First Look


In view of Richard Jolly’s March 11 win over Alex Sink in Florida’s 13th Congressional District special election, much speculation is being flung about as to what this means for November. The first election during an election season will invariably spawn tales of woe (from the losers) and glee (from the winners), but there are some interesting factors in this race worth examining.

For one thing, Florida’s 13th was won by President Obama in both 2008 and 2012, and Alex Sink was hand-picked by the Democrats – and generously supported by them – to hold the seat. Richard Jolly isn’t a particularly good candidate, and is (hide your children) a lobbyist. Ms Sink had narrowly missed being elected governor, and enjoys wide name recognition. All of this went into a confidence among Democrats that she would defeat Mr Jolly. She lost 49% to 47%, even though there was also a Libertarian candidate in the race (4% of the vote). Republicans, of course, say that Ms Sink actually lost 53% to 47%, and that’s hard to dispute. Also, much was made in the media during the campaign that it was a referendum on ObamaCare, although neither candidate made that claim.

What’s at stake in November is the ability of Republicans to win a net of six Senate seats in order to take control of that body, removing Democratic control of any of the legislative agenda, formally reducing the president to lame duck status. This will be a turnout election – GOP voters are energized by opposition to Obama and his healthcare charade, and Democrats seem depressed by the tide of events. Since World War II, a presidential election typically generates a 63% turnout, while midterms average ~48%, and a low overall turnout is expected to help Republicans, as their percentage should be higher than Democrats’. Also worrying for Democrats is the post-World War II trend of a president’s favorable rating impacting midterm elections results – if a sitting president enjoys favorables over 50%, the party in power generally loses only 14 House seats, but below 50%, the average is a loss of 36. I have been unable to find a comparable statistic for the Senate, but doubt that is substantially different. President Obama’s favorables are hovering between 43% and 39%. And finally, Democrats are defending twenty of the thirty-three Senate seats (61%) up for election this cycle.

According to Larry Sabato’s political science unit at the University of Virginia, four Democratic seats are now leaning Republican – Arkansas, Montana, South Dakota and West Virginia, with no Republican seats leaning Democratic. Thrown into the mix are New Hampshire (where former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown is leaning toward challenging sitting Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen) and Colorado (where Republican US Representative Cory Gardner is challenging Democratic Senator Mark Udall). Mr Sabato also lists Alaska’s Democratically held seat as a toss-up.

Right now, Real Clear Politics averages show a nationwide Democrat lead of 0.6% in generic congressional preference, which encompasses 435 House races and 33 Senate races. There will be no substantive polling done in each state until primaries are over, and indeed, the Republicans have shown a talent for shooting themselves in the foot by nominating some questionable candidates to run against Democrats – for example, Sharron Angle (the only person in Nevada who couldn’t beat Harry Reid in 2010).

11 thoughts on “First Look

  1. I agree with you. Things are looking very good for the GOP in this mid-term. I expect they will take control of both Houses of Congress.

    • It looks that way right now, but I can’t relax yet. The more ObamaCare continues to self-destruct, the better for the GOP … the more Republicans nominate idiots, the better for the Democrats … we’ll see who wins this race to the bottom.

  2. Well I’m more “optimistic” (or in my case I should say “pessimistic”) than you are. I see a repeat of the 2010 mid-terms this year. By the way I see Scotty Brown is forming an exploratory committee in N.H. which is as good as saying he plans to run there. If he does I think he’ll win easily against Jean Shaheen.

    And I wouldn’t worry too much about the GOP electing a bunch of idiots to run this time around. They learned that lesson in ’10 I’m sure.

    • A lot can happen between now and November, but right now, it does look good for Republicans. I’m going to try and follow the primaries in key Senate states, but sometimes, the primaries aren’t covered as well as the generals. We’ll see.

  3. Yes. I know what you mean. I wish there was better coverage of the primary races too. About the only primary updates I get is I watch Chuck Todd on MSNBC @ 9:00 on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings. He has a part where he features, “If it’s Tuesday there’s an election somewhere”. And then he features the two candidates and does brief bios on them and projects his opinion on who will win. Then Wednesday he does a follow up. He’s pretty astute. He projected the Fla.13 special election results between Sink and Foley and pegged it.

    • Yeah, Todd’s pretty good. I’ve read some of his analysis before. So far, the GOP doesn’t seem a threat to present an idiot in a pivotal race – at least I’m not aware of any at the moment – but I will watch closely. Politico and The Hill both are good about featuring such things.

  4. OOPS! I meant Sink / Jolly not Sink Foley….DUH! SCD strikes again! Ha ha!

  5. Here’s a question you might be able to help me with. I think Sen. Bob Casey is up for re-election this year in Pa. He has to be since Toomey was elected in 2010 so he’s not due until ’16. What I can’t find out is who are the Republican candidates that are vying to run against him? Our primary is May 20th and so far I have not seen one TV add or read anything in any of the Pa. papers (and I get the CDT daily) featuring any of the prospects…Hmmm

    • Nope … neither Pennsylvania senator is up this year. As you mention, Senator Toomey was elected in the 2010s (and isn’t up again until the 2016s), and Senator Casey was elected in the 2006s and re-elected in 2012 (up again in 2018).

  6. Well shut my mouth! How in the world could I forget that he was re-elected in 2012???? DUH!

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