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Fwd: Sabato's Crystal Ball Vol. IV, Iss. 13 - History's Paragraph for the 2006 Election

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  • Greg Cannon
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    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 1, 2006
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      --- "Larry J. Sabato" <goodpolitics@...>
      wrote:

      > Date: Thu, 01 Jun 2006 04:00:00 -0700
      > Subject: Sabato's Crystal Ball Vol. IV, Iss. 13 -
      > History's Paragraph for the 2006 Election
      > To: "greg" <gregcannon1@...>
      > From: "Larry J. Sabato" <goodpolitics@...>
      >
      >
      > History's Paragraph for the 2006 Election
      > -Lengthy and dramatic or brief and underwhelming?-
      >
      > Larry J. Sabato
      > Director, U.Va. Center for Politics
      >
      >
      > It's humbling for all involved in America's
      > electoral process to realize
      > that each midterm election season--all the contests
      > put
      > together--comprises no more than a paragraph in the
      > history books. The
      > significant elections merit a bold, detailed
      > paragraph, while the
      > run-of-the-mill midterms get a tepid, sketchy
      > paragraph. Most election
      > paragraphs are tepid; big midterm earthquakes are
      > rare.
      >
      > So what will 2006's paragraph look like? Will it be
      > lengthy and dramatic,
      > or brief and underwhelming?
      >
      > To attempt to answer this, let's see if we can
      > discern any useful
      > historical patterns among the post-World War II
      > midterm congressional
      > elections. Here's my attempt to write an appropriate
      > paragraph for the
      > fifteen midterms from 1946 to 2002, from Midterm
      > Madness (Rowman &
      > Littlefield, 2003):
      >
      > 1946: After fourteen years of solid Democratic
      > control under FDR and
      > Truman, voters want change. The end of World War II
      > and post-war economic
      > dislocation encourage the "time for a change" theme.
      > Truman doesn't seem
      > up to the job--who would after Franklin
      > Roosevelt?--and the mantra
      > becomes, "To err is Truman." So Republicans captured
      > both houses of
      > Congress, grabbing 55 House seats and 12 Senate
      > seats, plus two more
      > governorships (for a total of 25 out of 48).
      >
      > 1950: Truman's come-from-behind presidential victory
      > in 1948 had restored
      > Democratic rule by adding 76 House and nine Senate
      > seats. But eighteen
      > straight years of Democratic presidencies took its
      > toll again in the
      > midterm, as Democrats gave back 29 House and six
      > Senate seats.
      >
      > 1954: Eisenhower's triumph two years earlier gave
      > the GOP narrow
      > majorities in Congress, even though his coattails
      > were not particularly
      > long. By the time of the midterm, a slight swing
      > away from the Republicans
      > cost 18 of the party's 24 newly gained House seats
      > and one Senate seat,
      > and this was just enough to transfer control of
      > Congress back to the
      > Democrats.
      >
      > 1958: This is the first modern example of the
      > so-called "sixth-year itch,"
      > when voters decide to give the other party sizeable
      > congressional
      > majorities after the first six years of a two-term
      > presidency. While
      > Democrats had already won back control of Congress
      > in 1954 and maintained
      > control in 1956, despite Eisenhower's landslide
      > reelection, the additional
      > 48 House and 13 Senate berths for Democrats insured
      > that Ike's legislative
      > influence would be minimal during his final two
      > years in office.
      >
      > 1962: Like Eisenhower before him, John F. Kennedy
      > had almost no coattails
      > in his 1960 presidential squeaker; Democrats
      > actually lost twenty House
      > seats and two Senate seats. JFK feared more losses
      > in his 1962 midterm,
      > but the Cuban Missile Crisis--the "Missiles of
      > October"--boosted support
      > for his administration just before the balloting.
      > The result was a wash,
      > with Democrats losing four House seats but picking
      > up three Senate seats.
      > "October Surprises" can affect congressional
      > elections every bit as much
      > as presidential contests.
      >
      > 1966: Lyndon Johnson's historic 61 percent landslide
      > in 1964 appeared to
      > presage a new era of Democratic rule, as he carried
      > in 38 House freshmen
      > and two additional senators to an already heavily
      > Democratic Congress. But
      > that was before Vietnam began to devour LBJ. Already
      > by 1966, voters were
      > turning against the president's conduct of the war,
      > and it cost the
      > Democrats 47 House seats and two Senate
      > seats--though not overall control
      > of Congress.
      >
      > 1970: Richard Nixon's close 43 percent victory in
      > 1968 didn't stop him
      > from dreaming of a "silent majority" of Republicans
      > and conservative
      > Southern Democrats, and he made a major effort to
      > improve the GOP's weak
      > position in Congress. (Nixon had added but seven
      > House members and five
      > senators to the Republican minority in 1968.) His
      > efforts paid off to a
      > certain degree, as the GOP added two Senate seats in
      > 1970, while holding
      > House losses to a relatively small twelve seats.
      > Democrats still ruled the
      > Capitol Hill roost, though.
      >
      > 1974: Oddly, Nixon's 61 percent reelection landslide
      > in 1972 almost
      > precisely returned his party to its paltry 1968
      > levels in both houses. The
      > Republicans could ill afford a coattail-less
      > election, given what was soon
      > to happen: Nixon's resignation in disgrace, a
      > recession, and an unelected
      > successor GOP president (Gerald Ford) who squandered
      > his initial
      > popularity by pardoning Nixon--all just in time for
      > November 1974.
      > Democrats picked up 48 House seats and five Senate
      > seats; Ford was left
      > mainly with his veto power for his remaining two
      > years in office.
      >
      > 1978: Jimmy Carter's narrow 1976 election left
      > Congress virtually
      > unchanged, though still heavily Democratic. And
      > Carter's fall from grace
      > had barely started in 1978. A quiet midterm before
      > the storm of 1980
      > nonetheless subtracted fifteen House and three
      > Senate seats from the
      > Democratic totals.
      >
      > 1982: Ronald Reagan's ten-point slaughter of Carter
      > in 1980 was a now-rare
      > coattail election, as the GOP also won 33 House
      > seats and twelve Senate
      > seats. That was enough to take over the Senate
      > outright and obtain a
      > working majority on some issues with conservative
      > House Democrats. But
      > this tumultuous period in American politics
      > continued through 1982, when a
      > serious recession deprived the GOP of 26 House
      > seats. The Senate stayed
      > Republican, however, and the GOP actually added a
      > seat.
      >
      > 1986: After yet another coattail-less reelection of
      > a president--Reagan's
      > massive 59 percent win in 1984--the sixth-year itch
      > returned in 1986.
      > Voters turned over eight Senate seats to the
      > Democrats, and thus control
      > of that body. The GOP lost only five House seats,
      > but the Democrats were
      > solidly in charge of the House in any event.
      >
      > 1990: Vice President Bush had won Reagan's "third
      > term" in 1988 by a solid
      > 54 percent margin, but the Republicans suffered from
      > no coattails again,
      > losing three House seats and one Senate seat. With
      > partisan politics
      > somewhat at abeyance due to the pre-Persian Gulf War
      > military buildup, a
      > quiet midterm saw Republicans lose nine House seats
      > and one Senate berth.
      > Much like Carter in 1978, Bush did not see the
      > gathering storm clouds in
      > this eerie calm.
      >
      > 1994: A recession and a disengaged administration
      > took George H.W. Bush
      > from the all-time heights of 90 percent popularity
      > to a humiliating 38
      > percent finish in the 1992 election. With Ross Perot
      > securing 19 percent,
      > Bill Clinton's 43 percent victory was not
      > impressive, and Democrats lost
      > ten House seats and kept even in the Senate. A
      > disastrous overreaching by
      > new President Clinton on health care reform, gays in
      > the military, and
      > other issues, coupled with a slow economy, produced
      > a sixth-year itch in
      > the second year. In 1994 Republicans gained an
      > eye-popping 52 House seats
      > and nine Senate seats to win control of both houses.
      >
      > 1998: Proving that every defeat can yield the seeds
      > of victory, Clinton
      > let Republicans overreach just as he had. Running
      > against both ex-Senate
      > Majority Leader Bob Dole (the GOP nominee) and
      > Speaker Newt Gingrich (the
      > unpopular foil), Clinton won a 49 percent
      > reelection. But Democrats
      > captured only nine House seats and actually lost two
      > more Senate seats,
      > leaving Republicans in charge of Congress. Would
      > Clinton have another
      > catastrophic midterm election? It certainly looked
      > that way as the Monica
      > Lewinsky scandal unfolded. But Republicans again
      > overplayed their hand,
      > beginning unpopular impeachment proceedings that
      > yielded a Democratic gain
      > of five House seats (with the Senate unchanged).
      >
      > 2002: The George W. Bush Midterm, plain and simple.
      > In an election
      > dominated by terrorism, Iraq, and the president
      > himself, the Republicans
      > defied conventional wisdom by gaining seats in both
      > houses of Congress,
      > making Bush the first president since Franklin D.
      > Roosevelt in 1934 to
      > pick up seats in both houses in his first term. The
      > Democrats were unable
      > to link the poor economy to Bush, and the media's
      > extensive coverage of
      > the impending confrontation with Iraq and the
      > Washington, D.C.-area sniper
      > incidents overshadowed the somewhat fuzzy Democratic
      > election agenda. In
      > the final two weeks of the general election, key
      > White House adviser Karl
      > Rove sent Bush on a whirlwind campaign tour of the
      > battleground states,
      > which ended up reaping rich rewards for the GOP. The
      > Republicans gained
      > two seats in the Senate and six House seats. The
      > only positive note for
      > the Democrats was a net gain of three governorships,
      > but the GOP
      > maintained a narrow overall statehouse majority (26
      > to 24).
      >
      >
      > It's obvious from these descriptions that the bold
      > midterms that really
      > mattered--the ones that dramatically affected
      > national policy and
      > politics--were 1946, 1958, 1966, 1974, 1994 and
      > 2002. In the cases of
      > 1958, 1966 and 1974, the midterms served as a
      > prelude to a White House
      > takeover by the opposition party. In 1946 the
      > results were misleading,
      > because the New Deal coalition of FDR was still
      > strong--strong enough to
      > enable Harry Truman to win an upset victory in 1948.
      > In 1994 the GOP
      > landslide probably helped to reelect President
      > Clinton two years later,
      > ironically. And in 2002, President Bush's midterm
      > success signaled he
      > would have a good chance to be reelected, as he was
      > in 2004.
      >
      > Only about a third of the midterms have made the cut
      > into the
      > "significant" category. For our purposes here, we're
      > also going to add
      > three other midterms that had a moderate but telling
      > impact on American
      > politics: 1950, 1982, and 1986. This trio will
      > further enrich our analysis
      > and predictions.
      >
      > What makes a midterm historically memorable? All of
      > these elections
      > involved two or more of the following critical
      > factors:
      >
      > - Exceptional presidential poll ratings (either
      > unusually low or high)
      > - Foreign war (popular or unpopular)
      > - Sour economy
      > - Major scandal
      > - Intense hot-button social, domestic issues
      >
      > Which factors played well in the nine modern midterm
      > elections we've
      > chosen to examine leading up to 2006?
      >
      > Election Year Presidential Popularity War Economy
      > Scandal Social Issues
      > 1946 X (low) X
      > 1950 X (low) X X
      > X
      > 1958 X
      > X
      > 1966 X (low) X
      > 1974 X (low) X
      > X
      > 1982 X (low) X
      > 1986
      > X
      > 1994 X (low) X
      > X X
      > 2002 X (high) X
      > 2006* X (low) X
      > X X
      >
      > * as of June
      >
      >
      > The most consistent indicator of a forthcoming
      > "significant midterm" has
      > been presidential popularity, almost always the lack
      > of it. In 1946, 1950,
      > 1966, 1974, 1982 and 1994, the incumbent President's
      > last Gallup Poll
      > rating prior to the election (usually late October
      > to early November) was
      > in the 30s to mid-40s, with the exception of new
      > President Gerald Ford,
      > who was still in his brief honeymoon despite his
      > pardon of President
      > Nixon. (Nixon's August resignation day rating of 23
      > percent was more
      > relevant to the election of 1974 than Ford's rating.
      > The midterm was
      > something of a public judgment on the Watergate
      > scandal.) Here are the
      > pre-election ratings for all nine midterms we are
      > examining:
      >
      > President Poll Dates Poll Approve Disapprove No
      > Opinion
      > Truman Sep. 13-18, 1946 Gallup 33 52 15
      > Truman Oct. 20-25, 1950 Gallup 41 46 14
      > Eisenhower Oct. 15-20, 1958 Gallup 57 27 16
      > Johnson Oct. 21-26, 1966 Gallup 44 41 15
      > Ford Oct. 18-21, 1974 Gallup 54 29 18
      > Reagan Oct. 15-18, 1982 Gallup 42 48 10
      > Reagan Oct. 24-27. 1986 Gallup 63 29 8
      > Clinton Nov. 2-6, 1994 Gallup 46 46 8
      > Bush Oct. 31-Nov. 3, 2002 Gallup 63 29 8
      >
      >
      > It is vital to note the exceptions to the
      > "presidential popularity"
      > midterm indicator. In 1958 Eisenhower was able to
      > maintain his personal
      > approval rating at a remarkable 57 percent, but it
      > couldn't help his party
      > in his sixth-year itch election. Similarly, in 1986
      > Reagan had a robust 63
      > percent (just prior to the Iran-Contra scandal,
      > which broke several weeks
      > after the election), yet the Democrats grabbed the
      > U.S. Senate anyway. The
      > most unusual exception to the popularity guideline
      > occurred in 2002, when
      > George W. Bush had a Reagan-like 63 percent approval
      > rating. Unlike
      > Reagan, though, he was able to transfer some of his
      > post-September 11th
      > popularity to the GOP in capturing the Senate and
      > adding House seats. Of
      > course, this was his first midterm election, not the
      > sixth-year contests.
      >
      > War has mattered three times before 2006. The
      > controversial Korean War in
      > 1950 and the deeply unpopular Vietnam War in 1966
      > cost two Democratic
      > Presidents, Truman and LBJ, many congressional
      > seats. Conversely, the
      > highly successful Afghanistan War in 2001 and the
      > overall War on
      > Terrorism, which had strong public backing, helped
      > Bush and the
      > Republicans in 2002.
      >
      > The pocketbook issue, generated by bad economies,
      > damaged the President's
      > party on six occasions--1946 (when the transition
      > from a wartime economy
      > to a peacetime economy proved very difficult), 1950,
      > 1958, 1974, 1982 and
      > 1994. The economy wasn't good in 2002 either, but
      > voters chose to overlook
      > it or attribute it to the effects of September 11th.
      >
      > Scandal has played a role four times, in 1950, 1958,
      > 1974 and 1994. With
      > the exception of Watergate, a mega-scandal, in 1974,
      > corruption has been
      > more a supplementary than a central explanation for
      > the election results.
      >
      > Key social or domestic issues have been factors
      > twice, in the Democrats'
      > Senate triumph of 1986, where they used fears of
      > possible GOP cuts in
      > Social Security to win over senior citizens, and in
      > 1994 when the
      > Republicans turned the tables on the Democrats by
      > emphasizing cultural
      > concerns such as abortion, gun control, and gay
      > rights.
      >
      > Now that we have an enlightening historical
      > perspective as a template,
      > let's see how we can project the 2006 midterm
      > contests. The omens are dark
      > for Republicans, at least as they appear in June.
      > President Bush's
      > approval rating hovers in the low-to-mid 30s; Bush
      > needs a sizeable
      > recovery quickly, because a modest boost in the
      > polls won't help all that
      > much at his cellar level. The Iraq War could hardly
      > be less liked by the
      > voters, or more directly tied to the GOP--already on
      > a par with Korea, and
      > increasingly resembling Vietnam, though without the
      > draft or the jungle.
      > In addition, there are scandals galore, though as we
      > have argued in a
      > previous recent analysis, Democratic congressional
      > scofflaws prevent this
      > factor from being an unalloyed advantage for
      > Democrats. (Since that piece
      > was written, Congressman Bill Jefferson of Louisiana
      > has attracted a great
      > deal of unwanted publicity that can only damage
      > democratic claims of
      > relative purity.) Perhaps the coming Abramoff
      > lobbying indictments will
      > re-energize scandal and tilt it heavily against the
      > Republicans, assuming
      > the targets are overwhelmingly GOP.
      >
      > As far as social issues go, there are already
      > anti-gay marriage amendments
      > on the November ballot in six states (Idaho, South
      > Carolina, South Dakota,
      > Tennessee, Virginia, and Wisconsin), with probably
      > more to join in. This
      > subject tends to motivate a disproportionately
      > conservative electorate,
      > and so it likely will be a plus for Republicans,
      > just as it was in the
      > eleven states that featured similar referenda in
      > 2004. But other social
      > issues that have emerged in 2006, immigration and
      > stem-cell research, may
      > assist Democrats in some places. For instance, the
      > fierce debate over
      > immigration reform could possibly shift more of the
      > critical Hispanic and
      > Latino swing vote from the GOP to the Democrats.
      >
      > Only a generally robust, stable economy can fairly
      > be counted as a
      > Republican plus in 2006. However, most voters do not
      > yet perceive the
      > economy to be nearly as solid as it actually is--a
      > by-product of gloom
      > over Iraq, dislike of President Bush, unhappiness
      > over skyrocketing
      > gasoline prices, and troubles in industries such as
      > autos and the
      > airlines. If Republicans hope to minimize their
      > losses, they must focus
      > more on this crucial election category. Without
      > credit for the economy,
      > voters may well conclude that "everything is going
      > to hell in a
      > hand-basket," a conclusion that almost always leads
      > the electorate to sing
      > a chorus of "It's time for a change".
      >
      > With five months to go before November, can every
      > piece of this analysis
      > be transformed? It's certainly possible, but it's
      > also not very likely.
      > The problems bedeviling Bush and the GOP may get a
      > bit better or a little
      > worse, but they appear to be intrinsic to this
      > election year. Therefore,
      > the only real question is how many seats the
      > Democrats will gain in the
      > Congress and the statehouses, not if they will gain.
      >
      > Take the case of the U.S. House of Representatives.
      > It is difficult to see
      > the Democrats picking up fewer than five seats
      > net--a third of the fifteen
      > seats the party needs for a House takeover. Most
      > election rating sites,
      > including the Crystal Ball, have been gradually
      > upgrading their estimates
      > of likely Democratic gains, with the number now
      > ranging from seven to
      > twelve seats. That is approaching the magic level of
      > addition required for
      > a House majority. At the same time, early
      > projections are not reality and
      > plenty of events could alter the landscape just
      > enough to preserve
      > Republican control of the House.
      >
      > Look again at our table of post-World War II
      > historical precedents. There
      > is cold comfort there for the GOP, and at least
      > preliminary cheer for
      > Democrats. The election paragraph for 2006 is not
      > yet written, but it will
      > be a surprise if its content does not please
      > Democrats more than
      > Republicans. But will the results make much
      > difference for governance by
      > giving real power to the Democrats in at least one
      > house of Congress? That
      > is the key question that can only be answered by the
      > events to come, the
      > campaigns yet to be run, and the final decisions of
      > the voters--the ones
      > who, far more than scholars, actually write the
      > midterm election passage
      > in the book of American history.
      >
      >
      >
      >
      --------------------------------------------------------------------------
      >
      > Encyclopedia Of American Political Parties And
      > Elections
      >
      > - Larry J. Sabato & Howard R. Ernst
      > (Facts on File, May 2006)
      >
      > This new volume contains all the material a reader
      > needs to understand the
      > American election process and its political parties.
      > This complete A-to-Z
      > reference guide covers the people, events, and terms
      > involved in the
      > electoral process. It also provides the history of
      > elections in the United
      > States, focusing primarily on the presidential
      > elections. Appendix
      > material includes the results for every presidential
      > election.
      >
      > Entries include: Absentee voting, Red/Blue states,
      > Campaign ethics, Dark
      > horse candidate, Dirty campaign tricks, Election
      > fraud, Electoral College,
      > Fundraising, Internet voting, Recall, Super Tuesday,
      > Voter turnout, Wedge
      > issues, and many more!
      >
      >
      >
      > For more information, visit
      > http://www.centerforpolitics.org/pubs/books.htm
      >
      >
      >
      --------------------------------------------------------------------------
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