Green Room

The numbers made easy: How Republicans will likely take the House

posted at 1:51 am on April 7, 2010 by

Will the 2010 election be 2006 all over again? 1994? 1946? Whether races are classified as “Likely,” “Lean,” or “Toss-up,” the pros have lots of ways of hedging their bets, Congressional seat to Congressional seat.

Yet that doesn’t mean you can’t figure out what the electoral landscape will probably look like, based simply off of the predictors’ recent history. I’ll kick this discussion off with a 2006 article published in the Wall Street Journal:

For the House, the 1994 Cook Report listed 82 Democratic seats as competitive — more than double the 35 vulnerable Republican seats it sees today. Many of those 1994 districts were in the conservative South and had been redrawn to Republicans’ advantage after the 1990 census — “low-lying fruit,” in Mr. Fazio’s words, and “the biggest single reason” in Mr. Paxon’s view that Republicans were able to seize Congress.

Whether “competitive” includes seats that are considered “Likely Democrat” is unclear, but in terms of predicting who would control the House simply based on this track record, it wouldn’t matter: the result would be the same.

Let’s assume two separate 2010 scenerios: one that includes “Toss ups,” “Leans Democrat,” and seats already likely to go to the GOP, and another scenerio that also includes “Likely Democrat” in the mix. Let’s also assume that Cook’s success rate will be close to either his 1994 or 2006 predictions, keeping in mind Republicans need a net gain of 40 to capture the House.

This is what we get:

  • 1994: Net 54 Republican gains with 82 competitive Democrat seats (66%)
  • 2006: Net 31 Democrat gains with 35 competitive Republican seats (89%)
  • Toss up and Lean, 2010: Net 40 (66%) or Net 53 (89%) of 60 competitive Democrat seats
  • Toss up, Lean, and Likely, 2010: Net 63 (66%) or Net 85 (89%) of 95 competitive Democrat seats

The lowest end says the GOP barely takes the gavel in 2011. The highest end says the GOP takes the gavel… with a 91 seat majority. Let’s just say the latter outcome seems highly unlikely.

I bring up the Cook numbers not because they’re pure political Gospel, but because I think that it’s a lot easier to figure out how the GOP can get to 218 in the House than a lot of people let on. Could the GOP get 40 seats as Cook’s 1994 success rate suggest? Yes. Should “Toss-ups” really be understood as 50/50 races? History suggests they should not.

So let’s crunch some numbers.

I’ve aggregated what I believe are the latest predictions from The Cook Report, Sabato’s Crystal Ball, Congressional Quarterly, and the Swing State Project. I’ve assigned numbers to each of the races they’ve rated and added an enthusiasm multiplier, which I’ll explain later. The scale is straightforward: Toss-ups are rated “0”, Leans rated “1”, Likelies rated “2”, and Solids rated “3.” Negative numbers mean, based on these four sources, a likely GOP seat takeover; positive numbers suggest better prospects for Democrats. Then, I took the average. As I’ve said in a prior similar posting, I’m no pro at this, but I think there’s a compelling argument to be made. Easy as 1-2-3. Or, rather, 80-60-40-20-10.

And so begins the raw data dump, sorted by my “enthusiasm multiplier” number. Don’t worry; a breakdown follows right after the chart:

And now, the breakdown. I’ve color-coded the seats to reflect what appears to be the consensus surrounding each House race. The “multiplier” is the Cook PVI assigned a numerical value, -3 to 3, which I’m using to simulate enhanced base turnout. (It affects the ordering only fractionally, but I think it reflects the real prospects of the coming election.) I’ll also note that the enthusiasm multiplier works against Democrats in Republican districts, but for Democrats in Democrat districts; whether enthusiasm is reflected evenly across the electorate remains to be seen, but insofar as it affects my ratings, it helps as much as it hurts Democrats, and perhaps helps too much.

I’ll lay each section out, in order, and leave to you the commenters as to whether the scenario I’m sketching out — a scenario I think is a pretty conservative one — makes a Republican House takeover seem likely. I think it does.

First, the most vulnerable Democratic seats

What becomes apparent in this first, most GOP-favorable grouping is that no seat is favored for Democrats, and many of the seats are currently “Open.” The reason? The former occupants generally believed they were toast if they stuck around, with a notable exception in Sestak. Note, too, what I’ve written in the last row: I think the GOP can win at least 80% of these seats. If they do, that’ll add 16 seats to their ranks.

Let’s move on.

This list includes all the seats that are considered less than, or including, “Leaning Democrat.” Fewer “Open” seats, but lots in Republican districts. Could Republicans take 60% of these? You be the judge. It’d net them 15 more, with any extras gravy. So far, we’re up to 31 seats.

The magic number is 40.

This is probably the key set if you’re a donor. Chet Davis won his district two years ago with just 53% of the vote. Ike Skelton is in for the race of his life. If the GOP can nab 5 of these 13 seats, they’d be on track to take the House; if they grabbed just a few more, it’s likely that races in the 60% and 80% categories are going even better for Republicans than I’ve set out here. This is likely the Democrats’ firewall. At this point, we’re 58 seats in.

By my count, we’re at 36 seats.

If the Republicans had to run against Heath Shuler 15 times, do you think they could win 20% of the time? If so, add 3. We’re at 39.

Upsets, anyone? If you think David Obey and Russ Carnahan are at least somewhat vulnerable, you may believe 10% of the Democrats similarly situated will lose their jobs in November. Two of these 24 leans to likely Democratic seats, and you’re at 41.

So what I’m saying is that of the 97 seats that are competitive enough to be worthy of mention by the prognosticators, I think that Republicans can win at least 41 of those seats (42%,) and probably more. There are a couple of seats that could flip on the Republican side, too, namely the Cao, Kirk, and Castle seats, so the GOP will probably have to offset those somehow.

That said, things are looking good for the GOP, as it’s pretty likely they’ll take the House this year. Frankly, dozen seat buffer is well within the realm of possibility.

Your thoughts? Is there someone on this list that you think is more or less vulnerable? Someone not on the list that should be? And seeing this list, what would be your strategy for donating to candidates if you were going to spread around your dollars? Comments welcome, dare I say requested.

Update: Wondering if your representative is on one of these lists? Hold CTRL-F to initiate the search function in your browser and just type the congressperson’s name or district in the dialog box (i.e., MO-3, VA-5, etc.)

Cross-posted at Repurblican and Capitol Tea

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This is purely anecdotal, but I remember 1994, and from what I recall Clinton and the Democrat leadership had not done anywhere remotely near as much, at that point, to piss off most of the country as Obama and his cronies have done now.

Maybe I’m being overly optimistic, but I think this is going to be a political bloodbath the likes of which none of us have ever seen before.

Cylor on April 7, 2010 at 3:12 AM

Yeah, I agree somewhat with Cyler. The Piss-off factor can be a force multiplier.

Robert17 on April 7, 2010 at 8:02 AM

@Cylor, agreed. The rage from citizens all across the fruited plain is sharper and more distinct than it was previously. Clinton may be a Marxist ideologue but at least he focused on poll numbers and held to the standard Democrat playbook – Obama/Pelosi/Reid aren’t bothering with any of that and are literally shoving their plans down our throats without regard for polls.

Add to that the fact that you have a significant number of people who voted for Obama that are fired up (what was it yesterday in that poll, 13% of Tea Party protesters are Democrats?) against him and his plans, and you have a very high likelihood of the GOP overtaking the House by a majority we haven’t seen before, making 1994 look tame by comparison.

jamesrileyjr on April 7, 2010 at 8:26 AM

I hope this post goes to the main page.

BadgerHawk on April 7, 2010 at 9:18 AM

In 1994 Clinton had worried seniors with Hillarycare, but I don’t remember actual demonstrations of rage. There was no public movement or crowds gathering in protest. There were a number of off year electoral losses by the Democrats but nothing on the scale of losing Teddy Kennedy’s Senate seat. As for the “enthusiasm” factor I’d say before it’s used to help a Democrat incumbent, it should manifest itself somewhere in his district or for his campaign. For example, Palin drew 15,000 people to Spotlight, Nev., the next week Harry Reid drew 100. Why assume Harry’s supporters are extra especially enthusiastic for him now? Yes, there are Democratic enthusiasts but weren’t they also enthusiastic in the past? What makes them even more enthusiastic then the last time they voted?

My other question, and you may have covered it) is what does “Capitol Tea 80% Doc : 80%” mean, for example.

Fred 2 on April 7, 2010 at 2:11 PM

My other question, and you may have covered it) is what does “Capitol Tea 80% Doc : 80%” mean, for example.

Fred 2 on April 7, 2010 at 2:11 PM

Ha, that was unanswered. I’m (trying to) develop a website that makes it easy for Tea Partiers to choose who to donate to so that they can get the biggest bang for their campaign buck. It’s called “Capitol Tea,” and the spreadsheets were originally part of that exercise. Hopefully someday it’ll be a bit more developed than its current form, but eventually I’d like people to think of it as a website with a focus on helping individuals maximize their electoral impact through their dollars.

Repurblican on April 7, 2010 at 2:43 PM

The election isn’t for seven more months and the economy is (thankfully) finally improving, making the mood of the final electorate highly uncertain (viewed from the perspective of right now). Midterm GOP gains are hard to predict this early and with that much uncertainty. We’ll see some improvement in the House, and hopefully enough to be a majority. The Senate will be harder.

MTF on April 7, 2010 at 2:46 PM

This will be the first year that I actively work and not just donate in a very liberal congressman’s district. I’m not the only one.

jukin on April 7, 2010 at 2:51 PM

I would put Soloman Ortiz (TX) on the 20-20 list.

WannabeAnglican on April 7, 2010 at 2:54 PM

I agree with the previous posters. I remember being irritated in 1994. I am now enraged. I think, hope and pray, it is going to be a landslide.

bopbottle on April 7, 2010 at 3:01 PM

I’m (trying to) develop a website that makes it easy for Tea Partiers to choose who to donate to so that they can get the biggest bang for their campaign buck. It’s called “Capitol Tea,”

Sounds like a great idea. Let us know when it does not require a user name and password to view the site as it does now.

Rod on April 7, 2010 at 3:03 PM

People will be voting against the White House this time. They are more interested in stopping Obama and regardless where the economy goes between now and then, they are still going to want to stop this idiot.

bopbottle on April 7, 2010 at 3:03 PM

I enjoy reading these mathematical approaches to November but I’m always careful to take them with a grain of salt. I think one thing these charts cannot measure is the mood of the country. And the mood right now is “I’m mad as hell!”

I expect November to be a humongous takeover for Republicans. It will shock all the pundits while the American citizens will be nodding their heads in emphatic approval.

laurakbarr on April 7, 2010 at 3:04 PM

I think people are really pissed right now, but its gonna take alot of educating to keep them fired up til November.
I’d love Republican’s slogan to be “Veto proof in the House in 2010!”

Iblis on April 7, 2010 at 3:28 PM

UT-Jim Matheson should be on a list of vulnerables. I’m a state delegate in Utah County, and the feeling here is very anti-incumbent. Bennett is likely gone. Matheson I would say is also likely gone. I believe he’d have caved on ObamaCare if pressed (or needed) by Pelosi, and I don’t think I’m alone on that assessment.

robm on April 7, 2010 at 3:32 PM

Yeah, I agree somewhat with Cyler. The Piss-off factor can be a force multiplier.

Robert17 on April 7, 2010 at 8:02 AM

Do not forget…it is not as if the dems are done scheming and dealing. They have a few other wildly unpopular schemes in the wind from Cap and Tax to Amnesty to a new VAT…add in Card Check and a bruising Court confirmation and I believe folk will simply get more angry, not less.

JIMV on April 7, 2010 at 3:40 PM

This post has been promoted to

Comments have been closed on this post but the discussion continues here.

Allahpundit on April 7, 2010 at 3:42 PM

Two of the 60% group are special elections coming up in May!!!
PA-12 (Murtha’s old seat) Donate to Tim!
The Dems infighting might split the vote in HA-1. Donate to Djou! He only needs a plurality of the votes to win.
Two more Republican wins before November. Yes We Can!

txhsmom on April 7, 2010 at 3:46 PM

Cyler is correct for the present and JIMV makes a good point to sustain the anger. Everyday we awake to a new aggravation from the dems and they have to know if they want to look at card check, cap and trade, amnesty, etc. they pretty much have to play it like they did with Obamacare and run the table or try to get some distance from where they are now. With their base currently energized I don’t see them backing down.

DanMan on April 7, 2010 at 3:51 PM

I just returned from a town hall meeting with my Republican Congressman. He is very optimistic of the Republicans picking up 60+ seats and tore into Stupak and gang.

farright on April 7, 2010 at 4:02 PM

A turnover will be a culmination of a lot of local races.

I emailed Ed Perlmutter CO-7 after Obamacare that he just added one extremely determined worker to his opponent’s campaign.

Romans34 on April 7, 2010 at 4:23 PM

I think Jim Himes CT-4 is more vulnerable than indicated. Fairfield County is not as blue as the state in general. At town hall meetings Himes is relentlessly assailed for his views and vote on BFD. Even when he has town halls for other concerns, like the recent flooding, Himes has to deal with health care upset.

Connecticut Post had a searing editorial about how much of an unknown Himes was when he won in ’08. Post concludes voters know better now and many are VERY unhappy with Himes.

I wrote to him to say I would actively work against his reelection. No response…which is typical of Himes.

marybel on April 7, 2010 at 5:04 PM

I didnt see Debbie Halvorson (Il-11) up there, and she is set for an epic electoral mau mauing.

DJ Rick on April 7, 2010 at 5:11 PM

So they take the House.


Then Obama just has a brand new crying towel as to why things are getting worse.

“Well, those who control the House are thwarting the Change and Progress my ideas and administration are putting forth”

“As to why things are so bad, just look at the Party of No who now controls the House”

MSNBC will have a FIELD DAY (years in fact)

Gaining control of the House will not do anything but further demonization of the Republican Party since we won’t have the Senate, the Presidency and more importantly: The Press.

Opposite Day on April 7, 2010 at 5:13 PM

De-funding it a pwerful tool. But, yes, I agree Obama will run against the “Do-Nothing Congress” for the next two years. This is becoming a replay of the 1946/1948 campaigns. The Republicans gained 54 seats in 46 and lost the preidency in 48. It’s something to worry about. But I’d take that problem over 2 and 1/2 more years of Obama/Reid/ Pelosi any day.

Fred 2 on April 8, 2010 at 1:31 AM

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