New poll: what’s going to happen in the US mid-terms?

by Stephen Tall on November 3, 2006

In four days’ time, 7th November, Americans will go the polls to elect 435 members of the House of Representatives, and 33 members (one-third) of the Senate. What will happen? That’s the question I’m asking over at m’other site, and you have four possible options:

  • A clean Democrat sweep: gain both House and Senate
  • Dems control House, Republicans keep Senate
  • Republicans keep House, Dems capture Senate
  • A Republican recovery: House and Senate stay with GOP

Can the Democrats capitalise on President Bush’s dismal popularity, and a Republican Party beleaguered by scandals? Or might Karl Rove’s much-vaunted tactical ability, and the GOP’s fearsome GOTV strategy, yet pull a rabbit out of the hat?

Democrats who are simply bursting to get their own back after the tight presidential races of 2000 and 2004 should perhaps be careful what they wish for. As Adam Nagourney noted in the New York Times six months ago:

As strange as it might seem, there are moments when losing is winning in politics. Even as Democrats are doing everything they can to win, and believe that victory is critical for future battles over real issues, some of the party’s leading figures are also speculating that November could represent one of those moments.

From this perspective, it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world politically to watch the Republicans struggle through the last two years of the Bush presidency. There’s the prospect of continued conflict in Iraq, high gas prices, corruption investigations, Republican infighting and a gridlocked Congress. Democrats would have a better chance of winning the presidency in 2008, by this reasoning, and for the future they enhance their stature at a time when Republicans are faltering.

Indeed, some Democrats worry that the worst-case scenario may be winning control of Congress by a slim margin, giving them responsibility without real authority. They might serve as a foil to Republicans and President Bush, who would be looking for someone to share the blame. Democrats need a net gain of 6 seats in the Senate, and 15 seats in the House.

“The most politically advantageous thing for the Democrats is to pick up 11, 12 seats in the House and 3 or 4 seats in the Senate but let the Republicans continue to be responsible for government,” said Tony Coelho, a former House Democratic whip. “We are heading into this period of tremendous deficit, plus all the scandals, plus all the programs that have been cut. This way, they get blamed for everything.”

Result of last poll: as you can see, John Reid was by far your favoured Labour leader from a Lib Dem perspective (ie, the guy most likely to be bad for Labour and good for us): he polled 47% to Gordon Brown’s 17%; trailing were David Miliband (16%), John Hutton (11%) and Alan Johnson (9%).

Though it looks like it’s all fairly academic now.