Charlie Cook

Charlie Cook forsees a “tidal wave” election.

I’m a lousy political handicapper because my emotions get in the way. Charlie Cook, by contrast, is a pro, and one of the best. That’s not to say that he has a crystal ball, only that his analysis is likely to reflect a fair assessment of currently available information.

Cook’s latest thoughts (available through a free email subscription) make pleasant reading for Democrats:

With fewer than 100 days left before the Nov. 7 election, certain assumptions can now be made, contingent upon the absence of a cataclysmic event.

First, the political climate will be extremely hostile to Republican candidates. Second, while Republicans benefited from turnout in 2002 and 2004, this time voter turnout will benefit Democratic candidates. And third, the advantage that the GOP usually has in national party spending will be significantly less than normal.


In the House, where Democrats need a 15-seat gain to win a majority, Republicans have 15 seats that the Cook Political Report currently rates as toss-ups. No Democratic seats remain in that column. Another 21 GOP seats are rated as leaning Republican.

In a very large tidal-wave election, as this one appears to be, it would not be unusual to see all toss-ups go to one party, along with a few out of the leaning column as well. Republicans might lose their House majority just in the seats in which they are behind or in which their edge is within a poll’s margin of error.

In the Senate, while it is easy to get Democrats to a four- or five-seat net gain, six is tougher. But keep in mind that in the last four non-wave elections, between 67 and 89 percent of the races rated as “toss-ups” in the final Cook Political Report pre-election ratings broke toward one party each time, a domino effect, with the close races breaking toward the party with momentum.

This does not mean that Republicans no longer have any chance of holding onto their House or even Senate majorities. But every day that passes between now and Nov. 7 where their poll numbers look this bad, the climb back gets incrementally steeper and more difficult.

Sometimes a party wins by losing; as horrible as the 2004 result was for the country, it was probably good for the Democrats as a party, and bad for conservatism as a political orientation. But this isn’t one of those times. Two years’ worth of hearings into Bush Administration malfeasance, misfeasance, and nonfeasance would make excellent background music for the 2008 Presidential election. Orwell’s comment that control of the present gives control of the past, and thus of the future, is less true under current circumstances than under the rule of Big Brother and his Party, but it’s true nonetheless.

Wouldn’t this be an excellent time to write a couple of checks?

Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.

13 thoughts on “Charlie Cook”

  1. "Wouldn't this be an excellent time to write a couple of checks?"
    Not for me. There something wrong with the nation, and bad times are coming. Against my judgment, I gave the max to Kerry in 04, hoping that the bad times could be forestalled. My natural pessimism now tells me that 06 will be more of the same. Oog.

  2. It is nice to hope. But are Democrats really going to win all 15 tossups plus a couple of others? Or even ten tossups and six others?
    Not impossible, but I'd say the odds are still overwhelming that the Republicans retain both houses – albeit by a smaller margin. Remember that the Rs have Gerrymandered the hell out of a number states – a lot more than the Ds and a lot more blatantly. So the Democrats would have to win substantially more than 51% of the popular vote to win a majority of the house. Worse I think in the Senate due to the natural gerrymandering of equal weight for unequal populations.

  3. The Democrats have an innate ability to blow it– if the Republicans were faced by anyone else competent, they would be doomed.
    I think about 30% of Americans vote at mid terms? The Republicans are the past masters of getting out the vote on the 'fear of the other guy' issue. Just the threat of Clintongate type trials will bring out the partisans. this is a highly disciplined, organised party that knows its voters emotional hot buttons.
    I don't think the Democrats will pull this off– they will again snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
    Just a British point of view, don't you mean
    'write a couple of cheques'?
    In British English, if not American English, that piece of paper you write with the bank's name on it, is a 'cheque'. A 'check' is something on a Burberry scarf, or something you do to verify something is true or safe e.g. a safety check.

  4. Valuetrinket:
    Got any other valuable tips for us rubes in the colonies???
    How to get those pesky hogshit stains out of our overalls?
    How not to offend delicate English sensibilities with our crude American spellings?
    Yes, believe it or not, some Americans are aware that you spell and use some words a bit differently over there. But we really don't need you to correct our spelling habits, which suit us well enough, thank you.

  5. I'd be glad to see "Two years' worth of hearings into Bush Administration malfeasance, misfeasance, and nonfeasance"; It would drive a stake through the heart of his "compassionate conservatism".
    In the mean while, since the majority must pick leaders who can survive a vote of the entire chamber, while the minority gets to pick leaders who will survive a vote of their caucus, the GOP could end up with effective leadership, especially if the rout caused the remaining members to turn on those leaders.
    And the GOP could return to what it's best at, and what most of it's base wants, and has been denied these last few years: Blocking bad legislation, instead of passing allegedly good legislation.
    So I say, Bring it on!

  6. Mark: Not that you or any democrats will listen to me, but the idea of two years of hearings into Bush is a stupid idea. yes, it is what your base will demand and salivates for, but Bush is not running again, nor will the likely nominee be anyone closely associated with his Administration. in fact, the GOP nominee can – and if he is smart, will – run away from Bush, and be able to do a much better job of it than Gore was able to distance himself from Clinton. and while Bush isn't likely to wrap himself in too many democratic legislative initiatives, bashing him for the better part of two years is a great way of pissing him off and ensuring that the Democrats won't have anything of substance to show for their time holding control of congress. Your hardcore will love the hearings, the mushy moderate middle who care about outside the beltway issues will wonder why they bothered to vote democratic in 06 (T-shirt seen in 2008: I voted Democrat in 2006 and I all got were some stupid hearings on TV).
    Other than that, I think two years of hearings are a really terrific idea…. almost as good as all the hyperventilating you all have done over Rove and Plame.

  7. Steve, the point is to bring the crimes and evils to light *now*, not when they are of interest only to historians. And, if done well, it'll be really hard for the next GOP nominee to successfully disassociate himself from Bush. IMHO, 'running away' from the incumbent isn't a formula for success; think of 2000 and Gore.

  8. Brett: "And the GOP could return to what it's best at, and what most of it's base wants, and has been denied these last few years: Blocking bad legislation, instead of passing allegedly good legislation.
    So I say, Bring it on!"
    After five years of power, after passing huge quantities of bad legislation, with the support of their base, you're now going to pretend that the GOP is *not* the party of power, big government and crony capitalism?
    Well, I can't say that I didn't expect that of you, Brett.

  9. I think it's amusing that, when Congressional Democrats do something unprincipled and offensive, liberal blog commentors have no trouble distinguishing between incumbant members of Congress and either liberalism or their party as a whole.
    But when the Republican Congressional leadership, in conjunction with the President, are pushing through bills that get nays from the majority of Republican members, and pass only by virtue of having a majority of Democratic members vote for them, THEN whatever the legislative leaders do is the one true fact of conservatism/the GOP, which are identically the same.
    The truth is we have a three party system. Out of office Democrats, out of office Republicans, and Incumbants. The later party is always in power.

  10. Brett, there you go again, making excuse for your party. The only thing left is to start the old 'I'm not a Republican, I'm a Libertarian' lie.

  11. Do Democrats have a coherent alternative program? I try to pay attemtion, but I don't know what their solution is to, say, the Iraq war.

  12. Barry: it's a good thing you're not in charge of formulating Democratic strategy, as the GOP would never lose an election and, to be honest, the GOP incumbents could use a little butt-kick right now. The Dems are positioned to take seats because the mushy middle doesn't think the GOP has done enough to take care of whatever issue the mushy middle deems important because the GOP has been too busy doing things that don't matter to the mushy middle. So go right ahead and have the Dems hold all sorts of hearings into all sorts of alleged Bush crimes… it's a two-fer for the GOP. First, although you sure don't want to hear it, much of the mushy middle approves of what you're b***hing about – wiretapping of terrorists, not listening to Chirac and so on – so your hearings will only highlight how extreme your leadership is. Second, it will use up valuable airtime that you could be using to promote legislative initiative 1, 2 and 3. Instead, you're going to make the mushy middle realize you're just as bad as the GOP and since they are more philosophically in tune with the GOP (yeah, go ahead and argue, but how does Bush win twice (or even come close) without having a huge built in advantage in voter identification with GOP policies?), they'll return to the GOP in 2008… just in time to swamp your nominee, whoever he or she is.
    And why do you think a GOP nominee would have trouble running away from Bush? Unlike Gore, who tried to have it both ways, running on the Clinton record at the same time he was trying to distance himself from Clinton, the GOP nominee has no ties to Bush that bind him in the same way Gore, as vice president, was bound to clinton.

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