Alan I. Abramowitz, senior columnist for Larry J. Sabato’s Crystal Ball and member of the TDS advisory board, unpacks a forecasting model he used to successfully predict congressional takeovers in 2010 and 2006, plugs in some numbers and offers this perspective for 2012:
After estimating the models based on the results of all House and Senate elections since the end of World War II, the forecasting equations for the 2012 House and Senate elections are as follows:
CRHS = (1.35*GENBALLOT) + (.21*PRESAPP) – (.36*PRHS) – (19.6*MIDTERM) + 86.1
CRSS = (.18*GENBALLOT) + (.05*PRESAPP) – (.81*PRSS) – (2.9*MIDTERM) + 14.8,
Where CRHS is change in Republican House seats, CRSS is change in Republican Senate seats, GENBALLOT is the average current Republican margin on the generic congressional ballot, PRESAPP is net presidential approval coded according to the party of the president, PRHS is previous Republican House seats, PRSS is previous Republican Senate seats, and MIDTERM is a variable distinguishing Republican and Democratic midterm elections from presidential elections that is coded +1 for midterms under a Republican president, 0 for presidential elections and -1 for midterms under a Democratic president.
Sabato cautions that this model “considerably more accurate for House elections than for Senate elections.” based on the most recently-available figures. Abramowitz says “the House forecasting model predicts a very small Democratic seat gain (2-3 seats) in the House but not nearly the 25 seats Democrats would need to take back control of the House.”
As for the Senate, he gives the GOP “a good chance to regain control of the Senate with an expected pickup of 6-7 seats…due almost entirely to the fact that Republicans are defending only 10 Senate seats this year while Democrats are defending 23 seats.”
Yes, Abramowitz acknowledges it’s still early and the prez approval variables could change in Dems’ favor. At this political moment, however, it looks like Dems’ best chance to prevent a GOP takeover of congress may come down to investing some of that Obama war chest in a couple of pivotal senate races.