As I prepared to do my own "Gizzi Predicts" feature on what I felt the outcome of races for the House and Senate would be, I decided to get an opinion from folks I don’t normally talk to: pollster Stan Greenberg and political gun-for-hire James Carville, best-known for their role in Bill Clinton’s election as President in 1992. The duo were the headliners at the Christian Science Monitor breakfast on Friday morning. Citing my own article earlier this year speculating on whether the elections of 2008 could be another "sea change" election such as that of 1932, I asked the two veteran Democratic operatives whether they felt their party would sweep the House and Senate they now control (Greenberg and Carville had already made thier case that Barack Obama would win the presidency handily).
"You know, we have elections every four years, someone wins, another loses, and we go on," Carville told me, "But this election is one that is like no other in our lifetime. It’s a ‘change’ election. I mean, nothing is going to be the same after. It’s like pre-Katrina and post-Katrina."
When I pressed the "Ragin’ Cajun" on specific numbers his party would gain in Congress, he replied: "I haven’t looked at all of the races and districts specifically, but six and thirty seems about right." (He was obviously referring to a gain of six seats in the Senate, which would give Democrats a 57-seat majority, and thirty in the House, giving Democrats an edge of 266 to 169 — the likes of which they have not held since the 1970s.)
Greenberg agreed, saying this would indeed be a "change" election and that, as it was in ’06, gains in the House would come from suburban districts that are historically Republican. The veteran pollster stopped short of seconding Carville’s prediction of a thirty-seat gain, however, saying that after the Democrats picked up about that many seats in ’06, it was almost "unprecedented" that they would gain the same number in the next election.
"It will be a gain for the Democrats like none seen in most of our lifetimes," he concluded.
When I asked if 1932 was a fair analogy, Greenberg replied "yes."
"And you know what happened after ’32?" chimed in Carville, turning to me. "Roosevelt was in, then Truman and Democrats had the White House for all but eight of the next thirty-six years. Those eight were when Eisenhower was President and some would argue he was more a ’60-40 Republican’ than a Republican. And Democrats held both Houses of Congress for all but four [1946-48, 1952-54] of those years." He strongly suggested that this election would be that kind of election that was a harbinger of Democratic rule for a generation.
Carville also admonished reporters to watch the elections for state legislatures and reminded us that legislatures in most of the states draw the lines for congressional districts in 2011. In his words, "That ‘six and thirty’ figures [his predictions for the Senate and House] will be the most overreported story on November 5 and the results in the legislative races will be the most underreported story. But while those results won’t have an impact on the congressional races in 2010, they will have an impact on congressional races after that and up to 2020."