Monday, December 04, 2006

How’d We Do?

How’d we do? Not bad. Not bad at all.

For the Senate, we pretty much hit the nail on the head. In our last issue before the election, we wrote: “While Senate control is in doubt, with anything from a 51-49 Republican Senate to a 52-48 Democratic Senate possible, we do not think the two sides have an even chance of winning a majority in the Senate. Instead, we believe that state and national dynamics favor Democrats netting six seats and winning control of the United States Senate.”

And, of course, astute readers will note that our chart again had it right, with all six seats that turned from GOP to the Democrats at least leaning that way.

For governors, we narrowed our projection in the last issue from 6-10 to 7-9. The final number came in at six. I’ll take it. Don Carcieri squeaked by in Rhode Island, as did Tim Pawlenty in Minnesota.

For the House, our last newsletter projected Democratic gains of 34-40 seats. We lowered that a bit in my last Roll Call column to 30-36 seats. The final outcome appears to be 29 or 30, depending on how you count. Again, I’ll take it, especially given that so many close House races went Republican.

We got the Senate exactly right because we “pushed” close races Democratic, believing that in a wave the tight races would go to the Democrats. That didn’t happen as much as I expected in the House. If it had (and if the machines in Sarasota County had worked properly), Democrats would have netted 34-38 seats.

But forget all of this self-examination. You want to know the truth about picking the final outcomes in the House and Senate? It’s a whole lot of luck. Remember that when you see someone bragging about how great they did.

Why is it luck, you ask? Because there are so many variables and so many close contests that getting the House or the Senate exactly right is simply a matter of chance. Look how close the Allen-Webb race was in Virginia. Look at tight House contests in Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, New York, New Mexico, Connecticut and even Wyoming. Then look at the couple of upsets that nobody could have expected, in Iowa and New Hampshire.

How often have you been in an NCAA basketball pool where the person who knows the least about college basketball wins? Too often, right? It’s the same way with Election Night.

Our job is to cover campaigns 365 days a year, but we think we’re particularly useful early in the cycle, when everyone else is paying attention to other things. For the ‘08 election cycle, we’ll again try to give you an early heads-up about developing races and the candidates to watch. We’ll interview the hopefuls and talk with campaign operatives and strategists. And we’ll try to filter out all of the mindless propaganda. We’ll do it, because that’s what we do.

You’ll get one more issue after this one in ’06. Hope you enjoyed our coverage.

– Stu & Nathan

This Back Page first appeared in the November 29, 2006 print edition of the Rothenberg Political Report. To subscribe, click here.