It's Not Over Till It's Over.

Daniel Larison is still bearish on the odds that Republicans will win a majority in November:

At this point, it appears that Republicans will gain 35 seats. If all of the toss-ups broke for the Republicans, they could realistically gain 41, which would be just enough, but all of them are not going to break their way. [...] The least certain pick-ups are AR-01, ND-AL, OH-18, MI-07, NH-02, NV-03, and SC-05, but I am still assuming Republicans win these. Democratic pick-ups will include the three everyone expects in LA-02, DE-AL and IL-10, and will most likely include Hawaii’s First District and Florida’s 25th.

If that’s right and Republicans come up five seats short of a majority, all this talk of “miraculous comebacks” will seem rather silly. Obviously, people pushing the “1994-but-bigger” argument will have some explaining to do. Gaining 35 seats in the House is impressive, and it will be the second-largest turnover in my lifetime, but after the overhyping of Republican chances for the last year it will seem anticlimactic and unsatisfying.

It's easy to forget this with the media's constant refrain that "Democrats are doomed," but it's simply a fact that there's a huge amount of variation in election results. Even if you assume a base Republican gain of 50 seats, there's still space for a swing either way. Forecasting guru Nate Silver made this exact point a few weeks ago:

A gain of as large as 70-80 seats is not completely out of the question if everything broke right for Republicans. Conversely, if Democrats managed to see a material rebound in their national standing over the final two weeks of the campaign, they could lose as few as 20-30 seats, as relatively few individual districts are certain pickups for Republicans.

One last thing: We shouldn't let the magnitude of potential Republican gains overwhelm the absolute context. Even if Republicans win in a 1994-style wave, with at least 55 seats, then they will only have a 15-seat majority. By contrast, Democrats have operated with a nearly 40-seat majority for the last two years. As Larison points out, the fact that Republicans need huge gains to win a small majority serves to remind us of just how much the GOP has sunk in recent years.

-- Jamelle Bouie

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