See the wave...

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Polling numbers, indications of voter enthusiasm, and the panicked reactions of Democratic incumbents all suggest that 2010 could be one of the greatest "wave elections" in decades. Could it be the greatest ever?

There have been a few major waves in recent history. The post-Watergate wave of 1974 -- a Dem pickup of 49 in the House and 5 in the Senate -- didn't change control of Congress, but it gave Democrats two-thirds of the House and a 61-seat cloture-proof majority in the Senate that lasted until the middle of Jimmy Carter's term. The 1980 wave not only elected Ronald Reagan, but gave the GOP a gain of 11 Senate seats and the majority in either house for the first time in a quarter-century.

1994 was the next big wave for the Republicans -- 9 Senate seats, 54 House seats. The next comparable Democrat wave took two cycles to complete, in 2006 and 2008, gaining 54 House seats and 13 Senate seats.

Information Please has a helpful chart of the composition of Congress by political party from the birth of the Republican Party in 1854 to the present. (It differs in places from the seat counts given in Wikipedia articles on specific elections.)

Other big shifts: 1874 (House: D+93, marking the end of Reconstruction?), 1882 (House; D+70), 1890 (House: D+75, R-85), 1910 (House: D+56), 1912 (House: D+62), 1914 (House: R+66), 1920 (Senate: R+9, House: R+63), 1922 (Senate: R-8, House: R-75).

The biggest House sweep of the 20th century was the 1932 election, headlined by Franklin Roosevelt vs. Herbert Hoover -- the GOP lost 101 seats in the House and 12 seats in the Senate. After two more elections (1934, 1936) there were only 88 House Republicans and 16 GOP senators. But 10 years later, after 1946, Republicans were back in control of both houses (1946, House: R+55, Senate: R+12); but the majority collapsed two years later (1948, House: D+75, Senate: D+9).

The biggest Senate switch I could find: In 1958 Democrats picked up 16 Senate seats, defeating 10 Republican incumbents. The Democrats also picked up 49 House seats. The Democrats came close to having a 2/3rds majority in both houses; by 1964, they had that 2/3rds, plus the presidency, and we still suffer from the resulting destruction of America's urban social and physical fabric.

The biggest House switch ever was in 1894, in the midst of a severe depression and labor unrest, including massive rail strike. The Republican Party picked up 130 seats, and the Democrats lost 125.

How big will the 2010 wave be? At the moment, conservative projections are on par with 1994. The latest Real Clear Politics House map has 37 D seats in the leans or likely GOP column, bringing them close to a majority, and another 40 D seats are rated tossups. Only 123 of 255 Democrat seats -- less than half -- are considered safe, while only 15 of the 178 Republican seats are even slightly in jeopardy. The Senate map looks better for the Democrats; Republicans would need all three likely or leaning seats (PA, WI, IN), plus all five toss-ups (CA, CO, IL, NV, WV), plus two more from the leaning or likely D columns.

Cook Political Report is predicting a Republican gain of at least 40 seats in the House, and 7 to 9 seats in the Senate. Rothenberg Political Report currently predicts a Senate gain of 6 to 8 seats. He puts 33 D seats in the likely, leans, or toss-up/tilts Republican columns, 16 D seats are "pure toss-ups." Rothenburg categorizes 91 D seats and 9 R seats "in play." Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball shows an 8-9 seat Senate shift and R+47 in the House. Of course, all of these predictions bear the qualification, "if the election were held today."

The analysts' number-crunching is fascinating in its way, but it doesn't give you a sense of excitement as the wave builds. It's the difference between a series of barometric pressure readings that shows a hurricane approaching and video of the high winds and heavy rain.

There are a few nationally-prominent blogs that will give you a sense of the building wave. These blogs are covering the specifics of hot House and Senate races from coast-to-coast, with clips of campaign commercials and key candidate confrontations. They're watching closely as the DNC, DCCC, and the DSCC move resources out of seats once considered salvageable and into seats once thought to be safe Democrat.

A fair warning: Some of these blogs are targeted to an adult audience and may contain inappropriate language and possibly creepy ewok photoshops. The links below mean that I find these sites entertaining and informative reading. The links do not constitute a blanket endorsement of everything the linked blogger has ever said, written, done, or thought. Here there be monsters. (Having met all of them at BlogCon or other events, I will vouch that they're nice monsters, and they're on the right side.)

Ace of Spades HQ has been profiling competitive races, showing awkward clips of arrogant, entrenched incumbents on the defensive (like this recent clip of Maurice Hinchey (D-NY-22)), and featuring some eye-popping scenario maps of the coming "Demplosion" (look for posts by/references to CAC).

Not only is Ace helping readers to see the wave, he's urging readers and fellow bloggers to be the wave -- provide conservative challengers with the manpower they need to beat the advantages of entrenched incumbency. He's leading by example, spending Saturday phone-banking for Sean Bielat, who is trying to beat Barney Frank in MA-4.

Stacy McCain is an old-school, shoe-leather reporter, currently traveling on a shoestring with Pete Da Tech Guy Ingemi to report on competitive races in the northeastern US. They started with MA-4, close to home for Da Tech Guy, and are currently passing through NY-22 and NY-25, interviewing candidates, talking to volunteers, and generally trying to get a sense of the state of play. Meanwhile, Stacy's co-blogger Smitty is keeping an eye on Jim Moran (D-VA-08), one of the most deserving retirees-to-be.

HotAir and The Right Scoop are great sources for the latest video clips from the campaign.

Jimmie Bise provides great analysis over at The Sundries Shack. Tulsa conservatives will appreciate a recent piece: The Chamber of Commerce Is Not Necessarily Our Friend:

More importantly, though, is the point that the Chamber of Commerce is pro-business, not pro-small government. That's an important distinction that many conservatives forget to make. The GOP has gotten itself into a world of hurt backing businesses with intrusive legislation that favors some businesses while throttling others, or favoring businesses over the rights and freedoms of individuals operating in a free market. Michelle Malkin is working off the very same page this morning, with a link-filled post that shows the distinction very clearly. I recommend her post, and the links she provides, as required reading this morning.

The approaching wave is an impressive sight, but unlike a literal wave, we have it in our power to make this wave bigger. Stay tuned.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on October 17, 2010 2:03 PM.

Bob Wills Ain't Dead; Carolyn Wills visits Tulsa was the previous entry in this blog.

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