A perfect storm of economic reversals, including Friday's news that August unemployment rose to 9.6 percent, has pushed Democrats to the brink of losing both the Senate and the House in the midterm elections, leading political analysts say.
For the first time, the nation's top political analysts are agreeing that a complete GOP takeover of Congress is now plausible.
The University of Virginia's Larry J. Sabato rocked the inside-the-Beltway crowd this week with his projection that Republicans now have a solid shot at capturing 50 seats in the Senate.
"The direction at this point is very clear," Sabato tells Newsmax. "It is a Republican year. The primary reason is the weak economy, overwhelmingly so, in fact. And the economy isn't going to turn around fast enough to erase GOP gains on Nov. 2."
Sabato writes in his widely followed Crystal Ball report that Democrats' self-proclaimed "Recovery Summer" has "become a term of derision." He adds that most voters feel President Obama "has over-promised and under-delivered."
Sabato, who once believed Republicans would score a net gain of at most seven seats in November, now says eight and possibly nine seats are realistic numbers.
Picking up the 10 seats needed for outright control, he says, is an "outside shot" — but possible.
A gain of nine seats would be enough to throw the Senate into a 50-50 deadlock. Unfortunately for Republicans, tie-breaking votes in the Senate are cast by the Senate president, Vice President Joe Biden.
But Sabato, the author of "The Year of Obama: How Barack Obama Won the White House," sees a way Republicans could seize outright control of the Senate even they fall short of a 10-seat net gain in the midterms.
If Republicans can win nine seats, he says, then conservative-leaning senators who caucus with the Democrats may be tempted to switch parties — as moderates of both parties often do.
Writes Sabato: "It will be interesting to see how senators such as Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, and others react."
Sabato isn't the only nationally respected analyst upping his estimate of GOP's chances of winning control of both houses because of the weak economy.
Charlie Cook, the nonpartisan political handicapper who writes the Cook Political Report, had projected a GOP pick-up of four to six Senate seats in November. He now projects Republicans will gain seven to nine seats, and concedes there's a "plausible argument" that Republicans could gain 10.
Democratic pollster and Fox News commentator Douglas Schoen, who has been warning since March that the GOP could grab both chambers, tells Newsmax: "We are now being vindicated. Healthcare was the precipitating factor in Democrats' decline."
He also suggested that Democrats could reverse their slide, but only if they are willing to alter their current economic policies.
"Democrats need a bold new economic agenda focusing on job creation through extension of Bush tax cuts for all, and a broad-based payroll tax holiday, as well as aid to small businesses," Schoen says.
There was no indication Friday that Democratic leaders are reconsidering their stimulus-oriented approach to fixing the economy, however, as President Obama delivered a statement on the economy from the Rose Garden.
After Obama blamed Republican leaders for not backing a loan program for small-businesses, one reporter asked him whether he regretted the so-called "Recovery Summer."
"I don't regret the notion that we are moving forward, but because of the steps that we've taken," Obama said.
Not all the news from Friday's jobs report was bad. Although the economy lost more than 54,000 jobs overall, most of the job losses were in the public sector. Private-sector employers actually added 76,000 jobs.
Economists estimate, however, that it takes between 200,000 and 250,000 new jobs each month to really improve unemployment.
Despite the steady drumbeat of dreary economic data, Sabato thinks a 10-seat net gain in the Senate is still probably optimistic. But he adds, "If the Republican wave on Nov. 2 is as large as some polls are suggesting it may be, then the surprise on election night could be a full GOP takeover."
He cites a statistic that should sound a serious note of trouble for Democrats.
"Since World War II," Sabato wrote, "the House of Representatives has flipped parties on six occasions (1946, 1948, 1952, 1954, 1994, and 2006).
"Every time, the Senate flipped too, even when it had not been predicted to do so. These few examples do not create an iron law of politics, but they do suggest an electoral tendency."
Sabato sees six Senate seats as tossups that could still go to either party. Of those, Florida is the only tossup seat that a Republican holds now. The other Senate seats up for grabs are California, Illinois, Nevada, Washington, and Wisconsin, he says.
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