Mike Berman’s Washington Watch

July 30, 2010 11:56 PM

The Congress: The Clock is Ticking

There is no doubt that the Democrats will lose seats in the Senate and the House in November; the question is how many?

Those who follow the races most thoroughly (not including the various Party political committees) seem relatively confident that the Democrats will retain control of the Senate, but with a much reduced margin. What the margin might be depends on whether you assume both Independents now in the body will continue to caucus with the Democrats.

When it comes to the House, there is less certainty. What is certain is that the number of seats currently held by Democrats that are vulnerable far exceeds the number of current Republican seats that are vulnerable. Of course, the Democrats do currently have a 77 seat margin, 38 seats more than necessary for an absolute majority. There is also a consistent view that the Democrats will lose a large number of seats. It is there that consistency ends. The range seems to be 25- 45 seats.

Democrats currently hold 80 seats won by George Bush in 2004 and 49 seats won by John McCain in 2008.

73% of those surveyed in June by the NBC/WSJ and 70% of those surveyed by WP/ABC disapprove of the job being done by Congress.

Congress has hit a new low of 11% in Gallup's ranking of confidence in 16 American institutions. This is a drop of 8 points in the past year, and the lowest score ever recorded for the Congress.

At the top of the list, the U.S. miliary (82%). The Presidency and the Supreme Court rank 6/7 and are tied at 36%. Newspapers garner 25%, while television news comes in at 22%. [Gallup]

In mid-June 2010, adults showed a preference for a Republican-controlled Congress by 45% to 43%. But 50% of registered voters would vote to replace the entire Congress if given an opportunity to do so on the ballot. [NBC/WSJ]

However, in a mid-July Gallup survey, Democratic candidates as a group, who had been doing badly since April, opened up a 6 point spread over the Republicans by 49% to 43%. The following week the spread was down to 4 points.

For the last several months the intent of Independent voters has been to vote Republican in 2010. An 8 point advantage in March grew to a 12 point advantage in June.

With the good news above, comes a little bad news for Democrats. 51% of Republicans are very enthusiastic about voting this year, something that is said by only 28% of Republicans. [Gallup, July]

60% of registered voters say they are inclined to look around for someone other than their current Representative when it comes to voting in November. 25% say they would stick with the current Representative. [WP/ABC July]

47% would vote to replace every Member of Congress. [NBC/WSJ 6/10]

Gallup found 63% of registered voters saying that most Members of Congress do not deserve re-election. Although 50% say their Representative deserves re-election. This is the lowest re-elect number Gallup has recorded since late 1992.

Among those who think that most Members do not deserve re-election the reasoning includes:

  • Members of Congress are just doing a bad job or no job at all.
  • Members are making judgements based on bad criteria such as self-interest, partisanship, special interests.
  • There are Members who have simply been in Congress too long.

By 47% to 46% voters say that if the election were held today they would vote for a Republican. In March, April and June, when asked the same question, there was a slight preference for the Democratic candidate. [WP/ABC July]

In a mid-July Quinnipiac survey there is an even stronger preference for Republican candidates. By 43% to 38% voters would vote for the Republican candidate in their District. This includes a 44% - 29% Republican preference among Independents.

A plurality of Americans (39%) say it makes no difference whether or not the President and the Congress are of the same or different political parties. 30% feel that divided government is better, and nearly same number (27%) says the Executive Branch and Congress should be controlled by the same Party. [Gallup]

U.S. Senate

The Senate landscape continues to change. There are now 12 seats rated as Toss Ups. Moving into this category is California, where it appears that Carley Fiorina (R) is making a contest out of her effort to unseat Democratic incumbent Barbara Boxer.

Florida moves into the Toss-Up column as a result of Governor Charlie Crist's decision to continue in the race as an Independent. Kendrick Meek (D), who will likely win his primary, runs a poor third to Crist and the Republican candidate, Mario Rubio.

Illinois, which looked to be Leaning Republican, has moved to the center column. Both the Democratic candidate, Alexi Giannoulias, the current State Treasurer, and Mark Kirk, a Republican Congressman, have experienced exposure of various flaws.

Harry Reid, the Senate Democratic Majority Leader, who was trailing for months, seems to have gotten new life as a result of a Tea Party candidate, Sharon Angle, winning the Republican primary. Angle is not an experienced candidate and so far shows it. In the end, this will be the ultimate test of whether voters so want new faces that they will go for Angle, who gives no evidence of being up to the job.

Since the first issue of WW in this cycle, April 2009, the number of Senate seats that are Solid or Leaning Democratic has dropped from 15 to 9. The number of Solid or Leaning Republican seats has grown from 15 to 18 and back to 16. The number of Toss-up seats has grown from 7 to 12.

Solid D Lean D T-up Lean R Solid R
July 2010 8 1 12 3 13
June 2010 7 2 9 6 12
March 2010 7 3 8 6 12
November 2009 10 4 10 3 11
August 2009 9 6 7 3 12
June 2009 9 7 6 3 12
April 2009 9 6 7 4 11

Of the 12 Toss-Up races, 3 lean to the GOP and 9 are even.

The U.S. Senate

  • Democrats 57
  • Republicans 41
  • Independents 2 (caucus Dem)
Here is how the 37 Senate elections (19 Democratic incumbents, 18 Republican incumbents) look to me at this time (underlining reflects retirement). (D=Dem incumbent in office, R=GOP incumbent in office, I=Ind. incumbent in office) [*Gillibrand]

Safe Democratic (8) Leaning Democratic (1) Toss-Up (12) Leaning Republican (3) Safe Republican (13)
Connecticut Wisconsin Arkansas Indiana Alabama
California Louisiana
Colorado No. Carolina Arizona
New York (A)

New York (B) Illinois
Vermont Missouri   Iowa
West Virginia
  Nevada   Kansas
  New Hampshire   No. Dakota
   Pennsylvania   So. Carolina

Washington So. Dakota


  Democrats Republicans Ind
Seats not up in 2010 39 22 2
Safe in 2010 7 13 0
Leaning in 2010 1 3 0
Total 48 38 2
Toss-ups 12 (5R / 7D)    
Even 9
Lean GOP 3
Lean Dem 0

The U.S. House of Representatives

The number of seats that the Cook Political Report rates as solidly Democratic has dropped by 43 seats since April 2009, from 197 to 154. The total number of solidly Republican seats has grown from 139 to 161.

  4/1/09 7/24/10
Solid Dem 197 154 (-43)
Likely Dem 36 34 (-2)
Lean Dem 19 33 (+14)
Total Dem 252 221 (-31)

Total GOP 178
181 (+3)
Lean GOP 4
7 (+3)
Likely GOP 35
13 (-22)
Solid GOP 139 161 (+22)

The U.S. House of Representatives

  • Democrats 256
  • Republicans 179
4/1/09 10/6/09 12/16/09 3/31/10 7/24/10
Total Dem 252 247 257 257 221
Solid Dem 197 183 174 162 154
Likely Dem 36 44 44 35 34
Lean Dem 19 20 29 30 33
Toss-Up 5 12 19 27 33
     D 4 8 16 25 30
     R 1 4 3 2 3
Lean GOP 4 10 8 7 7
Likely GOP 35 21 16 14 13
Solid GOP 139 145 151 160 161
Total GOP 178 176 178 178 181

[As always, thanks to the “Cook Political Report,” which is the best when it comes to analysis of Congressional races (as well as other electoral matters)].

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