Eight days out, GOP still poised to gain 60+ House seats
posted at 2:28 pm on October 25, 2010 by Patrick Ishmael
I’m going to start off with my prediction and the list, and then just work backwards from there. Republicans as of today are well positioned to win a net of 62-65 seats on election day. Ranking follows:
(Press CTRL-F to find the seat you’re interested in. If the table is misformatted, try here.)
|District||Dem incumbent||% to win|
|OH-15||Mary Jo Kilroy||70.00%|
|SD-AL||Stephanie Herseth Sandlin||60.00%|
|WV-1||Alan B. Mollohan||56.67%|
|GA-2||Sanford Bishop, Jr.||46.67%|
|NM-3||Ben R. Luján||13.33%|
|MA-6||John F. Tierney||6.67%|
It seems that most experts are predicting about a dozen fewer pickups than what I’m positing. Larry Sabato has been predicting a 47 seat pickup for several weeks now, apparently unaffected by the polling that’s occurred during that time. Charlie Cook continues to officially predict a GOP pickup “of at least 40 seats,” although as I’ve noted before, an unofficial prediction based on past years would push Cook’s range well into the 60s. CQ Politics has a very iceberg quality about it; it doesn’t explicitly predict big GOP pickups or update its predictions frequently, but when it does start shuffling races, it shuffles them en masse. It doesn’t appear likely they’re making any huge predictions at this point, though. Lastly, and the most daring of the bunch, RealClearPolitics’ mean prediction for GOP pickups is just north of 60, with its upper limit currently sitting at 78.
At this point let’s bring InTrade, the prediction market, into the picture. InTraders believe that it’s better than a 57% likelihood the GOP will net 55 or more seats; better than 39% that it’ll be more than 60; and better than 27% that it’ll be more than 65. It seems, then, that the experts (with the exception of RCP) are either seeing a different electoral picture than those betting on the races, or they’re lagging behind the hivemind of the market. The floor of the conventional wisdom is in the low 50s, but there’s plenty of reason to believe that Republicans will get more than, or at least very close to, 60 seats in the House.
How does the GOP do it? I compared my list of likely Republican pickups to the list created by Nate Silver (who uses a similar predictive model to mine) to see if I was over-estimating the likelihood of GOP wins. Turns out, on most of the races where I have the GOP favored, I was under-estimating our chances relative to Silver’s numbers. Of the top 50 races where I think a GOP pickup is most likely, Silver favors 41 by a margin 10% greater than my prediction.
I’ll go a little MythBusters here and declare those races CONFIRMED: GOP-favored matchups that I was bullish on but may nonetheless be a better bet than I thought. If it seems unusual that I’d dump all these GOP-favored seats into the GOP column, keep in mind that in the Dems’ 2006 wave year, every Republican seat that was considered “lean Democrat” was, in fact, won by the Democrat, as well as several lean and likely GOP seats; this wave will undoubtedly be bigger.
But how does the GOP span the 21-seat gap from these 41 seats and get to 62? It’s easier than you might think. First, two races — TN-6 and LA-3 — are assuredly going to the GOP, and Silver and I are in agreement there. (43) There are 12 races in which the GOP has about a 50/50 shot to takeover and where Silver and I agree on their rough probabilities; we’ll assume conservatively that the GOP takes half of those. (49) Then we have the seats where Silver thinks I’m over-estimating the likelihood of a GOP takeover; using Silver’s own numbers, we can expect to win 5 of those 16 seats. (54)
That leaves 8 seats to reach my prediction. Using my own numbers for the remaining 50 races I think are competitive but which Silver is generally less impressed by, we find another 9 seats based on the odds, bringing us to 63 total. Factor in the macro effects of a wave election while acknowledging two or three GOP losses, and a GOP take well into the 60s is well within the realm of possibility. As my prediction suggests, that outcome seems likely to me.
A lot can still happen in the next few days, but I’m guessing that if there’s movement, it will be in the GOP’s direction. When looking at early voter turnout and the fact that the House situation looks so solid, I wouldn’t be surprised if a few strong performances at the House level put a GOP Senate candidate or two over the top in a state where they weren’t favored. Doesn’t mean it’ll be a Senate majority, but it should be close.
All in all, though, it’s going to be an excellent year to be a Republican.