A primer on next year’s election

 If President Obama wins reelection in 2012, it will be difficult for him to advance a domestic policy agenda because Republicans are likely to retain control of the House of Representatives, said Larry Sabato, the political expert from the University of Virginia. I had a chance to listen to Sabato at a business meeting I attended in Texas recently.

Redistricting, which is underway across the country, typically re-enforces incumbency, making it unlikely that Democrats will gain the 25 seats or more necessary to take control from the Republican-controlled House. “Of if President Obama wins, it will be a foreign policy presidency,” Sabato said.

Democrats control the Senate, 53-47, but one North Dakota senate seat is expected to be converted to Republican control. That would mean Republicans would need to pick up two more seats to gain a tie, or three seats to gain control of the Senate. Sabato said seats in Wisconsin, Montana, Nebraska and Missouri are toss ups. Sabato put the odds at 50-50 that Republicans would gain control of the Senate, and he said it is virtually assured that by the 2014 election, Republicans will win control of the Senate.

Sabato described the presidential contest, noting that President Obama will spend about $1 billion on the campaign to Republican’s $500 million. He said it will be the most negative campaign ever. President Obama has approval ratings in the low 40s, which typically are regarded as too low to be re-elected. “Something in the economy will have to change for Obama to win,” Sabato said. Furthermore, he said President Obama is waiting for Republicans to beat each other up and nominate a bad candidate. Sabato said Republicans are struggling. “When the presidency is available, the Republicans have fielded at JV team, not the varsity,” he said.

He said the picture will be clearly by the end of January, after the first four primaries: Iowa Jan. 4; New Hampshire Jan. 10; South Carolina, Jan. 21, and Florida Jan. 31.

Sabato explained that Republicans are generally thought to have 206 electoral votes locked up, which Democrats are generally thought to have 247 locked up. It takes 270 electoral votes to win. He said 85 votes are a toss up; those votes are divided geographically as such: Nevada – 6; Colorado – 9; Iowa – 6; Ohio -18; Virginia – 13; Florida – 29; and New Hampshire – 4.

Should be an interesting year.

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