10%+, House in Doubt
Minority Leader Boehner claimed today the GOP could net more than 100 seats this fall. Whoa, there, John. Might want to ease off on the instant tan for a few days, big fella. The always brilliant Nate Silver has suggested, however, that the Dems are in a rough spot and could lose upwards of 70, flipping the House. I think that’s a bit far-fetched, but I can’t take issue with the online oracle’s predictive capabilities and spreadsheet macro mastery. I do, however, have my own back-of the envelope math for this fall:
– First, assume the Dem’s lose 20 seats because (A) it’s the mid-terms in the first term of a particularly successful Democratic president (from a legislative perspective) and, perhaps more importantly, (B) there are at least 15 seats we shouldn’t by all reasonable measures be holding, and, as a donor, I frankly don’t want the DCCC spending limited resources to defend.
– Second, let’s assume there is significant progress on issues of import to the Democratic base, bolstering confidence and closing the all-important enthusiasm gap. With the passage of HCR, the party dodged a Titanic-like implosion of confidence. (Someone called that one a while ago. Hmmmm.) With Wall Street reform on a greased track, immigration reform on deck, and a helpful SCOTUS nomination fight reminding the base why elections do matter. Tough to say exactly the value in lose/gain seats out of these presumed legislative victories, but let’s say a win on all three ensures against complete wipe-out in November owing to Democratic base dissatisfaction.
– Third, these elements matter, but are trifling in significance compared to one metric: Unemployment. Yes, the economy, as judged by the market, GDP, productivity, and even the debt are all important figures and, sure, matter tremendously to slices of the electorate, but none have a greater impact on the baseline happiness quotient of the average American more than unemployment. Pure and simple: This number remains high and incumbents will lose. House, Senate, Governor, Mayor, I don’t care who you are — if you got an “I” next to your name on the ballot and unemployment is 10%+, you might want to brush up your LinkedIN profile and start eying resume paper. Want more specificity? Okay, here’s my handy-dandy Dem House loss benchmark chart based on unemployment (as of October):
10%+ – (Including the 20 mentioned in the first rule above) Dem Losses = 40+ ~ Lose House
Below 10% Dem Losses = 35 ~ Keep House (barely)
9% Dem Losses = 32
8.5 = 30
8 = <30
… And so on.
Main point is this, the elections are not tomorrow, but they ain’t happening in a separate dimension or a full year from now. If the mood of the electorate doesn’t demonstrably improve on the economy, the House Dem’s are in a world of hurt. If, however, we enjoy two consistent quarters of growth between now and election day, Dem’s will hold the House, albeit with a smaller margin.
And why that may be better for the caucus will be the subject of another column.