Sunday, November 5, 2006

The Yogi Berra moment ...

The temperature of our home-grown pundit-pool seems to have cooled for the Democrats. Malcolm, trying to get back up to speed on "local" opinion, noted that both BBC24 and Sky News are dithering about the US Senate, though each seems to concede the House to the Dems.

He was, therefore, pleasantly surprised to see that the Washington Post's front-page swings the other way (and the WP might know something). Here's the gist of Dan Balz and David Broder's piece, direct from the Post's newsroom:

In the battle for the House, Democrats appear almost certain to pick up more than the 15 seats needed to regain the majority. Republicans virtually concede 10 seats, and a split of the 30 tossup races would add an additional 15 to the Democratic column.

The Senate poses a tougher challenge for Democrats, who need to gain six seats to take control of that chamber. A three-seat gain is almost assured, but they would have to find the other three seats from four states considered to have tossup races -- Virginia, Tennessee, Missouri and Montana.

In governors' races, Democrats are likely to emerge with the majority for the first time in 12 years. Five states are almost certain to switch parties, including the key battlegrounds of New York, Massachusetts and Ohio. Four races are too close to call, but only one of those seats -- in Wisconsin -- is held by a Democrat.

Meanwhile, Adam Nagourney and Robin Toner reach similar conclusions, and have obviously been speaking to the same sources, for today's New York Times:
The battle for Congress rolled into a climactic final weekend with Republican Party leaders saying the best outcome they could foresee was losing 12 seats in the House. But they were increasingly steeling themselves for the loss of at least 15 seats and therefore control of the House for the first time in 12 years.

Democrats and Republicans said the battle over the Senate had grown fluid going into the final hours before the elections on Tuesday. Democrats said they thought they were almost certain to gain four or five seats and still had a shot at the six they need to take control.
This article is supported by some superb graphics (dated Saturday), summarising the entire overview in a single shot. On the screen it works well: on paper it would be exemplary.

In effect, then, the overall prospect is little changed over the last fortnight. It is worth remembering that much of the evidential basis for these assumptions is quite loose. Most polling is done by telephone, and with quite small samples (600-800), so the margin of error is typically quoted at 3-4%.

Furthermore, only about 40% of the electorate will use their ballots on Tuesday, so much depends on the degree of motivation among the factions. One suspects that this may favour the Dems more than in previous Midterms, while the GOP is desperately hoping the coalition of conservatives wrought by Karl Rove holds loyal.

A straw in the wind was a Cook/RT Strategies poll conducted 26th-28th October, which showed a remarkable 52-39 split to the Dems among registered voters, widening to an astounding 61-35 break among "likely" voters. Charlie Cook's comment on that, although now a week old, is worth quoting in full:

With the election just eight days away, there are no signs that this wave is abating. Barring a dramatic event, we are looking at the prospect of GOP losses in the House of at least 20 to 35 seats, possibly more, and at least four in the Senate, with five or six most likely.

If independents vote in fairly low numbers, as is customary in midterm elections, losses in the House will be on the lower end of that range. But if they turn out at a higher than normal level, their strong preference for Democrats in most races would likely push the GOP House losses to or above the upper levels.

The dynamics we are seeing this year are eerily similar to those in 1994. The President and party are different, so are the issues, but the dynamics are comparable.

In 1994, Democrats were in trouble because of tax increases, a failed health plan, and the crime bill (read, guns). There were also a myriad of scandals that started in the late 1980s that moved voters, including many Democrats, to reject the party's candidates, including some once-popular incumbents.

This year, it is the war in Iraq and scandals. For conservatives, the list also includes the Mark Foley affair, immigration, high government spending and high deficits. For Democrats and independents, stem cell research and Terri Schiavo round out the list. Finally, it would seem that voters of all ideological stripes feel that the GOP-lead Congress has become dysfunctional.

Chris Cillizza's Washington Post blog The Fix, more cautiously, rows back from that:
if history is any guide, Democrats won't enjoy a clean sweep come Tuesday night.
His full analysis suggests 13 House seats going Democrat, with a further 21 as "toss-ups". The "toss-ups" include the magnificent Tammy Duckworth (picture left) in the "safe" Republican Illinois 6th of the Chicago outskirts. In the Senate, he calls four gains for the Dems (which, along with the "independent", would throw the Senate to Cheney's casting vote).

His other recent posting shrewdly looks at where the national Party's are putting their money in last-minute advertising, most of which is coming from the Republicans. As of today, silence will fall as the window for ad-buying closes.

Last Christmas, Malcolm's present from a loving daughter was a wrist-watch. The novelty is that, on the hour, every hour, the watch "speaks" an epigram from Yogi Berra. Malcolm is, therefore, well aware that "It ain't over till it's over". Sphere: Related Content

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