GOP Wave or History?

One of the most difficult things to figure out right now is what to expect on Election Night.  Yes, it will be a headline if the GOP takes over the House and/or Senate.  But as they say, size does matter.

Democrats have been saying for weeks that they will be able to limit the gains of Republicans, which only seem to be growing in recent days, as more and more Democratic seats suddenly seem in play.

Will this be another 1994 election, where the Republicans took charge of the House and won a net gain of 54 seats?

Will it be 1948, when the Democrats won 75 seats to take back the House from the GOP?

Could it be 1932, when the Democrats rode the coattails of FDR and won 97 seats in the House?

On Sunday, the Gallup polling organization issued its final poll on the generic Congressional ballot, which gave the GOP a 4 point lead among registered voters, but more importantly, a 15 point lead among likely voters.

Over the years, Gallup has done very well on that generic ballot, so well that there are computer models based on it, which are used to guess how many seats will shift in the House.

What does a 15 point lead translate to?  A gain of 77 seats for the GOP.

That would be a big time wave election.

So, while we’re on that subject, here is your trivia question for the day – what Congressional election had the largest change of seats in U.S. history?

Bzzzzzt.

You are correct, the answer is the Election of 1894, when the Republicans picked up 130 seats in the House, going from a 124-218 minority to a 254-93 seat majority.

The reason for that big swing was in part the economic distress of the Panic of 1893, and a Democratic split that resulted from internal battles on labor policy among Democrats and the Cleveland Administration.

When people have tried to pin me down in recent days, I’ve used my stock answer about GOP chances in the House – all the ingredients are there for a huge swing of seats, but whether it happens on Election Day, we’ll see.

I don’t think you can discount the signals that we are getting right now, as some political experts start openly talking about more than 60 or 70 seats, or even 80.

Over the weekend, more Democratic seats popped up on the radar screen, like both House seats in Maine, where the Republican candidate for Governor is starting to pick up steam in the polls.

In ME-1, freshman Rep. Chellie Pingree (D) is suddenly behind in the polls to Republican Dean Scontras, while Rep. Michael Michaud (D) has seen his lead almost disappear in no time at all.

Meanwhile, out in California, two seats that no one was paying attention to a couple of weeks ago, now seem to be moving to the Republican side.

In CA-20, Rep. Jim Costa was down 10 points in the latest poll of that district, while Rep. Jerry McNerney was down 6 points in the most recent poll.

That kind of movement seems odd to me, simply because California overall seems to be staying Blue, both in the Governor’s race and for U.S. Senate.

Some seats like NV-3, held by freshman Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV), hardly stayed in the “Toss-Up” category for 24 hours, before they were thrown onto the GOP side of the ledger.  A new poll out Saturday showed Titus suddenly down by 10 points.

Another fast mover was in NY-20, which went from a 17 oint lead for Rep. Scott Murphy (D) to a 9 point lead for his challenger Chris Gibson (R).

Another Democratic red flag is in RI-1, where Democrats are now struggling to hold onto the seat of retiring Rep. Patrick Kennedy, as David Cicilline’s lead is now down to 2 points in the latest poll.

Meanwhile, there is hardly a blip on the GOP radar screen right now that is going the wrong way.

Big win, really big win, or tidal wave in the House?  We’ll know tomorrow night.