Midterm Predictions: House, Senate, Gubernatorial

With just one day to go before the 2010 midterm elections, NPR's Michele Norris checks in one final time with Stuart Rothenberg, editor and publisher of the Rothenberg Political Report. Rothenberg offers his analysis of what to expect in House, Senate and gubernatorial races.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

And I'm Michele Norris.

We are just hours from Election Day. Polls suggest Democrats will likely retain their Senate majority. But they are nonetheless bracing for big losses. Republicans are expected to win control of the House. There are races across the country so close that they are still viewed as toss ups in these final hours. And there are, of course, big questions about top leadership in both the House and the Senate and the balance of power among governorships.

To get a sense of the shifting landscape, we turn now to Stuart Rothenberg. He's editor and publisher of the Rothenberg Political Report. Welcome back to the program.

Mr. STUART ROTHENBERG (Editor and Publisher, Rothenberg Political Report): Thanks very much.

NORRIS: Let's begin with the House and the question of a shift of power there. In one of your recent reports, you posed this question: Will the House losses be bad or horrendous? I think you used the word bloodbath in that report. What's the answer? How bad will it be?

Mr. ROTHENBERG: There will be a bloodbath, I believe. It all depends on your definitions of this. But we're talking 1994 levels or larger. 1994 Democrats lost 52 seats in the House. I think we're talking something above 45. Probably above 50, possibly above 55. So these are big numbers.

NORRIS: Now, I ask a question, how bad would it be? That's of course from the perspective of a Democrat. For Republicans they have a lot of momentum going into this. Is this just anger or is it also a smart strategy and prodigious spending on their part?

Mr. ROTHENBERG: Well, I think for Republicans, they've seized advantage of this environment, which is about change. They've resisted some Democratic efforts to pull them into a detailed debate over issues, as they should have. And wisely tried to make this a referendum on the president on change. And I check on the Democratic Congress. That's been the best strategy.

For Republican voters, it's an anger about bigger government, health mandates, more spending. For Independent voters and swing voters, this election is more about jobs and the economy and promises about getting the economy going again that have not been met. So, some little different concerns by different voters, but it all adds up to an electorate that wants change.

NORRIS: Are Republicans helped in some way by recent recruiting among Democrats? The Democrats recruited several more moderate members of their party to run in some of these House races, in Republican leaning districts -districts where they would've had a hard time even without the GOP wave.

Mr. ROTHENBERG: Absolutely. There are now 48 congressional districts that were won by John McCain in 2008, but are held by a Democratic member of Congress. Those present terrific initial opportunities to Republicans to win back those districts that are basically Republican and basically more conservative.

NORRIS: Let's turn to the Senate, and specifically some of the very tight races in places like Washington state, West Virginia, California, Illinois, Pennsylvania. What's going on in those races in the final hours?

Mr. ROTHENBERG: Well, Democrats are simply trying to hang on and these races are toss up. Democrats have a slight advantage in California. Washington, the Democrats had a slight advantage. Now it looks like a toss up. Republicans have narrow advantages, I would say, in Illinois and Pennsylvania.

NORRIS: And in the governor's races, the Republicans at one point were talking big numbers, turnovers in 10 or 12 of the state houses. Are those numbers still possible?

Mr. ROTHENBERG: I think it's down a bit. We've been talking more in six to eight seat gains. The Republicans' great strength in governors is in the upper Midwest, Northeast, starting in Pennsylvania, going around to Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin. A number of opportunities here for Republicans to take advantage of the fact that, again, economic problems are hurting Democratic governors.

NORRIS: The weekend going into the last hours of voting, always very important. Are there specific trends that you've been watching over these last 48 hours?

Mr. ROTHENBERG: It's all about turnout and the early vote. There are some states where Democrats are coming out to vote early. But, you know, the Election Day turnout is going to be crucial. And there's still a huge gap in enthusiasm that favors the Republicans.

NORRIS: Is it possible that we won't know the whole story even at the close of business tomorrow because of early voting and potential problems with voting equipment and other things?

Mr. ROTHENBERG: Well, I talked to Democratic and Republican strategists and they think that there are a number of states, possibly Colorado, certainly Washington, possibly Alaska where either the race will be so close or in the case of Washington, it's mail ballots and they just have to be stamped by Election Day, that some of these races could drag on for many days.

NORRIS: Stuart Rothenberg, always good to talk to you.

Mr. ROTHENBERG: My pleasure.

NORRIS: Stuart Rothenberg is the editor and publisher of the Rothenberg Political Report.

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