When the data did change — Obama’s numbers sank, the economy showed no signs of an economic rebound, unemployment continued to rise, the Democratic Party’s numbers tanked — then I changed my projections, ultimately ending the cycle projecting Republican gains of 55 to 65 seats.
That’s the kind of process I employed last cycle, the cycle before it and the cycle before that. And that’s how I’ll approach 2012.
If you simply want to read an early prediction of what will happen in 2012, you’ll have to look elsewhere. I’m sure you can find some partisan observer or college professor who’ll be happy to offer a guess even now about the next election.
But that’s not what I do here in this column or in my newsletter. I interview and write about candidates, trying to identify the strongest ones as well as the less credible. I report on what the parties are doing and thinking. And I try to compare election cycles. Handicapping is a part of the product, but it’s just a tip of the iceberg.
Now, on to 2012.
Obviously, I have no idea what will happen in the fight for the House next year. At least not yet.
Projections at this point in the cycle are of dubious value, especially because redistricting will be a huge wild card. We have no idea what the economy (and the unemployment rate) will be like. And we don’t know anything about candidate recruitment or fundraising.
Even more important, we don’t know how the dynamic of divided government will play out or how voters will regard the two parties when 2012 rolls around.
We do know that last cycle’s huge Republican net gain of 63 seats means a House of 242 Republicans and 193 Democrats, and that the GOP gains included a handful of Democratic-leaning districts that could snap back to the Democrats in a year when higher turnout among young voters and African-Americans could mean a less Republican electorate.
Republicans control the redistricting process in more states, which gives them a significant advantage. But their large gains in 2010 limit their ability to take advantage of that power, since they already have maximized their gains in some states.
I start out with the working assumption that there won’t be huge changes in the House. Democrats should win back some seats that they lost only because of the midterm wave, but those gains could be offset by the GOP redistricting advantage.
If you haven’t figured it out yet, this isn’t a prediction. It’s a baseline projection that will be adjusted over time, as we all start to see more data and as the 2012 elections approach. Enjoy the ride over the next 22 months.
From left, Lisa Peng, daughter of Peng Ming, Grace Ge Geng, daughter of Gao Zhisheng, and Ti-Anna Wang, daughter of Wang Bingzhang, hold pictures of their imprisoned fathers during a House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations hearing in the Rayburn House Office Building titled “Their Daughters Appeal to Beijing: ‘Let Our Fathers Go!’”
Each year since 1990, CQ Roll Call has reviewed the financial disclosures of all 541 senators, representatives and delegates to determine the 50 richest members of Congress. This year's report, derived from forms covering the calendar year 2012, shows it took a net worth of $6.67 million to crack the exclusive club.