US House and Senate: Rothenberg’s updates

On the House, Stuart Rothenberg says:

the most likely outcome in the House of Representatives is a Democratic gain of 34 to 40 seats, with slightly larger gains not impossible.

Back when I first started looking at methods of estimating the connection between generic polling, the actual aggregate votes for real candidates of the major parties, and the translation of those votes into seats, I suggested Democrats could wind up with as many as 245 seats (at what I considered the high end), which would be a net gain of 42.* At the time, no one else was projecting even close to that much. If Rothenberg’s district-by-district analysis turns out to be correct, was my aggregate method of estimation prescient or lucky? I don’t know. We’ll try it again in 2008. And 2010…

As for the Senate, Rothernberg says control is in doubt, but:

we do not think the two sides have an equal chance of winning a majority in the Senate. Instead, we believe that state and national dynamics favor Democrats netting six seats and winning control of the United States Senate.

* That was when the generic lead was 15 points; the latest estimate from Charles Franklin’s compilation of polls is 17 points.

0 thoughts on “US House and Senate: Rothenberg’s updates

  1. “we believe that state and national dynamics favor Democrats netting six seats and winning control of the United States Senate.”

    What are the chances of independent socialist Bernie Sanders, the first (if he wins) socialist senator in US history, holding the balance of power in the Senate?

    Another question Canadians have been asking: when Sanders was elected to the House in 1991, he and four other members of the House founded the House Progressive Caucus that has now grown to 62 members (Sanders chaired the caucus for its first eight years), so the question is, are there any other prospective members of the Senate Progressive Caucus?

  2. Balance of power? Does that concept exist in the US Senate?

    Also, although much is made of Sanders possibly being “the first socialist Senator”, he’s not running as a socialist and doesn’t mention socialism in any campaign material, anywhere. If he did, he’d never get elected, in Vermont or any other state.

  3. While L-girl is right that Sanders does not use the term in campaigning, his socialist roots are something he acknowledges.

    Interestingly, on the single dominant dimension used to scale congressional votes, in the 109th Congress he was only the 41st most “left” of the chamber’s 435 members. The reason is that he does not take “left” positions on social issues, only on the economy, and much to the chagrin of some Democrats. However, that focus on “bread and butter” issues is probably what keeps him so popular. I wrote about this in my planting on “Democrats, socialism, PR, and Bernie Sanders.”

    As for the balance of power, Sanders almost by definition could not hold it. That would have to be someone in the center, who was willing to vote with Republicans or Democrats, and only if the Senate is 50-50. Even then, of course, the VP would hold the tiebreaker vote, but the Senate would presumably be organized on the basis of parity (as it was in 2001, before Jeffors–the now-retiring independent Senator from Vermont–defected from the Republican party).

  4. Just to make sure L-girl’s question is answered, yes balance of power does exist in the US Senate. It’s true that there are no party whips, so senators can cross party lines on votes. But committee membership and chairmanship is decided based on the relative strength of the two major parties. Even if the minority party thinks it can win a vote in the full Senate, it’s not often that they can get a majority on the relevant committee–so the full Senate will never see the bill in question. Thus an independent holding the balance of power would be aggressively courted by both parties.

    Matthew, I think you mean that an independent could hold the balance of power if the Senate was 50-49 Dem-Rep, right? In that case the swing vote would decide whether the Dems won outright, or whether Cheney’s tie-breaker would win it for the Republicans.

  5. Vasi, on legislation, you are right. But on setting up and apportioning committees, a Senate that was 50-49 with one independent would allow that independent to decide whether to causus with the party that had 50 (thus allowing it to control the chamber) or with the party that had 49.

    In the latter case, it would be effectively 50-50, and while that would allow Cheney to cast tiebreaking votes on legislation, the Senate would most likely be organized under a parity principle, as it was after the 2000 election (but before Jeffords turned independent and caucused with the Dems). That is, the Senators themselves decide on how to organize their chamber; Cheney could not tip that to the Republicans.

    Of course, the only independents we are talking about here are one who will be to the left of the median Democrat and another who, while to the right of the median (barely) is committed to caucusing with the Democrats. In other words, neither will have much effect on the balance of power, except maybe on a specific issue here and there. Of course, I am referring to Sanders and Lieberman, respectively.

  6. Sanders, although running as an independent, is also the nominee of the Democratic Party this year. It is all but assured he will caucus with the Democrats when elected.

    Offhand, I could see Sanders, Barbara Boxer and Barack Obama starting a progressive caucus in the Senate. On the other hand, ideology is not as important in the Senate as it is in the House.

    Lieberman, running as an independent, but a registered Democrat, promises he will caucus with the Democrats if elected. However, we’ll see. Lieberman’s stand with the president on Iraq caused him to lose the Democratic nomination this year. He’d be more likely to switch sides on certain issues than Sanders ever would be.

  7. Sanders did indeed run in the Democratic party primary. However, he is listed on the general-election ballot as “independent.” There is no Democrat on the ballot. [Both links are to PDF files of sample ballots.]

    So, I assume he won the Democratic primary (as no other Dem is listed), so why does the ballot not show him as the Democratic candidate?


    Also interesting is the full set of candidates (and their listed party affiliations) that Vermonters get to choose from in the race for US Senate:

    Pete Diamondstone (nominee of the Socialist Party-USA and the Liberty Union Party)

    Cris Ericson (independent)

    Craig Hill (Vermont Green)

    Peter Moss (Anti-Bushist Candidate)

    Bernard Sanders (Independent)

    Rich Tarrant (Republican)

    [my emphasis]

  8. This article from the Burlington (VT) Free Press explains the Bernie Sanders situation pretty well. Basically Sanders and the Democratic Party leaders in Vermont came to an agreement. They would get him on the primary ballot, and endorse him, but then he would decline the nomination. The upshot is that nobody else can run as a “Democrat” and split the liberal-left vote.

    Right now it’s looking like the Dems might actually pull off the Senate, with the help of the two independents of course. Here’s hoping!

  9. To answer my own question “are there any other prospective members of the Senate Progressive Caucus?”, the Progressive Democrats of America state the answer:
    “wins by Brown, Lamont and Vermont’s Bernie Sanders could herald formation of a Senate Progressive Caucus.” Well, not Lamont, but Sherrod Brown from Ohio is in.

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