An interesting set of statistics and analysis from Mark Gersh for CBS News:
Fresh off a major shift in power in the House, we might expect another volatile congressional election in 2012.
Here's why: this year, 25 races were decided by 3 percent or less in the major-party vote share (13 Democratic and 12 Republican) pending recounts and final vote totals. Another 30 were decided by three percent - eight percent (18 Democratic and 17 Republican). Forty-two more races were decided by just 8 percent - 12 percent (25 Democratic and 17 Republican).
So overall, 56 Democratic and 52 Republicans won with majorities of 56 percent or less, and those races comprise 23 percent of the entire House. Add the unpredictable effects of redistricting to the 2012 equation, and the prospect of a 4th straight election with a turnover of 20 or seats is plausible.
This isn't to say it will happen, it's just a lot more forceful than saying, "It could happen." In fact, he goes on to make a pretty plausible case. Remember, the 2010 midterms saw Democratic voters stay home. In races where the difference was less than three points on up to eight points, that could've really made the difference. So, what's being said here isn't just that it's possible, but that it's really possible, even if it's way too early put money on anything yet.
Unmentioned in the article is the Queen of Spades in the GOP's hand, to use a hearts metaphor. Sarah Palin has been making some noise about running, going so far as saying she believes she could beat Barack Obama. Republicans have her and, when the hand is played out, they may very well be stuck with her as their nominee.
And even if they don't, we know from experience that Palin is a brutal -- if not terribly effective -- campaigner. A terrible demagogue and a shameless liar, we can expect her to start labeling her opponents as terrorist sympathizers, socialists, and to question their patriotism and fitness for office. This is especially true if the race is tight or she's down in the polls. Political brutality is her go-to place; if a little love tap is required, she'll smack you in the face with a shovel.
So, whether she wins or not, she's going to cause damage to her own party. Pundits, being pundits, will discuss whether accusations of Romney being a college commie or Huckabee being satanist hurts their campaigns, without ever touching on whether the accusations are true or not. For once, media idiocy plays to Democrats' favor.
It may actually be worse if she loses. It's not hard to imagine her launching a campaign to have tea partiers demand that she be put on the ticket as the vice presidential candidate -- while denying she has anything to do with it. Maybe whip up some hysteria about an anti-Palin conspiracy, because they're "afraid" of her. Slash and burn, all the way.
This could cause so much tension within the party that some Palin-backers could go PUMA and either stay home on election day or defect to the other side out of spite. If Palin-backers voting Obama seems unlikely to you, those Clinton PUMAs voted for McCain. Rationality isn't exactly a requirement in a voter.
And, if Palin's on the ballot, Democrats don't stay home. Remember, people vote against things. And the only thing Democrats would want to vote against more than Sarah Palin is childhood leukemia. This helps down-ticket candidates, if only because it's possible to vote a straight ticket. But it helps more because Republicans will be expected to line up behind their nominees. Praising Sarah Palin is probably not a good way to win over voters from the other side.
That said, I'm not saying that any of this is going to happen, just that it's all well within the realm of possibility. I try not to forecast. But if Palin runs, it's hard to see how that helps any Republicans, especially when their current hold on what power they have is so tenuous.
As I said, Sarah Palin is the Republican's Queen of Spades. It's hard to see how they wouldn't be forced to eat those points if she ran.
Get updates via Twitter