Super-prognosticator Sabato sees GOP Congress in 2012

2011-09-30T22:30:00Z 2011-10-02T13:40:05Z Super-prognosticator Sabato sees GOP Congress in 2012By DON WALTON / Lincoln Journal Star JournalStar.com
September 30, 2011 10:30 pm  • 

Peer into the crystal ball and you see an elephant stampede.

You do, that is, if you are Larry Sabato, the University of Virginia political scientist who has become the nation's best-known political prognosticator.

Sabato told the Nebraska Medical Association on Friday that he expects the election of a Republican Senate and a Republican House in 2012.

If President Barack Obama is re-elected, Sabato said, it will be by a narrow margin, and then "we're looking at four years of super-gridlock" as a Democratic president butts heads with a Republican Congress.

Sabato's crystal ball didn't reveal the 2012 presidential victor during his three-hour marathon session with the physicians.

Nor did it choose a winner between his two finalists for the Republican presidential nomination, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

But the glass ball did yield the name of the GOP vice presidential nominee: Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who would strengthen the ticket with an Hispanic name and his direct tie to Florida, one of the "seven super-swing states" that Sabato says ultimately will choose the presidential victor.

Obama would lose all seven states, with the exception of Nevada, today, Sabato said. 

But there still is time for Obama to win re-election, he said, especially if unemployment figures trend downward and the economy begins to demonstrate recovery and if his Republican challenger turns out to be an unskilled campaigner or strays too far from the mainstream.

And, Sabato added, if Obama can summon and re-energize his base again.

Already, he said, there is some evidence that Obama is going to play the Harry S. Truman card and run against what the former president described as "the do-nothing Republican Congress."

The White House appears to have calculated that health care reform can be a winning issue for the president in 2012, Sabato said. The administration has decided to push for a U.S. Supreme Court decision on the constitutionality of the new health care law next summer, assuring it would become part of the presidential campaign, he said.

If the court strikes down the 2009 law, he said, Obama then could pledge to attempt to fix it. If the court upholds the law, his centerpiece legislation would be validated, Sabato said.

That decision, he said, is likely to be made by Justice Anthony Kennedy.

"The court is just as polarized as the rest of America," Sabato said. "It's 4-4 and Anthony Kennedy. Kennedy is the Supreme Court."

Sabato has earned a reputation as the most accurate prognosticator of national elections. In 2008, he predicted an Obama landslide and came within one electoral vote of the exact tally.

"There will be so many unexpected events before the 2012 election" that it's impossible to see the likely outcome before mid-summer next year at the earliest, Sabato said.

But the economy will be the predominant issue, he said, perhaps to the tune of 70 to 80 percent. 

In Nebraska, Sabato said, Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson must swim against the tide in what is likely to be "a coattail election" year, making his re-election bid "a very tough race" in a staunchly Republican state.

Sabato predicted Obama would be unable to win Nebraska's 2nd Congressional District electoral vote again. In 2008, Obama bested Republican nominee John McCain in the metropolitan Omaha district and walked away with one of Nebraska's five electoral votes. 

Reach Don Walton at 402-473-7248 or at dwalton@journalstar.com.

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