Final Big-Picture Predictions for Election Day

Or, 'Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Republican Wave'

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Election day is here, which means, among other things, an end to the prognostication season. As voters head to the polls, pundits are rolling out their final guesses for what will happen in the 435 House contests, 37 Senate races, and 37 gubernatorial elections taking place today. Here's a sampling of the forecasts:

  • GOP Will Take House, But Not Senate  For the House elections, the Cook Political Report at National Journal predicts "a Democratic net loss of 50 to 60 seats, with higher losses possible." The report also notes that "between 40 and 50 incumbents (over 95 percent of them Democrats) are likely to lose their seats, making for possibly the largest freshman class since 1992." Meanwhile, the report anticipates "a net gain for Republicans of 6 to 8 seats" in the Senate, meaning that "the odds of Republicans winning a majority in the Senate are now non-existent." Finally, the report predicts "a 6 to 8 seat net gain for Republicans" in the gubernatorial races.

  • It'll Be a Watershed; GOP Could Take Senate Too  A panel of nine authors offer their predictions at National Review; all see Republican gains of between 53 and 80 seats in the House, and between eight and 10 seats in the Senate. The panelists trade guesses about how liberal media outlets will spin the results. "MSNBC will devote at least one segment of its Election Night coverage to allegations of voter fraud," writes John Miller. "Someone on MSNBC will be arguing that Democrats lost for not being bold enough, not going far enough, and not being as liberal as the American people wanted," writes Michael Graham.

  • All's Not Lost for Dems  Nate Silver at The New York Times offers a painstaking explanation of why he's not calling the House for the GOP just yet. Among Silver's reasons: Many polls don't include cell phones, which overlooks a significant swath of likely Democratic voters; the Dems have a better turnout operation in place; and the Gallup poll that produced the widely quoted 70-seat-loss prediction uses some hinky math that Silver unpacks. "The case for Democrats is basically: yes, the news is bad, it just isn't exactly as bad as you think, or at least we can't be sure that it is," writes Silver. "This isn't a sexy argument to make ... But just as Republicans could beat the consensus, Democrats could too, and nobody should be particularly shocked if they do."

  • Senate Moderates Suffer Most  "When all the votes are counted, I think there'll be 232 House Republicans," writes Matt Yglesias at Think Progress. "They'll be joined by 49 Senate Republicans, which is going to set off an interesting frenzy of efforts to entice Senators Nelson, Lieberman, Landrieu, and Pryor to switch parties ... Meanwhile, egomaniacal senate moderates will be frustrated to discover that the legislative process now consists primarily of negotiations between Barack Obama and the House GOP." Yglesias dryly predicts that "this reversion to a balance of political power that leaves Democrats in a stronger position than they were as recently as the 2005-2008 period will be treated by the press as a world-historical shift in favor of the right."

  • Are There Lessons From Losses?  Kevin Drum at Mother Jones is skeptical. "The backlash against Obama probably isn't all that strong to begin with," he writes. "Basic structural factors suggest a Democratic loss of 45 seats in the House this year. If Democrats instead lose 55, that's evidence of a backlash, but not actually a very big one. It means that we're still fundamentally the 50-50 nation we all talked about so much after the 2000 election, and a small shift among a small number of voters makes a big difference. It's true that voters are frustrated and tired, but I think it's a mistake to allow TV shoutfests to exaggerate just how frustrated and tired they really are."

  • Predictions Are Pointless Anyway  As the Wire noted elsewhere today, Dana Milbank at The Washington Post doesn't put much faith in the predictions game. "Participants must state with conviction that which they cannot possibly know," he writes. "It's a bit like filling out a March Madness bracket, but with unreliable seeding."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.