate seat, there seemed to be more then enough opportunities for the GOP to pick up the four seats they would need to win a majority (or three, if Romney/Ryan win the Presidential nomination). As the campaign has gone on, though, things have not exactly gone the GOP’s way. Missouri seems to be out of reach thanks to Todd Akin’s idiotic comments, former Governor Tommy Thompson has fallen behind Tammy Baldwin in their race in Wisconsin, the Virginia race has remained neck-and-neck since the summer, and a sure thing in Indiana is in danger of becoming a rare Democratic pickup. In fact, I now think we’re going see three Democratic pickups:

  • Maine — This race was effectively over the minute former Governor Angus King entered the race as an Independent. He has consistently maintained a lead of 15 points or more over the Republican candidate, while the Democratic candidate has trailed a distant third. Absent something really darned odd, King will win on Tuesday and, despite his comments that he might not caucus with anyone if elected Senator, I think we’ll see him caucus with the Democrats although he may not always be a reliable Democratic vote.
  • Massachusetts — This was always a long shot for Scott Brown. He won in a Special Election in 2010 where turnout was significantly below that of the 2008 Presidential Election, and while he’s made the race with Elizabeth Warren competitive, he has fallen behind her in the polls. Add to that the fact that Barack Obama is likely to win the state by 20 points or more, and it seems pretty clear Warren will win here.
  • Indiana — I’ve actually changed my mind about this one. Despite his recent self-induced trouble, I thought Richard Mourdock would be able to pull off a victory here, largely because Mitt Romney is expected to win easily. Given the recent polling, though, I now see Joe Donnelly winning here, while Richard Lugar chuckles to himself at the irony.

All is not lost for the GOP, though, because I also expect them to pick up three states. Specifically, I see Republicans winning in Nebraska, North Dakota, and Montana. As James Joyner notes above, that last races is very close now and there still seems to be a possibility that Senator Tester will pull off a win here, but I think in this case, Republican Denny Rehlberg will be aided by Mitt Romney’s coattails in a state that the Republicans are going to win easily at the Presidential level. Beyond those three, since I see President Obama winning Virginia, I think Tim Kaine will win the Senate seat there (of course, if I’m wrong about Obama winning, then Allen will likely be dragged to victory by Romney). So, even though, we disagree on two races, that leaves me with the same 53 Democrats or Democrat-aligned and 47 Republicans that James Joyner forecasts. This, of course, is the same split we’ve had for the past two years so you can expect more Senate battles between now and 2014.

Turning to the House of Representatives, it’s already quite clear that the GOP is going to lose two seats. One in New York because of redistricting, where the Republican who replaced Anthony Weiner declined to run for re-election after being re-districted into a seat that would’ve been impossible for him to win and the other in Illinois, where Congressman Joe Walsh is going to lose to Tammy Duckworth after being pushed into a district that every analyst characterizes as Likely Democratic. Beyond that, it doesn’t seem to me that the GOP is likely to suffer many losses at all and, indeed, may actually gain a few seats. For this, you can thank redistricting and the fact that most of the Republicans elected in 2010 have ended up in districts from which it will be difficult to dislodge them. I don’t pay all that much attention to individual House Races that don’t get national attention, so I don’t have a whole lot of inside knowledge here. I’ll go with James and say that we’ll see 244 Republicans and 191 Democrats in the 113th Congress.

In other words, the next Congress isn’t going to look a whole lot different from the current one regardless of who the President is.

Dave Schuler (Senate 53 D-47 R; House 244 R, 191 D):

Democrats hold Senate; Republicans hold House. What I’ve been referring to as “rearranging the deck chairs”.

There are really only two toss-up Senate races at this point: Arizona and Wisconsin. I assume that they’ll split in close elections.

In the House Biggert, Dold, Schilling, and Walsh are all likely to lose their seats to their Democratic challengers. The open seat in the Illinois 13th district is likely to go Democratic while the open seat in the Illinois 12th district is likely to go Republican.

I expect Democrats to win a net four seats in California and Illinois while Republicans gain at least three net seats in North Carolina.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, Campaign 2012, 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 and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Tsar Nicholas says:

    I have to agree generally with these assessments.

    Clearly there won’t be any material net change in the House. There only are a few competitive districts and the expected party flips pretty much will even each other out.

    In the Senate the GOP and it’s addled “base” again have shot themselves in the feet. The Akin fiasco speaks for itself. That Mourdock fellow morphed before our eyes into a tragic farce of a candidate. Dick Lugar not only will have to chuckle at the irony of it all, he and Mike Castle, Sue Lowden and Jane Norton will need to form a club or something.

    I have a sneaking suspicion Tommy Thompson will lose by the margin of idiot conservatives in WI who don’t vote for him because they went for someone else is that (unnecessary) primary contest.

    Scott Brown looks like a dead candidate walking. George Allen might still prevail, but if he doesn’t it’s because in his post-“macaca” incarnation he simply isn’t ruthless enough to beat a top-tier candidate like Kaine. Connie Mack hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire. Heather Wilson didn’t bother even showing up for her contest.

    I can still see the GOP gaining + 1, but barring a political meteor strike the idea of the GOP taking over the Senate is a smoking pipedream.

  2. One interesting thing to note is that this may be the second cycle in the row where the Republicans ended up costing themselves the senate because the Tea Party got nutjobs nominated in the primaries (O’Donnel and Angle in 2010, Akin and Mourdock in 2012) who then went on to lose the general election in states that Republicans should have won.

  3. One other thing that the Republicans ought to figure out quick is that Senator is not an entry level job. Part of the problem is they keep nominating people with no background in politics and then want to be suprised that they can’t get a lot of political support going. If the McMahons and Smiths of the world tried running for a House seat, they’d probably more successful, and after a few years learning the ropes they might be better situated to actually win a Senate Race.

    But again, that would require recognizing that it takes skill to be a good politician, rather than this “anyone can do it” mentality that’s taken hold in the Republican party.

  4. James Joyner says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    Part of the problem is [Republicans] keep nominating people with no background in politics and then want to be suprised that they can’t get a lot of political support going.

    I actually don’t think this is necessarily a problem, much less one confined to Republicans. Jon Corzine, Al Franken, and others have successfully run for the Senate without previous political experience. The problem is that the things that make a viable Republican primary candidate increasingly make for a problematic general election candidate outside the Deep South.

  5. Tano says:

    I think Kaine will win in VA. Tester’s race is a real tossup, so I will go with my heart on that one. While I am at it, I’ll choose Carmona in AZ as the surprise of the night. Heitkamp and Kerrey would be my next choices, but jesus doesn’t love me quite that much. Dems 55.

    The real story here is how for the past two years, up until a month ago, the conventional wisdom was that is was absolutely certain that the Republicans would gain Seanate seats, and almost certainly end up taking control – i.e. win at least three, probably four seats.
    As it turns out, the new consensus seems to be anything from a 0-3 seat gain for the Dems. This is the great unwritten story of this cycle – the implosion of the Republican Senate campaigns.

    I don’t have a clue as to what is going to happen in the House, and I have not read any opinions of others that have caused me to conclude than anyone else has a clue.

  6. OzarkHillbilly says:

    I think we’ll see him caucus with the Democrats although he may not always be a reliable Democratic vote.

    Hell Doug, most Democrats aren’t reliable Democratic votes.

  7. JKB says:

    So Obama wins, Congress stays essentially the same. So much for hope and change.

    Hey, do you think Obama’s promise to the Russians to be more flexible after his last election will also mean he’ll be more flexible in working with House Republicans? Or will Obama remain legislatively incompetent?

    Yes, America, those mean old Tea Partiers are standing up to the Obama and he can’t have is way. That broken record will play on all the stations all the time.

    Questions: Can America survive 4 more years failed economic policies? How long before Obama’s “flexibility” ends up with Putin bending him over a table? After 4 more years of no budget will there be anyone in DC who still has the skills to prepare one when we need one?

    I don’t want to be such a downer. There is hope of recovery from our decline.

    What happens if you give a thousand Motorola Zoom tablet PCs to Ethiopian kids who have never even seen a printed word? Within five months, they’ll start teaching themselves English while circumventing the security on your OS to customize settings and activate disabled hardware. Whoa. …

    Once students are able to free themselves from the “free” progressive education, there’s hope they’ll return to a more natural state and be able to learn again.

  8. jan says:

    I have already predicted a Romney win. So, in going with the flow on that one, I think he will have some coattails on which some of the pending Senate seats will be able to ride.

    IMO, republicans will win AZ (Carmona is a douche bag), VA (by a hair), ND, NV, MT. This gives the R’s 48. However, I will go a step further and say that WI, MO, MA, OH, R’s have a chance of taking 2 out of those 4 races. In WI, it all depends on turnout for R/R, carrying Thompson over the line. Akin, as bad as he is, has an opportunity of winning MO solely because of Romney’s huge lead there, and the gut hatred of McCaskill. Brown in MA has been very popular with indies in that state, and his race with Warren has been on a see-saw. If Obama wins that state by less than 20 pts., Brown has an outside chance of retaining his seat. Then, in Ohio, we have a personal favorite of mine, Josh Mandel, a young energetic veteran, and former state treasurer of that state. He has been close to Brown there, even infrequently a few points ahead. Brown’s support of the ACA is a negative. But, the main factor in this race is the R turnout. If it’s big, there is a possibility of Mandel gaining ground and pulling out a win.

    So, for certain R’s will have 48, with a good chance of obtaining 50 at the end of election day.

    I think the House will stay about the same as the current 112th, with maybe a loss to the dems of 2-3 seats.

  9. An Interested Party says:

    Hey, do you think Obama’s promise to the Russians to be more flexible after his last election will also mean he’ll be more flexible in working with House Republicans? Or will Obama remain legislatively incompetent?

    Translation: If the President doesn’t do exactly what the Teabag Coalition in the House wants, then he is a total failure…those are some goalposts you have there…

    Can America survive 4 more years failed economic policies?

    Well, we are still here after 8 years of Bush…

    How long before Obama’s “flexibility” ends up with Putin bending him over a table?

    Why don’t you travel to the bottom of the ocean and ask Osama bin Laden about that…

  10. al-Ameda says:

    @JKB:

    Hey, do you think Obama’s promise to the Russians to be more flexible after his last election will also mean he’ll be more flexible in working with House Republicans? Or will Obama remain legislatively incompetent?

    I hope it means that Obama will be a lot more flexible with regard to telling House Republicans to “f*** off.” He’s been reticent to do that for the past 40 months. I hope that he will be flexible and that he will seriously consider telling them to “f*** off,” this time around.

  11. JKB says:

    @al-Ameda: that he will seriously consider telling them to “f*** off,” this time around.

    Assuming Obama doesn’t burn the Constitution, if Obama takes your advice, how do you propose he accomplish anything during his term? More executive orders, selective enforcement of the laws of the United States? Collapse of the rule of law?

    Inquiring minds want to know. And keep in mind, someday a Republican, perhaps a hardcore social conservative will be president with all these new powers to rule by fiat.

  12. JKB says:

    @An Interested Party:

    then he is a total failure

    No, he’s a total failure if he doesn’t find a way to work with Republicans. Perhaps he could bring popular opinion to his side forcing Republicans to cooperate. Although, that would’ve been more effective before the election.

    Well, we are still here after 8 years of Bush…

    The economic collapse had many fathers, many of whom prevent Bush from enacting reforms to fight the collapse. But in any case, the collapse didn’t happen until the last 6 months or so of Bush’s presidency so hardly instructive.

    Why don’t you travel to the bottom of the ocean and ask Osama bin Laden about that…

    I see, you expect us to be in a hot war with Russia by 2016 and that Obama will seek to assassinate Putin? Interesting,

  13. An Interested Party says:

    Assuming Obama doesn’t burn the Constitution, if Obama takes your advice, how do you propose he accomplish anything during his term?

    A sure sign of ODS is when someone talks about the President “burning the Constitution”…seek mental help immediately…

    No, he’s a total failure if he doesn’t find a way to work with Republicans. Perhaps he could bring popular opinion to his side forcing Republicans to cooperate.

    Teabaggers don’t want to work with the President…they are the worst group of extremists in politics today…as for popular opinion…it is a widely favorable idea among the American people to raise taxes on the wealthy to help pay down the deficit…so in this regard, the President does have popular opinion on his side but the GOP refuses to budge on this issue…

    The economic collapse had many fathers, many of whom prevent Bush from enacting reforms to fight the collapse. But in any case, the collapse didn’t happen until the last 6 months or so of Bush’s presidency so hardly instructive.

    Oh really? Tell us about all of these things that prevented Bush from enacting reforms that would have fought the collapse..and that the collapse happened in the last 6 months of Bush’s presidency still means that the collapse happened on Bush’s watch…just like 9/11….

    I see, you expect us to be in a hot war with Russia by 2016 and that Obama will seek to assassinate Putin? Interesting,

    No, actually the point of that was that the President doesn’t bend over the table for any foreign aggressors…just ask Osama bin Laden…

  14. al-Ameda says:

    @JKB:

    Assuming Obama doesn’t burn the Constitution, if Obama takes your advice, how do you propose he accomplish anything during his term?

    As soon as he is re-inaugurated he should dedicate himself to torching those malevolent greaseballs. There is no point to Obama trying to work with people who do not, nor ever did, agree with him on any issue. Any suggestion that Obama should work hard to implement a House Republican Agenda is absurd.

  15. JKB says:

    @al-Ameda: dedicate himself to torching those malevolent greaseballs.

    So your saying upon the start of his second term, Obama should start a civil war by going to war with an equal branch of government?

    Nice. One thing. That would have been easier before he destroyed any trust in him that the military might have had. In such a civil war, I put my money on those sworn to protect and defend the Constitution from all enemies. Especially since they have the guns and the gun fighting skills.

    But this is all speculation and unlikely since the Obama thugs haven’t been met with force…yet.

  16. JKB says:

    @An Interested Party: A sure sign of ODS

    I was just saying he either learns how to work within the system or he foolishly tries to abolish the governing document of that system.

    it is a widely favorable idea among the American people to raise taxes on the wealthy

    Then there you go, Obama ignore those dozen or so, out of all those Representatives, Tea Partiers and get those taxes passed and imposed. The Senate is projected to stay Democrat so perhaps those Democrats could show some leadership unlike the past 2 years?

    actually the point of that was that the President doesn’t bend over the table for any foreign aggressors

    Well, yes if you don’t count that it took three tries and someone else to issue the order to send other men into harms way. Tell me of an example when Obama stood hard and fast in negotiation? He certainly didn’t stand up to some murders in Libya where all the courage it took was for him it provide cross-border authorization to hard men to go to the rescue of others in harms way.

  17. @James Joyner:

    There’s always exceptions. Rand Paul and Ron Johnson managed to win as Republicans with no previous poltiical experience. But for all but a handful of Senators, Senate was not the first step as a politiician, and the Republicans would do well to remember that when picking candidates.

  18. David M says:

    Senate 54D / 46R: I’m assuming Democrats can win 4 of the following seats: NV, NE, IN, AZ, MT and ND. (Also requires team blue to win in WI, VA, MA & MO as well).

    House is still controlled by the GOP due to their gerrymandering after the 2010 elections, but the Democrats will pick up at least 10 seats.

  19. rudderpedals says:

    My Florida gets no love. Connie Mack takes on Bill Nelson. Rubio has the other seat. Messrs. OTB: Please toss a few yarrow stalks and share your prediction.

  20. James Joyner says:

    @rudderpedals: Nelson’s leading by 7 points in the RealClearPolitics average and not trailing in a single poll. It’s not considered a toss-up. (And RCP has inexplicably added a 12th state, Pennsylvania, to the list since I wrote this very early Saturday morning despite the incumbent Democrat Casey leading by almost 6 points in their own average.)

  21. An Interested Party says:

    I was just saying he either learns how to work within the system or he foolishly tries to abolish the governing document of that system.

    No, you’re saying that unless he bends over the table for the Teabaggers in the House, he is a “total failure” who “isn’t working within the system”…

    Then there you go, Obama ignore those dozen or so, out of all those Representatives, Tea Partiers and get those taxes passed and imposed. The Senate is projected to stay Democrat so perhaps those Democrats could show some leadership unlike the past 2 years?

    Oh please…it is the GOP as a whole, not just the Teabaggers, who are opposed to tax increases on the wealthy…as for the Senate, there is that little thing called the filibuster, perhaps you’ve heard of it…

    Well, yes if you don’t count that it took three tries and someone else to issue the order to send other men into harms way.

    Oh? How’s that? I guess he could of followed the examples of Bush and Romney and just ignored bin Laden…

  22. JKB says:

    Oh look, the Obama minions at the EPA fear Obama is going to lose so they are all hands on deck to kill the coal industry and send electric rates skyrocketing before the inauguration.

    President Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency has devoted an unprecedented number of bureaucrats to finalizing new anti-coal regulations that are set to be released at the end of November, according to a source inside the EPA.

    Turns out NYC and New Jersey are previews of what Obama plans for everyone. Cold, dark nights for all.

  23. An Interested Party says:

    Turns out NYC and New Jersey are previews of what Obama plans for everyone. Cold, dark nights for all.

    When the President wins re-election, I’m curious what conspiracy theory you will promote on how he won…

  24. al-Ameda says:

    @JKB:

    So your saying upon the start of his second term, Obama should start a civil war by going to war with an equal branch of government?

    No, I’m saying that he should WIN the civil war that Republicans have been waging against him.

  25. JKB says:

    @al-Ameda: he should WIN the civil war

    Well, there you go, you seem to be saying that Obama in his second term should strive to become the president he could have been in his first term.

    When I was a kid, my grandmother’s niece would say things like that. Then 6 months or so later, late at night, we’d be bundled into the car, there would be a lot of yelling then a hurried dash across the lawn to the car, then came the crying. A day or so later, it would start all over again.