As we come out of the Labor Day weekend and begin the homestretch of the 2010 midterm election campaign, the question still remains: Is this 1994 all over again?
In 1994, Republicans not only won, they won in a landslide. In 1994, Republicans not only took the majority in the state House, they won a huge 26-seat majority. Virtually every Democrat outside downtown Seattle, Tacoma, and Spokane lost the election.
After looking at the Aug. 17 primary results I was ready to conclude that this was going to be a good year for the GOP, but not a 1994-type blowout. History shows the primary results in a blanket or top-two primary do serve as a rough poll, telling us which races are competitive and which aren’t. In the 1994 blanket primary, Republicans led — there were more combined R votes than D votes — in 62 House races. This year Republicans led in the primary in 46 of 98 House seats. So 2010 was looking like a very good year for the Rs, but not a rout.
Since the primary, however, polling data has indicated that the GOP wave has gotten even bigger. First, there are the national generic ballot numbers. Every poll now shows Republicans with a substantial lead. In polls released on Labor Day, CNN showed a 7 percent R advantage among registered voters, while Rasmussen had the GOP up by 12 percent among likely voters, the largest GOP lead Rasmussen has ever found. In the history of the Gallup poll Republicans have rarely led in the national generic ballot, and their largest lead ever was 5 percent in 1994. The week before Labor Day, Gallup showed the GOP up by 10 percent. These generic ballot numbers are literally unheard of.
Then there are the horse-race polls in Washington state. SurveyUSA and Rasmussen both show Dino Rossi with a clear lead over Patty Murray. SurveyUSA also shows Republican Jaime Herrera ahead of Democrat Denny Heck, 54 percent to 41 percent, in the race for the open seat in the 3rd Congressional District. Finally, and most surprising, SurveyUSA shows Republican John Koster leading Democrat Rick Larsen 50 percent to 46 percent in the 2nd CD.
It’s a small sample size, but polls in these three races show Republicans increasing their percentages by one to two percentage points over what they received in the primary. If that were to occur across the board — a big if — Republicans would win a U.S. Senate seat, take two more U.S. House seats, win a clear majority in the State House, and gain a 25-24 majority in the State Senate.
Will it happen? Charlie Cook, probably the most respected non-partisan political analyst in the country, believes we are headed to a 1994 redux:
Simply put, Democrats find themselves heading into a midterm election that looks as grisly as any the party has faced in decades. It isn't hard to find Democratic pollsters who privately concede that the numbers they are looking at now are worse than what they saw in 1994.
One thing is clear: The Democratic spin about this being an anti-incumbent election, not an anti-Democrat election, was never true. Not a single Republican-held seat in the legislature or in our congressional delegation is even remotely in jeopardy. Republican incumbents, such as Congressman Dave Reichert, are cruising to reelection. What a difference two years can make.
Unless something dramatic happens, the GOP wave will be big. Right now the only question is, how big?
U.S. Senate: Leaning Republican
I know some people will never accept it, but at this point the data shows Dino Rossi with a slight but clear advantage over Patty Murray. In the primary, the combined R vote led the combined D vote by 1.4 percentage points — 49.9 percent to 48.5 percent. The last two polls not only show Murray well below 50 percent, they show her trailing Rossi. Murray’s financial advantage lessens every day as the Rossi campaign fills up its coffers after a late start.
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