by Tim Storey
As Labor Day approaches, the "traditional" campaign season kicks into high gear, although that's a laughable concept anymore for legislative candidates because most of them have been in campaign mode for months--knocking on doors, walking in local parades, raising money....
Anyway, for Democrats, foreboding news seems to be piling up and another ominous data-point came out a couple of days ago from Gallup. The Gallup headline blared, "GOP Takes Unprecedented 10-Point Lead on Generic Ballot." According to the venerable polling organization, it is the biggest lead for Republicans since Gallup began asking the generic ballot question back during WWII.
Many political science models use the Gallup generic ballot question to forecast seat swings in Congressional elections. About a month ago, Emory University political scientist Alan Abramowitz, a senior columnist for Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball site, took NCSL's historic data on partisan swings in legislative elections and ran a regression analysis of legislative election results from 1946 to 2008. Abramowitz' model factors in the party controlling the White House and the margin between the two parties going into the election. He found a strong relationship between the generic ballot and legislative election results. According to his model, if Republicans hold a six point lead on the generic ballot this November, they can expect to net around 470 seats in this fall's elections. That would give Republicans a majority of all legislative seats for the first time since they emerged from the 2002 election with a narrow advantage.
If the GOP generic ballot holds at +10, as it is now, and the Abramowitz model proves accurate, Democratic losses will approach historic levels and Republicans could wind up with the most legislative seats in their column since World War II. Abramowitz's article with a full explanation of his model and a table showing potential seat shifts appears in the Crystal Ball.