Elections 2014: We don’t know much

Speculation about the 2014 elections was already rolling out before the 2012 elections, but it appears to have already begun in earnest. Your correspondent, as you may recall, has a pretty impeccable record with forecasting these things, so here’s what we know right now:

  1. The House is extremely close to its decade average split of 232/202, favoring Republicans. 
  2. In the Senate, Democrats are overextended past that average by about two seats. An average of this class of Senators since 1990 suggests that Democrats are overextended by about one seat.
  3. Democrats have to defend 21 Senate seats, while Republicans only have to defend 15.
  4. Republicans have to defend 22 Governor seats, while Democrats only have to defend 14.
  5. Partisan turnout trends plus political dispositions in relevant districts significantly favor Republicans.

That’s it. Points one through four are structural advantages that are mostly set in stone. The first three marginally favor Republicans. The fourth may marginally favor Democrats, since it forces Republicans to spend limited resources defending governor seats that might have otherwise gone into national races.

The fifth factor will determine the difference between a slim victory where Republicans fall short of taking the Senate, and a medium-sized win where they seize a majority. Republicans expecting another “Tea Party tidal wave” will almost certainly be disappointed. A victory of that scale would give Republicans a majority well beyond the norms of the modern era – in would be much closer to the ridiculously lopsided seat counts of the early twentieth century.

Beyond that, it’s simply too early to tell. At this point in 2012, Rick Santorum was polling ahead of President Obama. At this point in 2010, Congressional Democrats and Republicans were still polling within the margin of error.  We still have over seven months to go, so please dismiss extrapolations from off-schedule elections and vague assessments about “the American people getting fed up with [Obamacare / the Tea Party / whatever]” accordingly.