Sabato: GOP in Best Position in Decades to Take Senate in 2012

Wednesday, 09 Feb 2011 05:23 PM

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The GOP is poised to put the Senate in the win column in 2012 after securing its best starting position in decades as a result of state and national wins last year, University of Virginia political science professor Larry Sabato tells Newsmax.TV.

But the bad news for Republicans is that historical trends suggest President Barack Obama will win re-election, the author and noted election handicapper says.

“It’s early, but I think the Republicans have a very good chance to take back the Senate in 2012 and if by some chance they miss it by a seat or so they are almost certain to take it in 2014,” he says.

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Sabato, whose new book, “Pendulum Swing,” chronicles the 2010 GOP wave, said Democrats are way behind in the next two election cycles by having almost twice as many seats up for re-election than Republicans. And “more vulnerable Democrats” hold many of those seats, he said.

That was reinforced Wednesday when one of those vulnerable senators, Jim Webb of Virginia, announced he will not run for re-election.

He also put Sens. Jon Tester, D-Mont.; Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.; and Bill Nelson, D-Fla., on the most vulnerable list. On the Republican side, Sens. Scott Brown, R-Mass., and John Ensign, R-Nev., look most likely to lose their seats, he said. Sen. Dick Lugar, R-Ind., also may find himself retired by a tea party challenge, but his seat is safe.

“It’s possible he could lose the primary though he has a lot of strengths,” Sabato said. “The reason I didn’t mention him is because regardless of which Republican wins the nomination the Republicans are going to keep that seat.”

Sabato and his online newsletter, “Sabato’s Crystal Ball,” have a well-earned reputation for accuracy, scoring in the high 90s in predictions. The founder and director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics said that, historically, presidents who have sought another term won by a margin of about 2.5 to 1.

“The odds start out with Obama,” he said. “But of course, almost everything depends on first, the state of the economy and nobody knows what that’s going to be in two years and, second, what former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld might call the unknown unknowns. What are the shocks that could occur domestically, what are the shocks that could occur internationally that would change the picture not just economically but also socially and politically.”

Former GOP Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is the front-runner for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination but Sabato called him the “weakest front-runner in modern times,” characterized former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as someone who could win the nomination but would be “one of the weaker candidates in the fall,” and said former House Speaker Newt Gingrich carries too much baggage from the 1990s to be a successful general election candidate.

Sabato predicted a long and volatile nominating process for Republicans and said that one thing that could help in the general election would be to put a Hispanic on the ticket as a vice presidential candidate. He said such a move could deliver as much as 40 percent of the Hispanic vote to the GOP, noting that the Republican ticket has only been getting 30 percent of that vote.

Regardless, Sabato could not overstate the significance of the 2010 victory. The win, coming in a census year, stretches its influence for a decade because of redistricting.

“This is a very significant development for the Republicans,” he said. “They’ve never been in a better position in any redistricting year after any census in this period of time. So, I expect the Republicans to pick up not just members in the House of Representatives they’re going to pick up a lot of state legislators. What people missed in the 2010 election is that Republicans gained more state legislative seats than they’ve had in any time since 1928. They gained 700 state legislative positions in the 50 states and that is really very significant.”

Editor's Note: To get Larry Sabato's book "Pendulum Swing" at a good price — Click Here Now.

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