Placing Bets on Election Night

Placing Bets on Election Night


The horse-race quality of any Election Night is enough to drive any novice observer crazy, the incessant parsing of polls moving at warp speed a blur to the untrained eye.  But, it’s the real, hardcore, lactose-free politics on nitrogen – no talking points, no picket signs, no activists screaming at the top of their lungs and no candidates choking on their own gaffes.  This is modern politics – an, arguably, original American past-time occupying a special place in our culture akin to apple pie, cheese steak as baseball.  Politics is an art few can really master, and – ultimately – it’s the numbers crunch.

But, as one longtime partisan put it while peering into the crystal ball for a sign of just how good or bad it will be for Democrats: “At the end of the day, you either win or lose.” called on some of the best and brightest minds in the political world as they survey the landscape.  All agree that it will be a bad night for Democrats as poll after poll shows Republicans leading with a 11-to-15 point national voter enthusiasm gap.  What is uncertain is how bad it will be.  Still, there are so many toss-ups, others say, trying to maintain an optimistic outlook on the situation.

“I believe that when we wake up tomorrow morning, we will find Democrats losing control of the House,” predicts former Denver Mayor Wellington E. Webb (D), who is watching one of the tightest Senate races unraveling in his state of Colorado between Sen. Michael Bennett (D) and tea part-backed Ken Buck (R). “But not by the margins predicted by tea party activists and GOP operatives.  For those of us in the business, there is always a decline in the off years and the numbers are not the same as in Presidential cycles.   The constituencies that were strong two years ago have just not turned out.”

On the other side of the aisle, Frederick Douglass Foundation Founder and North Carolina GOP Vice-Chair Tim Johnson is excited by the surge of African American Republicans getting elected, ironically, in the age of the First Black President who is a Democrat: “I am hopeful there will be at least three Black Republican Congressman next January.  Damon Dunn will be elected secretary of state for California and Jennifer Carroll will become Florida’s first Black female Lt. Gov.”

Looking at the west for signs of a Latino vote break-out, Northwestern University political science professor Victoria DeFrancesco-Soto predicts “Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) eekes it out thanks to Latinos.”

Emory University’s Andra Gillespie is sticking with conventional wisdom: “I anticipate that the Democrats will lose seats in both the House and the Senate.  I expect that Democrats will lose control of the House.  However, my predictions are more conservative than the predictions some analysts are making.  Recently, some pundits predicted that Democrats would lose over 60 seats in the House and 8-9 in the Senate.  My colleague Alan Abramowitz, who has a long track record of accurately predicting election outcomes, is estimating that Democrats will lose about 42 seats in the House and 4 in the Senate.  Based on Abramowitz’s numbers, Democrats still lose the House, but no one is predicting that Republicans will take over the Senate.”

Hiram College’s Jason Johnson steps in with the numbers: “Okay everyone – place your bets.  Winner gets bragging rights!  I’m thinking between 42 to 50 Republican house seats, 7 new GOP Governors and 6 Senators.

Another former Democratic elected official who remains anonymous, jumps in: “I got R’s picking up 55-62 seats in the House and D’s hold Senate 50/51.”

Tufts University’s Peniel Joseph gives his take: “I think that all indicators are trending toward the Dems losing significant seats in the House. Doomsday scenarios range from 60 to 70 and more generous assessments have them still losing the house but retaining some more seats. Part of this is due to the vulnerability of about 28 freshman Dems who won in Republican districts as a result of the Obama cascade. Doubtful any will be re-elected.  In terms of the senate, Dems seem more likely to hold on, given recent developments in Deleware, and now Joe Sestak has evened things out in Pennyslvania. They are still some unfortunate casualties of Obama’s inability to synchronize his political message with his policies in the form of progressive politicians such as Russ Feingold.”