BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Political prognosticator James E. Campbell,
professor and chair of the Department of Political Science at the
University at Buffalo, predicts that the Democrats can expect to
lose 51 seats in the House of Representatives in the November
election, producing a Republican majority.
Campbell's forecast, to be presented this week at the Annual
Meeting of the American Political Science Association in
Washington, D.C., is based on what he calls the "seats-in-trouble
model." This forecasting equation factors in the president's
approval rating and the degree to which one political party is in
danger of losing seats in the election, as estimated by the
non-partisan Cook Political Report.
The paper reporting the forecast, "The
Seats in Trouble Forecast of the 2010 Elections to the U.S.
House," will also be published in the October issue of PS:
Political Science and Politics.
"Partisanship, ideology, the midterm decline from the prior
presidential surge, the partisanship of districts being defended,
and even President Obama's approval ratings have set the stage for
significant seat gains by Republicans in the House," Campbell
In addition to examining the number of seats "in trouble" for
the parties, Campbell's model examined two contextual
"The first is the number of seats a party won in the previous
election, which takes note of the fact that a party cannot lose
seats that it does not have and cannot gain seats that it already
holds," he says.
"A party registers gains first where it is easiest for it to do
so," Campbell says, "and it becomes progressively more difficult
for that party to pick up additional seats in areas that are more
inclined to support the opposition."
He points out that in the last election Democrats took more
seats than usual by winning in districts where they usually do not
hold sway. This means they are "overexposed," he says, since they
currently represent many districts that usually vote
He points to The Cook Report, compiled by veteran Washington
analyst Charlie Cook, which handicaps congressional elections
across the country, and whose past analyses Campbell calls
"impressive." The report currently predicts a Republican net gain
in the House of 35 to 45 seats, though it rates 68 current
Democratic seats as competitive compared to only8 Republican seats.
Campbell observes that the Cook Report's national projection,
unlike his forecast model, does not take into account how the
district ratings have been statistically related to national seat
swings in previous elections.
Campbell looks as well at presidential approval ratings, which
historically have a strong influence on midterm congressional
"Past experience indicates that a politically neutral
presidential approval rating in midterm elections is about 65
percent," Campbell says. The only two presidents to avoid midterm
seat losses for their party since approval ratings have been
conducted, Campbell reports, were Bill Clinton in 1998 and George
W. Bush in 2002. Both enjoyed approval ratings of over 60 percent
at the time of those midterm elections.
"President Obama's approval rating is now at 44 percent,
however, 21 points below the neutral point," he says. "The
president's ratings are not strong enough to check heavy Democratic
losses this year." As a result of Democratic gains in 2006 and
2008, there are 47 Democrats sitting in districts that gave
presidential vote majorities to Bush in 2004 and to McCain in 2008.
Many of these are the Democratic seats now in trouble, Campbell
"With these point forecasts," he says, "while there is an
outside shot of Democrats holding the House, the odds appear to be
quite favorable for the Republicans regaining the House majority
they lost in 2006."
The author of four books, 60 book chapters and many articles in
major political science journals, Campbell is president of Pi Sigma
Alpha (The National Political Science Honor Society), a former
American Political Science Association Congressional Fellow and a
program director at the National Science Foundation. He has served
on the editorial boards of six political science journals and on
the executive councils of seven political science
The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public
university, a flagship institution in the State University of New
York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's
more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through
more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree
programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of
the Association of American Universities.