Sabato's Crystal Ball

It’s the Stupid Economy

A bad economy hurts Democrats in the midterms, but does a good one help them?

Larry J. Sabato, Director, U.Va. Center for Politics March 20th, 2014

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U.Va. Center for Politics Director Larry J. Sabato is contributing a regular column to Politico Magazine. This week, he examines whether or not an improved economic picture could potentially help Democrats stave off trouble in November 2014. — The Editors

Last week’s special election in Florida’s 13th congressional district, where GOP Rep. David Jolly upset Democrat Alex Sink, provided a sugar high to Republicans, but otherwise it didn’t tell us all that much we didn’t already know.

There’s close to a consensus among nonpartisan election handicappers about the upcoming 2014 midterm elections: Democrats can’t win the House, and they might lose even more ground to the GOP. And Republicans are bound to pick up some Senate seats, perhaps the six they need to take control or even more; their Senate map is so good that the 10 seats that seem likeliest to change hands in the fall are all held by Democrats. This was all true before about 183,000 voters in Pinellas County, FL, had their say — 0.001% of the total number of votes cast in the 2012 election — and it remains true now. Beyond that, this is the sixth-year election in a two-term presidential administration. That usually isn’t good news for the incumbent president’s party. It all adds up to a pretty good year for the team in red.

But politics is a crazy business, and we ought to ask: How can these predictions turn out to be wrong?

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