Emory Report
October 30, 2006
Volume 59, Number 9

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October 30 , 2006
Emory experts predict '06 election outcome

BY Benjamin Van der horst

With the midterm elections just a week away, political reports seem to be dominated by polls and predictions. Alan Abramowitz, Alben W. Barkley Professor of Political Science, Merle Black, Asa G. Candler Professor of Politics and Government and Andra Gillespie, assistant professor of political science, are called upon almost daily by the national and international media to make predictions and share insights about the election.

Recently, these three, joined by Randall Strahan, an associate professor of political science whose research focuses on congressional politics, presented panel discussions on midterm elections for Emory alumni in New York City and Washington, D.C.

Abramowitz believes this election will be a “wave election,” an election where there is a significant shift in the balance of power between the political parties. “A wave is going to crash down on the Republicans in the House and the Senate,” Abramowitz said in remarks about the midterm election at Emory earlier this month.

He projects that the Republicans are going to lose a large number of seats in the United States House of Representatives. “Democrats are likely to win the majority in the House,” Abramowitz said. He believes that the Democratic gain could be 25 to 30 seats or more.

Gillespie agrees. “Everything is trending towards a Democratic take over” in the House, she said.

The Cook Political Report projects that there are 54 competitive House races. Forty-five of those races are in Republican-held districts. The Report projects 26 toss-up races, which are the most competitive. All 26 are in districts currently held by Republicans. The Democrats only need 15 seats to win control of the House of
Representatives for the first time since 1994.

When asked about the election in the Senate, Gillespie said it is still “too close to call.”
The Democrats need to gain six seats in the Senate to take a 51 to 49 majority. In the case of a tie, the Republicans would keep control because the tie-breaking vote would be cast by Vice President Dick Cheney.

Generally, there are four Senate seats held by incumbent Republicans that political forecasters, including Abramowitz, are expecting to go Democratic. These are the seats held by Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, Mike DeWine of Ohio, Conrad Burns of Montana and Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island.

If all four of these senators lose, and Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey, a Democrat locked in a tough election battle of his own, manages to hold onto his seat, the Democrats would then have 49 seats, two short of having a majority and control of the Senate.

To take control, the Democrats would need to win two of the remaining three races in Tennessee, Missouri and Virginia. Republican incumbents hold the seats in Missouri and Virginia, and the seat in Tennessee is vacant, because Sen. Bill Frist decided not to seek re-election. Polling in all three of these races are within the margin of error and so are expected to go down to the wire.

Gillespie is expecting a higher turnout in these elections than in the 2002 midterm elections, in part because of recent scandals, but mainly because of heavy “get out the vote” operations by both sides. But she cautions that participation in a midterm election should not be compared to that of one in a presidential election.

Historically, the party of the president usually loses seats in midterm elections. From 1934 to 1994, the president’s party lost seats in Congress during every midterm election. The incumbents lost an average of 24 seats in the House and three in the Senate. In addition, when the approval rating of the president was below 50 percent, as George Bush’s is now, the party of the president has lost 38 seats in the House and five in the Senate during midterm elections. 2002 was an exception to this trend, with the Republicans picking up seats in both bodies. History may help to explain why the Democrats may pick up seats in both the House and the Senate.

With politics and elections, events can occur and things change right up to Election Day. But if the election were held today, Emory experts predict we would have a new Speaker of the House come January.