If the 2010 mid-term election were held today the Democrats would lose five Senate seats but pick up one, for a net loss of four seats, based on published polls.
Democrats would lose Senate seats in Arkansas, North Dakota, Nevada, Colorado and Delaware.
But they would capture the GOP seat in Missouri of retiring Senator Bond.
Three Democratic Senate seats are now close, but still lean Democrat: Massachusetts, Illinois and Pennsylvania.
The Massachusetts special election is January 19th, and the GOP candidate just produced his first poll with a small lead, while all the other polls indicate a Democratic hold for Ted Kennedy’s seat. However, in the most recent published poll Barack Obama’s job approval rating is 44% in the Bay State, a lousy number.
If there is a continuing erosion in the Democrat electoral position, it is possible to see those latter four seats going GOP, which is an eight seat pick up for the GOP in the Senate.
The Democratic seat in Connecticut had been in the GOP column, but Senator Dodd’s retirement put it back in the Democrat/hold column. If everything else comes together for the GOP this year, Dodd’s decision last week may prove to be what keeps the U.S. Senate in Democratic hands.
It should also be noted that dicey GOP Senate seats exist in Ohio, Kentucky and North Carolina, but as of now they look to be GOP holds.
You have to really stretch to get a GOP takeover of the Senate in 2010, though it looks possible if President Obama’s job approval rating falls to the low 40s (it is 48 now).
Turning to the House of Representatives, Barack Obama’s job approval is roughly where Clinton’s and Reagan’s were at this time in their first terms. They are the three least popular presidents at this point in their terms since the advent of polling. Reagan lost 26 House seats in 1982, Clinton lost 54 House seats in 1994. If you split that difference you come up with a 40 seat loss for the Democrats, which is the exact number the GOP needs to retake the majority in the House of Representatives.
If you want to add a third, more hedging, denominator, make it the average mid-term loss for a president’s party, which is 28. That would put the GOP four seats shy of taking back the House.
The incumbent President’s job approval rating has proven to be the key indicator of where America is heading politically. If Obama falls to the mid to low 40s in this cycle the GOP will probably take back the House and have a crack at the Senate. His job approval is 48 now in the RCP average, his lowest level to date. He has been in the 48-49 range since Thanksgiving, when he first fell below the all important 50% floor.
The above analysis assumes Obama and the Democrats stay at their current level of unpopularity, or continue to fall. Any improvement in Democratic/Obama polling prospects would obviously change all these equations.
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