Wednesday, December 7th, 2016

Catching the House wave

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It’s hard to imagine an environment more difficult to try to make accurate predictions of the larger electoral trend.  Will the Republicans take the House of Representatives?  Probably.  Will the U.S. Senate go to the Republicans?  Possibly.

In the case of the House of Representatives, Republicans took advantage of the country’s mood and continually expanded the number of seats in play.  The final number of actual seats in play is disputed, but when over seats are being talked about, it’s an entirely different playing field for the Democrats to defend than what is typical for the majority party.

It’s hard to imagine a worse scenario for the Democrats.  There is nobody else to point the finger at for all of the new spending, and nobody believes the stimulus bill did what it was supposed to do.  As I pointed out over at the MacIver Institute, the voters have good reason not to believe the Democrats.  Now the best practitioners of Howard Dean’s fifty state strategy are the Republicans.

Just flipping a coin in every contested race would net the Republicans approximately fifty seats. If you had told me even a year ago the Republicans would win this many seats I would have laughed at you.  Now some analysts are looking at the House of Representatives and talking about a “super wave.”

Since nobody has ever seen a “super wave,” what would we guess?  Eighty seats?

Nate Silver, doing analysis over at the New York Times, says the real range for pick-ups by the Republicans (as of five days ago) is somewhere between 23 and 81 seats.  Not much of a prognostication, he admits. While the Democrats have a 16% chance of hanging onto the House of Representatives, there is also a 30% chance the Republicans could win more than 60 seats.

We’re in uncharted territory.  This race could be the model on which future forecasting is built, or it could be a complete statistical anomaly. The forecasts largely rest on some assumptions that could easily underestimate the Republican wave.

Given the large number of seats in play, I’m going to pick sixty seats net for the Republicans in the House of Representatives, knowing full well I may be underestimating the total.

What to watch for:  Watch the House elections in Massachusetts where Republicans could pick up two seats, including Barney Frank’s.  If both seats turn red, it may be the sign of the “super wave.”  Then all bets are off.

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