2010 Forecast: Can Boehner Lower Expectations for GOP Control?

By Josh

Oct 4, 2010 12:03pm

ABC News' Amy Walter Reports: Perhaps no one was more pleased to see this headline in the Sunday New York Times, ”House Majority Remains Uncertain, Republicans Say,” than House Minority Leader John Boehner. The man who told NPR in April that there were “at least 100 seats” in play, has, in recent weeks, been trying to downplay talk that Republicans will win enough seats to take control of Congress in November.  Keeping expectations in check allows Boehner to declare victory on Election Night, regardless of the final outcome. But, the expectations train has already left the station. For the political pundits, K Street and his party, only way for Boehner to “win” on Nov. 2 is if Republicans take control of the House.  The bar isn’t quite as high for Republican Sens. Mitch McConnell and John Cornyn. Still, anything less than a 5-seat pick-up by Republicans in the Senate will be seen as a bad night for the GOP. And, anything less than a seven seat pick-up will be seen as a good, but not great, evening. Even so, the broader point made by Sunday’s New York Times piece – that the GOP has yet to nail down the House majority – is not all that remarkable. In fact, it’d be remarkable if in early October we could say, without any hesitation, that Democrats were going to lose more than 40 seats – or a whopping 15 percent of their caucus. At this point in 2006, for example, there were only a handful of races where the incumbent was actually running behind his or her challenger. There were, however, lots of places where the incumbent was ahead, but still under the magic 50 percent mark. In looking through those late September/early October polls of 2006 – most of which were not released publicly during the campaign – I found 45 incumbents under the magic 50 percent mark. Ultimately, just under half of those incumbents lost. Of the 17 polls released by Democrats this month, 15 were under the 50 percent mark. Given the 2006 results, we know that some of these incumbents may well survive. However, if these are the best polls that Democrats have, just imagine the ones that they aren’t releasing. Moreover, as the Hotline reported, the DCCC did not try and out-gun the NRCC in September, deciding instead to “reserve the bulk of its resources for the final couple of weeks before Election Day.” This suggests that we may have to wait until well into late October before we can judge whether or not Democratic ads have made a difference in the polls.  

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