Larry J. Sabato is a political scientist with a long history of accurately predicting the outcomes of elections. He hasn’t done such a good job during the last two election cycles, so of course, now he’s writing for Politico. He just published, Republicans Really Could Win it All This Year. That’s a pretty stupid title when you consider a few things. First, they obviously can’t win the presidency. Second, they already have the House of Representatives, and no one really expects them to lose it. And third, everyone knows that that the Republicans might take control of the Senate. That’s why I recently argued in Don’t Cry for the Democrats that even if they lose the Senate in 2014, they will almost certainly get it back in 2016. What Sabato should have titled his article is, “Republicans Really Could Win the Senate This Year.” It would have been a boring title, but it would have the advantage of being accurate and just as boring as the article itself.
Sabato claims that there are three things that really matter for the 2014 elections. First, is presidential approval. His argument is that presidential approval often hurts congressional candidates of his party. But not always. He also makes the totally unsubstantiated claim that it is just as likely that Obama’s approval rating will fall as that it will climb. I don’t see that at all. Obama is not Bush the Younger. I think he’s gotten about as unpopular as he can possibly get. What’s more, his current unpopularity is mostly due to the bad Obamacare roll-out, and that is definitely on the mend. Now, I don’t see Obama’s approval rating going way up, but I do expect it to get somewhat better over the next ten months.
The second important issue is the economy. File this one under “Sherlock, No Shit.” Still, he spends only two paragraphs on the subject. Mostly, he uses it to make an incoherent argument that a bad economy will be good for the Republicans but a good economy will not help the Democrats. He concludes with a perfect example of statement that says nothing but appears to, “So even if the economy continues to improve, Obama and the Democrats might not reap an electoral benefit.” That’s right, if the economy is booming, it might not help the Democrats. Alternately, if the economy is booming, it might help the Democrats. In other words: Sabato has nothing to say on the subject.
The final issue can also be filed under “Sherlock, No Shit”: the electoral playing field. This is what everyone is talking about and is the basis of, Don’t Cry for the Democrats: there are a lot more Democrats up for re-election than there are Republicans. There are 21 Democrats up and only 14 Republicans. But in 2012, there were 23 Democrats versus 10 Republicans and the Democrats managed to gain two seats. What’s more, the Democrats can lose 5 seats and still maintain control of the Senate.
Sabato ends his column with nothing more than a bunch of speculation, stated as though it is proof:
Basically, all he’s got here is that the 2014 election will be a wash in the House and the Republicans have a decent chance of taking over the Senate with a slim majority. This is exactly what I’ve been saying for at least the last year. But let me put a positive spin on what Sabato wrote:
In other words: Larry Sabato has added nothing of value to the discussion of the 2014 election.
I want to be very clear here. My point is that Sabato is adding nothing to the discussion and that he seems to be cheer leading for the GOP. His conclusions are pretty much the same as mine in, The Next Three Election Cycles. That conclusion is that the Republicans will do slightly better than the Democrats but that mostly it will be a wash. But the way that Sabato puts it, it is that it is going to be a great year for the Republicans. It could be, just as it could be a great year for the Democrats. But the information he provides points to a wash. He seems to be pushing back against a groundswell of pundits saying that the Democrats are going to do well in 2014. No one is saying that.