At a reception before delivering the “keynote” Saturday night at a big dinner here honoring Jeffrey Fegan of D/FW Airport, ace national political prognosticator Larry J. Sabato joked that he “hoped everybody’s drunk,” so they wouldn’t hold him to his predictions. I don’t think Sabato got his wish, not that it probably mattered much.
The guy called the country’s most accurate election analyst proceeded to tell the crowd of 800-plus–including U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-TX, and Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert–that the GOP could pick up as many as 47 House seats, eight Senate seats, eight new governorships and 500 state legislative seats on Nov. 2.
“These predictions are overwhelmingly Republican,” said the director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, who foretold Democratic juggernauts in 2006 and 2008. “A classic pendulum swing is coming.” (And hey, if you don’t believe his political stuff, Sabato also predicted the Cowboys would beat Houston the next day.)
With the sputtering economy the “black hole” that’s dominating the election, the GOP should take over the House and slice the Democratic Senate majority to 51 or 52 seats, Sabato said. He also predicted that Rick Perry would be re-elected in Texas–“despite Perry fatigue,” any other outcome would be a shocker in a red state in a Republican year, he said–and that the GOP would pick up governorships in states including New Mexico.
“The fact that California has a close Senate race–in a 17-percentage-advantage Democratic state–tells you all you need to know about this election,” Sabato said. He also said to look for GOP Senate victories in Colorado (Ken Buck), Florida (Marco Rubio) and Tennessee (Rand Paul), though he was less sure about Nevada and Delaware because of the tea party-backed Republican candidates there.
Running against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV, tea party favorite “Sharron Angle might still win,” Sabato said. The reason: Delaware tea party fave “Christine O’Donnell has made Sharon Angle look sane.” Sabato, obviously no fan of O’Donnell, added, “I can’t imagine [her] winning, although witchcraft does do amazing things!”
The big question after the November election, Sabato said, is whether Barack Obama will turn out to be the next Jimmy Carter–a one-term president hobbled by bad luck–or the next Bill Clinton, who tacked with the political winds and won a second term following Democratic reversals in 1994. If the economy continues to be poor as the 2010 election approaches, Sabato said, the list of current Republican candidates who could beat Obama includes Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, Haley Barbour–really?–Mitch Daniels and John Thune.
The Saturday night dinner at the Hyatt Regency DFW was presented by the World Affairs Council Dallas Forth Worth, which gave its 2010 H. Neil Mallon Award to Fegan, the airport CEO, for “transforming North Texas into a global gateway.” Other attendees included mega-Realtor Ebby Halliday, a past Mallon Award winner; Rep. Michael Burgess, R-TX; and business luminaries Gray Mayes of Texas Instruments, Donna Halstead of the Dallas Citizens Council, and Holly Reed of AT&T.