GOP poised for big gains, political scientists say

Academic models foresee takeover

The Ivory Tower has weighed in on the chances that Republicans win back the House in November’s elections, and the outlook is decidedly rosy for the GOP.

One set of professors says there is a 79 percent chance of Republicans taking the House and that the most likely outcome is that they will hold 229 seats in the 435-member chamber, while another professor using generic congressional polling projects a shift of 47 seats. Still another, using what he calls the “seats-in-trouble” prediction model, says Republicans are poised to capture 51 or 52 seats, giving them 230 or 231, well more than the 218 needed for control.

They were among the thousands of political science professors and students who descended on Washington over the past four days to hash out the thorny questions of academia.

Amid the debates over President Obama and the “tea party” movement, they put their statistical models to the test to see what history says will happen in November’s election. Although history shows Republicans should be in for a good year, they say, it’s uncertain how far that extends.

Professor Alfred G. Cuzan at the University of West Florida, whose model combines the history of past elections with rates of economic growth and inflation, said Republicans would come close to winning the House, but history shows swings of nearly 40 seats - the size needed to shift control - are hard to come by.

Mr. Cuzan, writing in a paper titled “Will the Republicans Retake the House in 2010?” gave the GOP about a 40 percent chance and said it will depend “on some combination of random disturbances and systemic factors” that can’t be accounted for in models, such as how deeply the country will rebel against Democrats’ legislative agenda.

“Hence, the answer to this article’s eponymous question is an emphatic maybe,” he said.

But most models show Republicans cleaning up.

Dartmouth University’s Joseph Bafumi said he expects Republicans to win about 53 percent of the total House vote. That would translate into 229 seats, or a pickup of 50.

His model combines a look at incumbents and open seats with generic polls. But he said this year’s election could break the mold because the sides were already so divided that there may not be a late break toward the Republicans, as opposition parties have generally had, which could hold down GOP victories.

“From the start, the 2010 campaign has had a sharper ideological tone than in the past. The tilting toward the out-party may thus have been realized earlier than in the past,” he wrote. “It also is possible that an unusually conservative Republican campaign could dampen the expected shift toward the Republicans. If either of these possibilities is true, and the polls remain unchanged through November, the Democrats actually could have the edge come Election Day.”

Alan I. Abramowitz, a professor at Emory University, said November’s vote historically is correlated to the September generic polls - when pollsters ask voters whether they would vote for an unnamed Democrat or an unnamed Republican in their congressional district.

He said that according to that, the GOP is poised for big gains: 47 House seats, seven governorships, 12 or 13 state legislative chambers and about four U.S. Senate seats - although he said that Senate number is too low.

James E. Campbell, a professor at the University of Buffalo, runs a seats-in-trouble model that looks at those districts where current officeholders are most vulnerable, based on political prognosticators’ evaluations, and then figures out how much of a drag the president will be.

“The forecast is that Democrats will lose about 51 or 52 seats, leaving them with a total of 205 or 206 seats,” Mr. Campbell concluded. “The odds appear to be quite favorable for the Republicans regaining the House majority that they lost in 2006.”

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