About 40 journalists, Capitol Hill staffers and students attended the Graduate School of Political Management’s 2006 Election Forecasting Panel Tuesday morning on the Hill.
The panelists focused on the key races and strategies used by both Democrats and Republicans hoping to win House and Senate seats. The event was broadcast live on C-SPAN.
The panel, which was moderated by the GSPM Dean Christopher Arterton, took into account recent polls and trends.
“These are scary times for many people in the room, especially Republicans,” Arterton said, referring to the opinion that Democrats will gain seats in both chambers on the Nov. 7 midterm elections.
“Democrats are poised, no question, to take control of the House. The Senate is harder to predict, but it’s a possibility,” said Peter Fenn, the founder of the political and public affairs media firm Fenn Communications Group.
Some panelists said that Democrats may pick up a couple of seats, but that Republicans will maintain majorities in both the House and the Senate. Edward Grefe, administrative director of GSPM’s external programs, said this could be because of the advantage incumbents have over challengers.
“I think (Republicans) are going to hold both houses. Historically, people do not like Congress but still vote for their own congressperson and senator. We will get our people to the polls,” he said.
The panelists also discussed the implications of recent events, such as the scandals involving Mark Foley, the congressman who resigned after inappropriate Internet conversations with Congressional pages surfaced, and Jack Abramoff, a former lobbyist who plead guilty to felony counts. The Bush administration’s policies in Iraq were also discussed extensively.
“Unfortunately for Republicans, there is a national wave about to crash. Voters want to send George Bush a message: they’re not happy with his leadership,” Fenn said. According CNN, Bush’s approval rating is currently at 37 percent.
“Corruption has soured people on Congress,” said Mark Mellman, president and CEO of the Mellman Group, a research organization that gauges the trends of voters. “It is the confluence of these factors that make the wave we are about to see so very powerful.”
Grefe remained optimistic. “I don’t think the American people are about to abandon their leader,” he said.
Rhodes Cook, the editor of “The Rhodes Cook Letter,” which tracks election results, predicts an increase in votes for both sides, but said the variable is which group draws more to the polls.
“That will decide which party will be tricked and which party will be treated,” he said.
One possible key to this year’s Nov. 7 election could be the swaying of the independent voter.
“Elections are about turnout and persuasion. Republicans are keeping their base, but independents are heading towards Democrats,” Fenn said.
GSPM released the GW Battleground Poll last month which stated that 62 percent of people think the country is on the wrong track, two percent of participants believe that the country is worse off than it was four years ago, and 46 percent said that the Democrats in Congress will do a better job than the Republicans in Congress with their top concerns.