The Winners and Losers of the Midterm Elections

This is a partial transcript from The Beltway Boys, October 12, that has been edited for clarity. Click here to order the complete transcript.

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FRED BARNES, CO-HOST: Welcome back to The Beltway Boys.

Joining us to talk about his predictions for the upcoming midterm elections is America's number one political science professor, Larry Sabato at the University of Virginia. At least we think he's number one.

His crystal ball predictions on his political Web site, that's, is quickly becoming a must-stop site on the Internet for all the election news.

Welcome back, Larry.


BARNES: Let's start with your broad predictions. First, the House of Representatives, which, you know, Democrats awhile ago thought they had a real shot at taking control of.

SABATO: So far, this has been a big disappointment, Fred, for the Democrats. Right now, the crystal ball has got 221 seats either firmly or leaning Republican, 218 needed for control. The Democrats have only 207. And it's...

BARNES: So you prediction is Republicans...

SABATO: My prediction is, Republicans will not only win, they have a very good chance to pick up one to three seats on top of their current six.

BARNES: OK. Let me ask you about...

MORT KONDRACKE, CO-HOST: So this, would be, this would make President Bush the — by my calculation the third or the fourth, actually, president in, 100 years to win seats in an off — a first off-year election.

SABATO: Yes, if you're counting Teddy Roosevelt, that's absolutely right.

KONDRACKE: And John, Kennedy, actually, picked up seats in '62. One seat, I think.

SABATO: Well, he picked up Senate seats, not House seats.

BARNES: Very good, that's different. Yes, good, I'm glad you straightened that out for Mort.

The Senate, what about it? What's your prediction?

SABATO: You know, you guys promised me that I could revise this on the weekend...

KONDRACKE: Of course...

SABATO: ... I'm counting on that.

BARNES: Larry, we do it all the time, so can you.

SABATO: OK, terrific. If I had to guess right now, I'll tell you, this is on the edge of the butter knife-


SABATO: ... and one well-aimed butter bean could tip it over one way or the other. I'd put it at 50-50 with Cheney breaking the tie. And just to balance it, I'll bet you if that happens that Lincoln Chafee gets enormous pressure...


SABATO: ... to switch parties to become a second Jim Jeffords.

BARNES: Yes, but if it is 50-50, that will be Republicans winning a seat.

KONDRACKE: And a pickup.

SABATO: Republicans winning one seat net.

KONDRACKE: Yes, right.

SABATO: I think they're going to lose Arkansas.


So what, influence do you think the Iraq vote, if any, is going to have on this election?

SABATO: There are exactly two races where I can see an influence, Paul Wellstone, who voted no on the Iraq resolution in Minnesota is in trouble. And one House member, Jim Maloney, who's running against a fellow House member, Republican Nancy Johnson, in Connecticut's Fifth District.

BARNES: Yes, he voted no as well.

SABATO: He voted no.

BARNES: Yes, all right.

SABATO: I think he's in trouble.

BARNES: You know, Mort jumped in there with that question, and we..., he wasn't supposed to, because I was going to go to governors. What's going to happen? The Democrats are still hopeful there.

SABATO: Yes, there's going to be a split decision in the election, Democrats are going to have a great night gubernatorial. At an absolute minimum, they're going to pick up three net governorships. I think they could go to plus six. And they're going to get three really important states, Michigan, Illinois, and Pennsylvania.

KONDRACKE: So why are Democrats so much more successful at the state level than at the national?

SABATO: Partly it's the cycle. This is eight years after the Republican revolution of 1994, when the GOP picked up virtually every governorship that wasn't nailed down for the Democrats. Remember, Democrats went down to 17 governorships. They're now up to 21, Democrats, Republicans, rather, at 27. I think Democrats will go to at least 25. They may get a majority of the governorships.

KONDRACKE: So now how do the — how — what do the Democrats have to do to break through on this economic issue, now that, now that Iraq is over with, the 401(K)s have arrived in the mail, they are deeply depressing. Can the Democrats convert the subject here, change the subject, get it to the economy, and win?

SABATO: Well, Mort, I have to admit, there is some power to this. I've been opening up my statements and finding out that all my 401(K)s have become either 201(K)s or 101(K)s. It's that bad.

So if there's any way for Democrats, that might generate it. But I'll tell you something, Iraq's not going away, it's going to be at the top of the newspaper every day between now and November 5.

BARNES: Larry, you have a couple minutes. I want to go through seven Senate races, the most competitive ones, maybe we can do it very quickly, starting with New Jersey.

SABATO: You know, I thought when Lautenberg was nominated, he'd win it fairly easily, because it's Democratic. But I'll tell you, it's a lot closer than expected. I think it's still a horse race, slight edge to Lautenberg.

BARNES: South Dakota.

SABATO: South Dakota, I give the tiniest edge to Tim Johnson, but boy, that's near a tossup.

BARNES: He's the incumbent, of course. Missouri, with Jean Carnahan the incumbent, a Democrat.

SABATO: Jean Carnahan is not doing all that well. She's either tied with Jim Talent or a little bit ahead. If there's a surprise on election night, I think it's that Talent might beat Carnahan.

BARNES: You mentioned Minnesota earlier. Is Wellstone going to prevail? The incumbent?

SABATO: He could easily. Minnesota has a strong pacifist community. But Norm Coleman is strong, the Republican. And remember, that race is being driven by the crazy three-way governor's contest.

BARNES: So who you picking?

SABATO: Right now, I'm going to pick Wellstone, but I want to revisit that.

BARNES: OK, Arkansas, with that vulnerable Republican, Tim Hutchinson.

SABATO: I think Hutchinson will be defeated.

BARNES: OK. New Hampshire, John Sununu running against the governor, Jean Sheen.

SABATO: I think Sununu will pull it out barely. But he's not running a good campaign, and Sheen is.

BARNES: Colorado, the last one here. Wayne Allard.

SABATO: ...again, I think Wayne Allard will barely pull it out, because Colorado is narrowly Republican. But again, he's not running a very good campaign.

BARNES: Well, all and all, you've described this, it sounds, Larry, as a status quo election, not a change election.

SABATO: I think that's absolutely right. I can guarantee you that 95 percent-plus of all the incumbents running for Senate and House will be reelected. It could go to 98 percent.

KONDRACKE: Which means gridlock in the 108th Congress, I have a feeling.

Thank you, Larry.

SABATO: Thanks a lot.

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