Stop Panicking, The Sky Isn't Falling

It was a rather disturbing diary headline earlier this week: “Charlie Cook says Democrats will lose the House.” But it wasn't quite as disturbing once I read the actual article in question.

Is the progressive sky falling?

Hell no.

The full quote from Cook shows that he’s just blowing smoke and has no numbers to back up his claim.


I’ve spent the last couple of days talking to some of the brightest Democrats in the party that are not in the White House. And it’s very hard to come up with a scenario where Democrats don’t lose the House. It’s very hard. Are the seats there right this second? No. But we’re on a trajectory on the House turning over.

A trajectory? Hell, trajectories can change. Give me numbers, not opinions. Unemployment will still be high in November, but between the new jobs bills and the slow recovery, it shouldn’t be as high as it is now. Hopefully with Obama’s new spine, some form health care reform will have passed and voters will realize that Grandma is still alive.

The University of Virginia’s Larry Sabato was one of the first to predict a bad year for Democrats, but is holding steady at bad year, not terrible year. Perhaps his colleagues, like Cook, are trying to make up for not being the first to play Chicken Little by escalating to Chicken Huge. Either way, here’s the take from Isaac Wood, House Race Editor for Sabato’s Crystal Ball:

Some pundits are already predicting the GOP could even take back the House, which would require a net gain of 40 seats this November. To put that into perspective, in the past sixty years there have been thirty House elections, but only four have resulted in either party gaining 40 seats or more. In fact, over the past thirty-five years (and sixteen House elections), only once has either party picked up 40 seats or more. That year, of course, was 1994 when Republicans came to power following a net gain of 52 House seats.

While the Crystal Ball believes 2010 will reverse Democratic gains at all levels, there is still no convincing evidence that a GOP wave will deliver Republicans the majority in the House. Examining history and House races on a district-by-district basis shows instead that Republicans are headed to a more typical, if better than average, midterm year, picking up between 24 and 30 seats as the Crystal Ball has predicted since September. The average pick-up in a midterm year (since 1946) is 22 seats and Republicans should exceed that, but the magic number of 40 still seems out of reach, as of February.

The Senate picture is also looking up. We’ll lose seats, but poll trends are encouraging as Democratic candidates gain ground in several states. In New Hampshire, Republican Kelly Ayotte leads Democratic Rep. Paul Hodes 46-39, but Hodes is closing, having narrowed the gap from 49-40. In New York, Harold Ford has done wonders for Sen. Kirstin Gillibrand, who has narrowed the gap against former Republican Governor George Pataki from 51-38 to 47-41. Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher is also cutting into former Rep. Rob Portman’s lead in Ohio. Nationally, if one disregards Rasmussen (which doesn’t use live pollsters), Democrats still maintain a narrow edge on the generic ballot. And let’s not forget, though he’s not above 50% in every poll, the party’s leader does have a net positive rating.

Am I cherry picking these numbers? With the exception of the president’s approval rating and the generic ballot, yes, of course. The overall electoral picture is bleak. But, just because the sky is dark doesn’t mean it’s falling. This is not the time for progressives and Democrats to panic. It is the time to demand that Congress get serious about financial reform, filibuster reform, clean energy, and health care, and it is the time to start identifying progressive candidates worth our time and donations. I’ve already given money to Matt Dunne in VT-Gov and Jack Conway in KY-Sen. Paul Hodes in NH-Sen is next, and possibly Russ Feingold in WI-Sen, given that Hodes and Feingold are two of the three Senate candidates so far endorsed by the Sierra Club (as well as dozens of House races). I’m thrilled to see the oft-maligned Michael Bennett leading the way on reconciliation, and have always been a fan of Kirstin Gillibrand, who is now taking the lead on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.

With a bit of elbow grease and good messaging, we can limit our losses such that, with filibuster reform, we’ll still have the capability for good governance. We’ve already got some good candidates. So, the next time you feel panic, reroute that energy into something more productive.

Tags: 2010, Democrats, Larry Sabato, midterms, Paul Hodes, charlie cook (all tags)




yes, you are cherry-picking the better Democratic numbers.

However, most of the people claiming that the GOP will take back the House are also cherry-picking the other way - like noting the Democratic retirements without noting the fact that just as many Republicans have retired as well.

by jeopardy 2010-02-24 07:41PM | 0 recs
Take Ras out of the approval equation...

...and it's hard to find bad numbers. I'm not saying go with R2k, which is favorability not approval, and I'm not saying Obama's numbers shouldn't be higher. They should bem but I think they are fair considering the economy and his mistakes. But he's been holding at about 50% since August in Gallup, which considering the high unemployment, sort of surprises me.

Pollster says 48.6%/46.5%, with Ras (+2.3%).

by NoFortunateSon 2010-02-24 09:46PM | 0 recs
RE: cherry-picking

I readily admit I'm cherry-picking, which is the difference between me and those who cherry pick for the Republicans. And that's the point. I'm not trying to say we're going to have a good year, just that its not all bleak, that it's not the way those who are in the tank for a GOP takeover would have us believe.

by Nathan Empsall 2010-02-24 11:09PM | 0 recs
RE: cherry-picking

I agree with all of that


by jeopardy 2010-02-24 11:33PM | 0 recs
Doesnt matter

Incumbents are gonna lose big this year and that favors the GOP....

by BuckeyeBlogger 2010-02-24 07:47PM | 0 recs
Well duh

No offense, but there are simpy so few Republicans, statistically if ever race were a 50/50 chance of a favorable outcome, we'd still lose far more.

by NoFortunateSon 2010-02-24 09:47PM | 0 recs

if I stop panicking, how will I entertain myself?

by Charles Lemos 2010-02-24 08:04PM | 1 recs
There's always the netroots

It's the best free entertainment on the Internet, IMO.

by NoFortunateSon 2010-02-24 09:43PM | 2 recs
RE: But

If you weren't panicking, you wouldn't be in the netroots.That's all anyone in the Sports Talk Left does anymore anyway, panic and kcik around their own elected officials.

Was the Cook diary anothe rUpstate Kent Classic and speaking of whom, didn't Upstate Kent go under the name of "Steve" and constantly call the local sports talk show in Peoria, IL during the 1980s predicting gloom and doom for the Bradley University men's basketball team?

by spirowasright 2010-02-25 01:40PM | 1 recs
RE: But

Yeah, it was Kent. I didn't mean for this entry to sound like a direct response to his diary, I just used his title as a jumping off point.

by Nathan Empsall 2010-02-25 04:49PM | 0 recs
RE: But

It was a Kent Diary? That figures.


Hey Kent, Bradley beat Greg Dreiling twice.

by spirowasright 2010-02-25 06:33PM | 0 recs
PA-Sen worries

Sestak hasn't come on--I don't think the base has warmed up to him.  Toomey has "moved" to the center a little bit, but he's still
a right winger.  Specter is just a train wreck right now, and I think one Obama's biggest political errors was backing Specter in the primary. 

Not that optimistic--still seeing a 50-60 seat loss in the House.



by esconded 2010-02-24 09:00PM | 0 recs
RE: PA-Sen worries

You could see a post-primary Sestak-voter/Specter-voter reconciliation, whichever one wins.  That could work out.

by Endymion 2010-02-24 11:34PM | 0 recs
How can I stop panicking?

Don't you realize if Republicans win we'll get a surge in Afghanistan, continued illegal surveillance, more torture at Bagram, more restrictions on abortion, trillions for Wall Street with no real regulatory increase, cuts to "entitlements" to balance the budget, and a healthcare "reform" bill that only the health insurance and Big Pharma could love?

Oh, wait.

by BDB 2010-02-24 09:27PM | 1 recs
How can I stop panicking?

If Republicans don't win either House in 2010, then it undermines my argument that Obama is a failure!

Obama must fail so I can say I was right all along.


That said, no, any sane person (i.e., not the netroots) has realized that the hard evidence for 2010 shows a mixed result, with some losses but no evidence yet of a wave.

Also, you do realize that Kent wrote that diary?

by NoFortunateSon 2010-02-24 09:39PM | 1 recs
RE: How can I stop panicking?

Yeah, I know it was Kent. I didn't mean for this entry to sound like a direct response to his diary, I just used his title as a jumping off point.

by Nathan Empsall 2010-02-24 11:13PM | 0 recs
RE: How can I stop panicking?

Obama's failure (or success) has nothing to do with whether the Republicans win in 2010 or even 2012.  It's about whether he moves the country in a better direction than it's been going.  In other words, it's about policy, not politics (although good policy is good politics).  So far, on the big things, Obama has been horrible on policy, continuing a lot of the same ones he was elected to change and even where he hasn't (stimulus) refusing to do enough to make a difference.  History isn't going to judge him by whether the Dems win the 2010 elections, it's going to judge him by what he has and hasn't done, primarily with the economy and the need to restructure it away from finance and towards rebuilding America.  Unfortunately, so far, the only thing he's shown an interest in rebuilding is Wall Street.

Now, I think that's going to cost the Dems at the polls (as it should), but even if it doesn't, it won't change the fact that Obama had an opportunity to move this country in the right direction - away from the failed neoliberal policies of the last 30 years - and, so far, has failed to grab even a fraction of the opportunity presented. And, yes, he's had plenty of help from the rest of the Democratic Party.

by BDB 2010-02-25 09:17AM | 0 recs
It's not that we don't like to win.

Really, it's not.  But we don't seem to much like having won.  We're really much more comfortable with Eeyorism. 

Why aflict us in our comfort?

by Endymion 2010-02-24 11:27PM | 0 recs
Panicking? Not a chance.

Panicking?  How can I.  I no longer care.  Obama and the Dems had the chance to change this nation and what we got was George Bush III.  I have been voting since the 60s and never have I thought that it no longer matters if you vote . . until now.


What's different from Bush?  Hardly anything.  Clinton?  Same thing.  Even the extreme Right didn't get what they wanted under Bush and the GOP.  It does not matter for whom we vote and I am DONE with "the lesser of two evils" argument.  Oh I'll vote when it is osmething like repealing Prop 8, but I, and millions more potential Dem voters are just done.  We are sitting home.  I/we no longer give a damn.

by scytherius 2010-02-24 11:30PM | 0 recs
Millions of potential Dem voters tell you that

or are you just playing troll tonight?

by ND22 2010-02-24 11:47PM | 0 recs
I have my towel

The basic point is however upset the voting public is with the Democrats for not getting us out of this mess, they are still more upset with the Republicans for getting us into to it. So just some tangible movement will change the dynamic dramatically.

Having said that the Democrats are idiots.

by Judeling 2010-02-24 11:50PM | 0 recs
I dont think the sky will fall

if we lose the house, or even if we lose the house AND the senate.  That would just be like 1994-2000.

On the other hand, the sky could fall on our heads if we head back into a double dip.  Or, if we move sideways for several years (which is likely to happen).  That is the scenario that worries me ~ who controls Congress is a sideshow by comparison

by Ravi Verma 2010-02-25 12:05AM | 0 recs
1994-2000 was one of the most conservative periods in history

Welfare was essentially abolished, financial and telecommunications regulations were gutted.  Republicans had Clinton on strings and he was a "yes man" to everything they wanted.  Obama would be a 100% slave to Republicans if they won control.  This time we would see Social Security essentially abolished. 

by Kent 2010-02-25 04:26AM | 1 recs
1994-2000 was one of the most conservative periods in history

Welfare was essentially abolished, financial and telecommunications regulations were gutted.  Republicans had Clinton on strings and he was a "yes man" to everything they wanted.  Obama would be a 100% slave to Republicans if they won control.  This time we would see Social Security essentially abolished. 

by Kent 2010-02-25 04:26AM | 2 recs
RE: 1994-2000 was one of the most conservative periods in history

A GOP House will more or less assure an Obama victory in 2012 as long as it is around 219-216. A loss of 41-42 seats may be precisely what the Dems need! However, the loss of Senate will not be palatable.

by Boilermaker 2010-02-25 08:54AM | 0 recs
What a bold, bold prediction

The party in power has lost seats in both the Senate and House in every single mid-term of all time, except 1934. Prediciting that the party in power will have a bad midterm is like saying the sky is blue.


As a side note, the one model we have for holding serve is a president being progressive as hell, calling out corporate America, and actually being audacious. Could we learn from 1934?

by alectimmerman 2010-02-25 08:30AM | 0 recs
RE: What a bold, bold prediction

Wrong! The Dems gained in 1998 and the GOP gained in 2002! I think we are in for a series of wave elections in 2010, 2012 and 2014...that would be a decade of wave elections!

by Boilermaker 2010-02-25 01:06PM | 0 recs
RE: What a bold, bold prediction

That sounds interesting.

by Jerome Armstrong 2010-03-03 04:39PM | 0 recs
RE: Stop Panicking, The Sky Isn't Falling

In 1998 the Repubicans were the party in majority in the house. They lost 5 seats to the Democrats, but still retained the majority. Again, the majority party lost seats in the 1998 midterm.

You are right about 2002. So 1934 and 2002 when those a-holes used terror fear to maintain power.



by alectimmerman 2010-02-25 03:11PM | 0 recs


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