Thursday, October 19, 2006

What Chance Do the Republicans Have of Maintaining Control of the House

Ian Ayres

Lots of pundits and polls spill ink on this, but prediction markets are the best summary statistic.
If you're becoming obsessed about knowing where we stand, you can find out the current odds for Republican control the house by clicking here (currently about 35%) and Republican control of the Senate by clicking here (currently about 65%). These links are constantly updated, so bookmark them and checkback often.

Here's a graph showing the price/probability for republican control of the house. Notice how it decisively dipped below the 50% probability in wake of the Foley scandal:

Price for Republican Party 2006 Mid Term Election Control at

Slate's summary makes it seem like the Senate control is really a toss up. But the smart money suggests that Republicans have at the moment about a 2-1 chance of retaining control.


It would be a mistake to count the GOP out in the House based on media polls. The polls of "likely voters" in the actual competitive districts are all over the place, indicating the polls themselves are inaccurate or the electorate is unsettled on for whom they plan to vote.

The last polling for Congress in an off year election in 2002 predicted that the GOP would lose seats, when they actually gained.

How can this be? This has received comparatively little press, but the GOP has elevated voter turnout to a carefully managed science based on massive numbers of volunteers making communicating by phone and door to door with GOP leaning voters specially identified for interest in certain issues.

The worry among many Elephants (and hope among many Donkeys) was that the volunteers and thus the voters would not turn out amidst the torrent of "bad news." That does not appear to be the case so far. Instead, volunteer contacts are reportedly up.

Even amidst this adverse electoral environment, this methodology was most recently used to elect Brian Bilbray in the district vacated by the disgraced Duke Cunningham...

And to save Lincoln Chafee in a hotly contested primary where he was trailing his conservative opponent in many polls.

This is probably the reason for Mr. Rove's fascinating self confidence while many fellow Elephants are tearing out their hair. That and about $100 million in Elephant ads which are about to hit the airways.

This election will be Rove's stiffest test yet, though. The media environment is toxic in a sixth year of an unpopular presidency. The next couple weeks should be very interesting for political junkies like myself.

Yes, you're being paranoid.

The Republicans win because the Senate is gerrymandered by history (D votes the last three cycles outnumber Rs, and not by 537) and because the House is gerrymandered by design.

On the latter subject see this fabulous model work (PDF), or just look at my version (PNG) of Paul Krugman's clever partisan-vote-by-district analysis (TimesSelect).

There has been plenty of cheating on both sides (viz. FL2K), but in 2004, the (R) candidates won fair and square, insofar as gerrymandering is legal and, in the case of the Senate, enshrined in the Constitution.

Parenthetically, a Californian, I look forward to the utopia in which Ted Stevens is met by 55 (fifty-five) Barbara Boxers.

We accept the love we think we deserve.
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