Sabato's Crystal Ball

The Results Are In!

Larry J. Sabato, Director, U.Va. Center for Politics November 4th, 2010

Tuesday night marked the end of yet another successful season for the Crystal Ball, the fifth congressional election cycle in which we have offered our predictions. It was a historic night for Republicans and a sobering one for Democrats who had seen the past two election cycles go their way.

Because we believe in fundamentals as much as campaigns, we were convinced the election was over—as far as the basic outcome—by August. That’s why we at the Crystal Ball were the first to forecast a solid GOP takeover of the House, doing so before Labor Day. At that time we projected +47 net Republican gains as a floor, not a ceiling. It was certainly perceived as audacious at the time, but turned out to be a harbinger of what was to come—both from the campaign and from our fellow analysts. In addition, we kept with our tradition of calling every single House race, which is unique among the nationally-recognized ratings services. In the end we achieved 98% accuracy, which is more than we expected in such a topsy-turvy wave year.

At the same time, we never once in 2010 could find the 10 seats that the GOP needed in order to take over the Senate. Despite motivating new conservative voters across the country, the Tea Party cost Republicans Senate seats in Colorado, Delaware, and Nevada. The Senate balance might well have ended up 50-50 had the mainstream GOP candidates been nominated. Ten Senate seats, though, is a lot for a party to win in a single year, even with the wind at its back. Republicans fell well short despite decades of precedent suggesting the Senate would flip if the House did.

We are particularly delighted with our calls on Governors and state legislatures. We came close to a perfect record on the governorships and we also predicted very early that Republicans would pick up 500+ state legislators and a dozen or more state legislative chambers. Our quick count so far is that the GOP has won over 600 legislators and perhaps up to +19 state legislative chambers.

We hope that you have enjoyed the analytical articles we have published over the past two years of the 2010 election cycle. We certainly enjoyed preparing them for you. Unlike other ratings services, we are not a business whose goal is to make a profit. Instead, we exist as a publication of the U.Va. Center for Politics to encourage civic education and participation. Thank you for allowing us to be a part of your political and educational agenda.