In the last thread on the subject of House races, some commenters were ready to dismiss Stu Rothenberg and Charlie Cook as conservative concern trolls. Though most of their punditry is useless, these guys make their living predicting House and Senate races, and I think they’re reasonably good at that job. Let’s take a look at some of their ratings for tight races in my state, New York:
NY-29 – Leans Republican. This is Massa’s seat. Cook and Rothenberg are being charitable here. Massa won this seat on the second try, having run two excellent campaigns. After his meltdown, this R+5 district is pretty close to a lock for Republicans, especially considering that the Democrat who finally stepped up to be sacrificed is a first-time no-name who starts his campaign with zip in the bank.
NY-24 – Toss-Up. Michael Arcuri is in his second term. The challenger who lost the 2008 race by 4 points, a wealthy, moderate Republican businessman, is back for a rematch. He outraised Arcuri this quarter. Arcuri stupidly voted against HCR last month after voting for it the first time. It’s a R+2 district, which was long represented by moderate Republican Sherry Boehlert before Arcuri won the open seat in 2006.
NY-23 – Lean Democratic (Cook)/Democrat Favored (Rothenberg) This is the district where Bill Owens beat teabagger Doug Hoffman in a special election where Republican Dede Scozzafava siphoned off just enough votes for Owens to prevail. Owens and Hoffman are probably going head-to-head this cycle. Hoffman is a wackaloon, but Owens is the first Democrat to represent this R+1 district since the Civil War. This one is a “lean Democrat” because Hoffman can’t raise money: he brought in a little over $13K last quarter, versus a quarter million from Owens. This is a lesson to those who think money doesn’t matter: C.R.E.A.M., motherfuckers.
Those are probably the three tightest races in New York. Both Cook and Rothenberg are being fair to Democrats in two races, and in the case of NY-29 (where I live), they’re overly generous. Unless New York is a anomaly, their recent ratings merit serious attention.
People think Charlie Cook is a conservative? The Charlie Cook who used to come talk at Fairfax Democrats meetings? The Charlie Cook who worked for the DSCC?
Democrats need to do something to make this about the Republicans and the best way to do that is to introduce a comprehensive economic program (stimulus and job creation focused) and debate it.
The economy is all that’s on people’s minds and independents want to know what the fuck can be done; so put out a plan and force the Republicans to oppose it and then say what the fuck would you do. Then tie it to the stimulus; make the point that Democrats are reversing eight years of Republican mistakes.
Something has to be done to make this about policy and not simply party/incumbency. Financial reform is a great first step; having the stimulus fight IMO is the second. People are pissed off about spending because they think it is being wasted and spent on poor blacks and hasn’t benefited them; make the case that it has. The best way to do it; create a second stimulus.
I agree that this is about right.
bay of arizona
Arcuri stupidly voted against HCR last month after voting for it the first time.
He will not have the Working Families Party spot on the ballot; and the unions have said that they will not support him. Unless he sucks up profusely, or someone bails him out, he is as good as dead.
Of course, the DCCC has shitloads of money compared to the Republicans, even with excited teabaggers (try not to picture that). All those deals with industry better pay off.
I think NY-1 will be just as close as those you listed. Republicans did unexpectedly well on Long Island this past November, winning Nassau county’s executive seat, and Suffolk’s executive just switched parties to run for governor as a Republican. I’m already seeing anti-Bishop ads on TV, with no responses. He had to be escorted by police from a town hall event last summer because of belligerent tea partiers, and FDL did a poll a few months ago showing him in a dead heat against Altschuler. I’m surprised and worried this race isn’t getting more attention.
I am in Arcuri’s district. Not sure if I will support him again.
But what happened to all of his nationwide support?
Seduced and abandoned by Sarah Palin … that has to hurt.
I agree with this, but the Democrats have to make it more concrete and directed.
The Republicans cut taxes for the wealthiest Americans and fought deregulation. What the American people got for this was eight years of job losses, home losses, pension and saving losses, and the collapse of financial markets.
And now the Republicans are telling you that the solution for today’s problems are tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and more deregulation.
When is the GOP plan supposed to work? After the last American has lost his job?
Okay. So maybe Rothenberg and Cook know what they are talking about.
[Don’t you hate people who insist on facing reality? :-)]
What to do?
We [as a whole] may have to deal with each district separately. Yeah – a lot of work. But we are intelligent enough to do it. In the end, what we need are voters. Find the folks that are likely to vote and persuade them of our point of view. Get the guys who already agree with us to get out and vote. Advertise. Accomplish things in Congress.
Perhaps we need to find out what the people in those districts are worried about and try to address those issues. The economy is a good guess, but there might be other issues, as well.
Election is what? 4.5 months away?
But still, let’s get moving.
National support means little in Congressional races during a general election. When nothing else is going on, special elections tend to suck the oxygen out of the room (a big reason why their outcomes should never be taken as a bellweather, especially if they happen early in a cycle).
This will be especially true considering that Teabaggers will focus their energy and money on Senate races if their candidates win the primaries. Toomey, Rubio, etc. If the past year has demonstrated anything to the American electorate, its that the Senate is where the action is. This will make local races even more local.
I’m still incredibly unconvinced that 2010 will be anything like 1994. For one, incumbency is always a strong predictor of results and there are not enough Democratic retirements compared to 1994, especially when you factor in the number of Republican retirements (they’re roughly equal). For another, I don’t know if anyone else has noticed this, but the Republican brand is polling worse than hot dog shit in every area of the country besides the South. Money wise, the Democrats are out-raising Republicans (and making much better use of those funds) by a wide margin.
This isn’t to say the maintenance of a strong majority is a foregone conclusion. I’m not saying “Don’t worry.” It’s just that, given the circumstances and recent history, the Democrats should be looking to pick up seats, not scramble to keep what they have. Limiting a strategy to a narrow victory tends to limit the outcome to a narrow victory, when they should be looking to run the whole damned table.
@TR: You’re right. 6.5 months. [Oops.]
BUT – the point is, as you said, let’s get moving.
As one of the guilty parties in the previous thread, let me clarify my concerns. It isn’t Cook’s predictions that are (IMHO) biased, but the use to which they are put in support of slanted punditry. I just can’t recall many if any cases in my past experience in which his predictions were touted by the punditariat in support of upcoming Democratic victories. So he isn’t a stopped clock – more like a cuckoo clock that keeps more or less accurate time, but the cuckoo only pops out and makes noise on the odd-numbered hours and never on the even-numbered hours. The clock tells time just fine, but if you only listen for the noise and don’t watch the clock then it is always and forever odd-o’clock. When I hear stories that begin with “The Cook report predicts an upcoming wave of GOP victories…” my reaction is: what else is new? While this may be an indicator that Dems are going to have to get off of our butts and work harder than ever this cycle (and in my case at least volunteer time and effort will have to substitue for money that just isn’t available like it was back in 06 and 08 thanks to the recession), that isn’t something I didn’t know already, and it tells me nothing about whether they are on the right track with regard to policy. I don’t object to citations of the Cook Report in pure election horse race forecasting, but I do object to such citations when used in a policy argument (“The Dems must do X or they will pay a price…”).
@Sly: Good points, all of them. The Dems are not very popular right now, but the public hates the Republicans. So I think it hinges on who can get out and keep in the votes.
Yep. Yep. This makes total sense. It is pointless and misleading for pundits to use forecasting as a substitute for analysis and reporting.
Another way 2010 will NOT be like 1994 is the level of Democratic scandal is very low. Sure there’s a few, Massa is gone, the dirty Govs are gone and John Murtha died on us. Rangel and a few others are questionable ethics-wise, but 94 was a banner year for dirty Dem Pols news hitting in the summer and early fall, kinda like 2006 was for Republicans. That’s why Newtie Newts Contract on America resonated across the country, that’s why the Reps were able to nationalize what are normally local contests. And it’s one of the main reasons why Dems did so well in 06. That and the country finally realized Reps were rotten from the top ( Katrina, Terri Schiavo, Harriet Myers, Iraq, privatizing Social Security and trying to sell our ports to Dubai. So Bush fatigue and a general concensus that Republicans were dirty and refused to clean themselves up allowed Howard Dean’s 50 state strategy to work so damned well.
it took the Dems in control of Congressfor 40+ years to get so dirty, the Reps did it in 12.
2010 will not be a repeat of 94. I’m not saying the Dems will keep every seat or even gain any, I’m saying the Republicans still disgust many people and they’re batshit insane. So it wouldn’t suprise me if they(Dems) held many of the contested spots. And maybe either exchanged a few seats or even gained 1 or 2 in the Senate.
I’m with many of the dissenters here: it’s not that Cook is necessarily going to be off on every district; it’s that he’s been making hyperbolically bad predictions for Democrats since last summer which, realistically, is like predicting the Oscar winner before the movies are even made. He also seems to weave GOP talking points into his calls — he’s analogized the health care bill to the Iraq war, something a president insisted on doing despite obvious disaster potential. I think this analogy is fatuous on its face, but especially so when one remembers the Iraq war happened in 2003, and GOPers didn’t suffer from it till ’06. And one struggles in vain to recall Cook saying a discouraging word about it prior to, say, September ’06.
This is going to be a challenging election season for Dems because of the economy, just as it was for the GOP in Nov. ’82. Pubs lost about 2/3 of the House seats they’d picked up in 1980 because the recession was so deep. But no one was going around predicting them to lose the 40-or-so seats Dems would need to lose for Pelosi to cede her gavel. In fact, no one was predicting such huge gains in either ’06 or ’08 — the general wisdom then was that single-digit turnarounds had become the norm and were about the most the out-party could expect. (Rothenberg actually ridiculed Chris Bowers for trying to expand the number of seats for which Dems competed — seats that were vital to the effort, as many of Rahm’s targets lost, while outliers like Shea-Porter and McInerny triumphed) The fact that “Dems will lose the House” has so easily become common parlance this cycle is thus puzzling, and feels like it has a partisan tinge.
And let’s wait to see what the economy does over the next 3-4 months. Bush was at c.43% at this point in ’04, but a few months of solid job creation pushed him up toward the 50% he needed to be barely reelected.
Structural barriers are protecting the GOP’s majorities like seawalls, and would likely withstand the surge from a Category 1, 2, or 3 storm.
Despite national political trends indicating that the GOP is in serious trouble, a race-by-race “micro” analysis suggests that Democrats cannot easily seize control of the House or the Senate this fall.
(Professional Election Predictor)
March 25, 2006
The Grand Panjandrum
You gotta stop doing the Chicken Little impression. I know Rothenberg makes a living doing this shit but in my district (NH-02) neither R is making a serious run at a Democrat here. Hodes is leaving the seat open to run for Gregg’s old seat and the Republican’s can’t find anyone who can raise more than 40 grand in the last three months! We have a couple of excellent candidates and both of them are geared up to kick some Republican ass in November. Sure Democrats shouldn’t be complacent, but the sky is not fucking falling. This sort of alarmist post reminds me of all the “oh noes” during the Democratic Presidential primary season.
Cook isn’t wrong that we will lose seats- I think we all see that. What I don’t like is how ridiculously early and how giddily Cook came out last August crowing about this enormous Republican wave surging our way.
I also live in W. NY, and I don’t dispute any of his NY ratings. But I don’t just think Cook sucks because of his bottom line predictions. At this point, in the following races he is underselling Democrats:
PA-08, PA-10, NH-01, NH-02, MA-10, VA-09, VA-11, FL-08, IL-11, IL-10, IN-08, LA-02, MI-07, TX-23, OR-05, DE-AL, and SC-05.
He was shrieking about the loss of House control before any numbers or predictions supported it. And now his ratings have been pushed hard to come in line with a narrative that was cooked up way too early in the cycle.
I don’t at all think Cook is a tool of the GOP. I think he’s captive to Washington wisdom. That’s why he fouled up the ’06 races, and that’s why he’s toeing this line about massive Republican gains.
I wouldn’t write off NY-29 so easily. It won’t be an easy race but the Dem candidate, Matt Zeller, is pretty sharp–charismatic young Afghanistan vet, really knows his stuff about Afghanistan and can engage a crowd. (I’ve seen him speak before he announced his run)
If he gets a bit of national support he could go somewhere. He’s sharp.
Seeing the poll that showed freshman DINO Bobby Bright (of Birmingham, AL) up by 20+ points against any of his opponents in his dark-red seat was somewhat revelatory, as was the poll showing HCR favor Tom Perriello (of Charlottesville, VA) tied against his probable opponent, state senator Robert Hurt. If Dems wake up on November 3 and have lost only 20 seats, they’ll have done extremely well, but I find it bizarre that Charlie Cook simply writes off the possibility that that will happen, saying that he sees no way that Democrats can hold the House. (I think it’s at least as likely as the 60+ seat wave election that some people are now talking about as possible.)
And yes, his comparison of the health care reform campaign to Iraq was bizarre and offensive.
FWIW, Ray Fair (author of Predicting Presidential Elections and Other Things) is saying that his current model of the vote share based on economic performance has the Democrats retaining the House. I think it’s absurd to just assume that the Dems will hold on to things — I’d say the GOP has better than even odds to spend two years holding hearings about whether our Kenyan socialist president had a blow job at his death panel, and there are at least ten Democratic seats that are straight up gone barring dead girl/live boy scandals — but yeah, I think this is another example of conventional wisdom feeding on itself.
@NY-29’er: Reed is also a moron, so that helps.
But the last time a no-name went up against a reasonably well-known Southern Tier politician, in ’04, even having a different candidate on the Conservative line didn’t keep Kuhl from cruising to victory over Sam Barend.
In April of 2008, in Charlie Cook’s ranking of competitive House races:
• Out of 19 districts rated Likely Democratic, Democrats won 19.
• Of 14 Districts ranked Leans Democratic, Democrats won 12.
• Of 15 Districts ranked Toss-Up, Democrats won 10.
• Out of 13 Districts ranked Leans Republican, Democrats won 9.
• Out of 19 Districts ranked Likely Republican, Democrats won 8.
Anyone else see a pattern here? I don’t have his hot sheet from April 2006 but I can tell you that in an analysis I did in ’06 of late pundit predictions, Cook came in dead last. You could easily have done as well as he did in October of ’06 by flipping a coin.
PS: I tend to pay more attention to Stuart Rothenberg.
“I don’t at all think Cook is a tool of the GOP. I think he’s captive to Washington wisdom. That’s why he fouled up the ‘06 races, and that’s why he’s toeing this line about massive Republican gains. ”
I agree with this. Cook seems remarkably susceptible to “groupthink”.
As far as the “these guys make their living doing this” line, that is a double-edged sword. If you fail to reinforce the conventional wisdom at this point in any election cycle, you won’t be doing “this” for a living.
At this point, analysts and pollsters can say any crazy thing that they want, because as we approach the election they can walk it back and say that “things changed”.
oh yeah at a time when the media is aching to have a coniption about taxes, deficits and the national debt, I can’t see how that could POSSIBLY fail!
Make the case where exactly? our Facebook pages?
You know why people think that, because the media spends all their time letting people tell them that without any response. That won’t change with a second stimulus, except the media will go on a “They didn’t get right the first time, why does anyone think they will the second time?” kick.
The fact that this is obvious to some of you astounds me.
Forgive my ignorance – C.R.E.A.M. =?
Cash rules everything around me. (It’s a Wu-Tang Clan song.)
Today? -25 ±5
Not sure about Cook’s personal leanings, but conservative & Democrat aren’t mutually exclusive.
Cook gives good TV, especially setting post election CW. I thought his response in a polling.com thread regarding 2010 was weak sauce though… kinda of a “I know older, conservative, white voters and they’re pissed” anecdote over data rant.
This. plus, he really sucked in 2006. I mean you had Iraq, Katrina, PlameGate, the Delay/Abramoff scandals and YET Charlie kept saying the GOP would retain congress, until Loserman lost his primary. Then, and only then, did he say the Dems would win 17/18 seats. And even then he was wrong, as the Dems won 31 seats.