House 2010

Generic Congressional Ballot, June 29th: Removal of Daily Kos polls doesn't change overall picture

by: Chris Bowers

Tue Jun 29, 2010 at 12:39

Update: Markos is suing Research 2000 for fraud, and it sure seems like he has a case.  I am going to have to dump Daily Kos polls from all my former research, and start again.  Given my additional lack of confidence in Rasmussen polls, this means the Senate and national house ballot forecasts are on hiatus for a couple of weeks.


Despite Daily Kos suspending polling earlier this month, the generic congressional ballot picture remains unchanged. Two weeks ago, Republicans led by a simple mean of 0.9%, and currently lead by a simple mean of 1.0%.  Here are the polls used in the calculation:

Generic Congressional Ballot, June 29th: GOP +0.9%
Polls can be found at and


Once again, the numbers stay in the narrow range of Dems +0.7%, to GOP +1.7%, that has been the state of play since mid-January.

While the removal of Daily Kos polls made no difference to the overall result, there is one poll which, if removed from the average, would make a big difference.  Removing Rasmussen polls from the averages produces a pro-Democratic shift of 1.9%

Generic Congressional Ballot, June 29th: GOP +0.9%
No Rasmussen polls included

By consistently outlying  in favor of Republicans, Rasmussen skews polling averages unlike any other.  I still don't have a good solution for this as an election forecaster, but it remains worth noting nonetheless.

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Don't sweat individual polls

by: Chris Bowers

Tue Jun 15, 2010 at 16:15

The latest poll that is supposed to cause Democratic panic was released today by NPR.  This poll showed Republicans ahead by 8% in the 70 most heavily targeted congressional districts in the 2010 elections.  As with the Gallup poll from two weeks ago that showed Democrats down 6% in the generic ballot, the largest Republican lead ever in that poll, there is only one appropriate way to react to this poll: total, uncontrolled PANIC!

Or not.  The appropriate way to react to polls like these is, as always, to look at the broad context of all polling.  Here is why:

  • There is no One, True Poll There is a tendency among people who follow elections to look for The One, True Pollster that is more accurate than any others.  This is folly.  Every poll has error. No poll that is always right, nor will there ever be a poll that is always right.  The goal it to minimize the error as much as possible.

  • Polling averages more accurate than any poll: Simple polling averages of all available polls have less than 50% the error of individual polls. Across 144 statewiode, general election campaigns from 2004 to 2010, simple polling averages have produced a total error of just under 1.8% from the final projected margin to the final result.  By way of comparison, the average total error from individual polls to the final result was just over 3.6% for the same time period (the NCPP report linked in the previous sentence halves the total error, and refers to it as "candidate error.").  No pollster is ever going to beat the average of  all other polls by 50% across that many campaigns.  Poll averaging works.

  • The broad view of generic congressional ballot polling shows a toss-up.  Here are the 24 generic congressional ballot polls conducted over thepast month and released to public (Zogby Internet polls excluded).  When they are sorted by margin, the tightness of the 2010 campaign is clearly revealed:

    Generic Congressional Ballot, June 15th: GOP +0.9%
    Polls can be found at and

    Rasmussen's pro-GOP outliers aside, this is an extremely tight campaign. Of the 20 non-Rasmussen polls, 11 show the campaign either in a dead heat or with one party up by a single point. Only 4 of the 20 non-Rasmussen polls show a margin of more than 3%.  That is a pure toss-up.

  • Little has changed in five months: Since mid-January, the 30-day, simple mean polling average in the generic congressional ballot has shown little variance.  The high point for Democrats was a lead of 0.7%, and the high point for Republicans was a lead of 1.7%.  The current Republican lead of 0.9% is thus not only not cause for panic, but it is hardly newsworthy at all. The electoral environment remaains in a five-month period of near statis.
I understand entirely that writing blog posts about polls is both tempting and easy.  Not only are polls news, but there is an attractive, empirical side to them that can elide the oft-annoying spin tsunami of the political news cycle.  However, when looking at polls, it is always best to look at the entire picture.  While doing so makes for a less dramatic view of the electoral environment, it does make for a more accurate one.
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National House Ballot, June 8th: Gallup was an outlier, but picture still improves for GOP

by: Chris Bowers

Tue Jun 08, 2010 at 10:30

This week's update on the national generic ballot has some good news and some bad news for Democrats.

The good news is that the Gallup poll showing Republicans ahead by 6% was indeed an outlier based on polling over a holiday weekend.  The 6% lead Gallup showed for Republicans last week has been entirely erased, with the poll reverting to a dead heat.

The bad news for Democrats is that Republicans are actually slightly improving anyway.  This week they have regained the overall lead, moving ahead by 0.3% after trailing by 0.1% last week:

Generic Congressional Ballot, June 2nd
Polls can be found at and

In reality, there has been little to no change in the generic ballot over the past five months.  Since mid-January, the average has consistently hovered within a narrow range of Dems +0.7% and GOP +1.7%.  The median error of the forecasting methodology I use is 1.76%, so a 2.4% variation range over such a long timeframe does not mean that much. Every time the average swings toward one party, it tends to swing right back to the other. shows this trend pretty well, even if we have slightly different numbers:

Neither party has broken out of this pattern for a while, leaving control of the House of Representatives a toss-up.  However, if either party were to move ahead by 2% or more, that would be a big deal.

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Latest Gallup just 1 of 24 generic ballot polls this month; Dems still lead overall

by: Chris Bowers

Wed Jun 02, 2010 at 09:53

June 2nd generic ballot: Democrats +0.13%
Last week: Democrats +0.46%

There is going to be a lot of news today about the llatest Gallup generic congressional ballot poll showing Republicans with their largest lead ever in that poll, 49%--43%.  While that certainly is not good news for Democrats, it cannot be emphasized enough that this poll is still just one of twenty-four generic congressional ballot polls to be released this month.  In the overall average of those 24 polls, Democrats still hold a slight edge, 44.17%--44.04%:

Generic Congressional Ballot, June 2nd
Polls can be found at and

(Note: Zogby interactive also released generic congressional ballot polls during the past month, but they are not included in these averages due to their horrendous track record)

Some might object to this poll averaging methodology, arguing that including all of the polls over the past month, and also including multiple polls from individual polling firms, will miss developing trends. However, not including multiple polls from the same polling firm, and including only the most recent polls, has been shown to produce less accurate poll averaging results (I would know, since I used that type of less accurate methodology in 2008, and conducted research to find a more accurate method for 2010).  To put it a different way, removing older polls and multiple polls from individual pollsters produces results in a less accurate poll methodology that often finds trends which do not exist.

The methodology I am using in 2010 has found minimal movement--less than 2.3% on net--in the national generic ballot over the past fours months.  This is a lot more believable than the idea that the country is swinging 5-6% points in favor of one party in a single week, even if it isn't uncommon for individual polls to show such a trend (Quinnipiac showed such a result for Democrats last week, for example).  The entire difference between the 2004 and 2008 presidential elections was less than a 10% net swing--how could one week of news early in the campaign season possibly result in half of the net swing from 2004 to 2008?  A swing like that requires a mega-story like a presidential convention or the financial metldown of September 2008, not run of the mill political tit for tat during the spring legislative and primary season.

Shorter version of all this: one generic congressional ballot poll means very little.  As always, look at the complete polling picture.

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Generic Congressional Ballot, May 18th: Democrats retake a narrow lead

by: Chris Bowers

Tue May 18, 2010 at 12:35

Democrats have taken the lead in the generic congressional ballot average for the first time since April 7th:

Generic Congressional Ballot, May 18th: Democrats +0.2%
Polls from here and here

Overall, this is a 1.7% improvement for Democrats since their April 21st low point.  Republicans had gained 1.7% in the thirty days before then, which were the first 30 days since the passage of health insurance reform.

It should be noted that 1.8% is the median amount of error for this forecasting methodology, so this is not actually a significant amount of movement yet.  All of the movement over the last two months could very well just be random fluctuations within the margin of error.

Perhaps more notably, at Gallup's 2010 election preview event today (follow it on Twitter at #gallup2010), Jeff Jones produced a chart that projected seats in the House of Representatives based on the Generic Congressional Ballot.  According to Jones, if Democrats received 50% of the two-party vote, as the current average projects, they would win 234 seats and maintain control of the House of Representatives:

Projecting seat totals based on Generic Congressional Ballot

This model from Jones suggests that a swing of 7% in the national two-party Congressional vote could result in a net swing of 64 seats in the House of Representatives.  While that seems extremely wide for only a 7% shift, from 2004 to 2008 the Demcoratic share of the national two-party Congressional vote swung almost precisely 7% (from 48.6% to 55.6%), and Democrats gained a net of 54 seats over those two years.  So, perhaps Jones is exaggerating a bit, but not by much.

What this means is that even small shifts in national vote preference can make a huge difference in the final result.  If Democrats were to improve by 3%, they could keep their majority at close to its current size.  By contrast, if Republicans were to improve by 3%, they would be able to take control of the chamber.  At a rate of eight seats for every 1% shift, there is a lot on the table even with small fluctuations.

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Primary day: polling and activism round-up

by: Chris Bowers

Tue May 18, 2010 at 08:48

First, elections are not spectator sports, so take some action:


Now, here are the polling averages on the federal campaigns we are following on Open Left:

Pennsylvania Senate, Democratic primary (15-day average)
Sestak Specter
44.0% 41.9%
It is raining today here in Philadelphia.  Doubtful Specter will get the turnout he needs.  The 15-day average is used in this election because of dramatic recent trends, and the high volume of polling on the campaign.

Pennsylvania 12th, Special election (30-day average)
Critz (D) Burn (R)
43.3% 42.3%

Pennsylvania 17th, Democratic primary (one poll)
Dow Ford Holden (inc)
27.0% 54.0%

Arkansas Senate, Democratic primary (30-day average)
Halter Lincoln Morrison
36.0% 44.5% 6.5%
If no candidate reaches 50%, there will be a June 8th run-off.  That's the goal today.  On the Republican side, John Boozman could well reach the 50% threshold.  He is polling at 46%, with 15% undecided.

Kentucky Senate, Democratic primary (30-day average)
Conway Mongiardo
33.0% 38.0%
While I don't feel quite as good about using the snarky blue-red coloring on this campaign, there it is anyway.  On the Republican side, Rand Paul leads by 16.3%.


Polls in Kentucky start closing at 6 pm, and completely close at 7 pm.  In Pennsylvania, polls close at 8 pm.  In Arkansas, polls close at 8:30 pm.  All times listed here are eastern.

Got any last minute predictions?  The polls suggest Sestak, Critz, Lincoln (just over 50%, that is) and Mongiardo all win squeakers.  However, primary polling and House polling really does not have a very good track record, so it's all up in the air.

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National Congressional Ballot: Dems inching up

by: Chris Bowers

Mon May 17, 2010 at 11:25

Don't look now, but Democrats have gained over 3%, on net, in the generic congressional ballot on since early April:

My own numbers don't show quite as dramatic a swing, but Democrats have still gained 1% over the last month (from down 1.3% to down 0.3%), with more likely to come by the end of the week:

The average since April 22nd has Democrats up 0.56%, gaining almost another 1%.

There have been rumored Democratic comebacks before, all of which quickly dissipated.  However, this recent rise is the largest Democratic net gain since the September improvement of last year.  There are also good reasons to think this improvement will stick this time, as the economy continues slowly to improve (even though it is still nowhere near full recovery, there are indications that the relative direction of the economy is has more impact on electoral outcomes than the its absolute condition.)

At least for 2010, Democrats have likely already hit their low point, and won't see the electoral environment become any worse than its current state.  As such, Democrats should maintain a narrow advantage in the generic Congressional ballot from here on out, and thus keep narrow control of the House after 2010.  A prediction like that might make me look foolish in November, or even in just a few weeks, but it is fun to go out on a limb every once and a while.

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May 18th primary polling round-up

by: Chris Bowers

Fri May 14, 2010 at 09:35

A look at polling for the (mostly) primary elections that will be held on May 18th:

Looking like a mini-Super Tuesday, and even bigger than the May 4th primary-palooza.  After May 18th, the next big primary day will be June 8th.
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HI-01: DCCC pulls out, seat probably lost for now, but Dems should take it back soon

by: Chris Bowers

Mon May 10, 2010 at 11:41

Unable to convince Colleen Hanabusa to pull out of the campaign, the DCCC has itself now pulled out of the May 22nd special election to fill the open seat in Hawaii's first congressional district.

In case you haven't been following the campaign, Democrats are set to lose this blue seat (Cook PVI of D +11) to Republicans, because the special election is an open, winner-take-all event without primaries. Due to local political feuds, two major Democrats in the campaign splitting the Dem vote, but only one major Republican did, giving the GOP a shot in a very blue district.

On the one hand, there is former Representative, more conservative, better polling, and DCCC endorsed Ed Case.  On the other hand, there is more progressive Colleen Hanabusa, who is endorsed by local pols (who don't like Case because he primaried Senator Daniel Akaka in 2006) and unions (who probably don't like Case because he is very corporate friendly), but who does not poll particularly well (she has made some gaffes).  Neither will back down, and this has allowed Republican Charles Djou to take the lead in every recent poll.

Without the DCCC, and with voting by mail already underway (the voting just ends on May 22nd, but began a couple weeks ago), it is now likely that Republicans will steal this seat.  However, given how blue the district is, with only one Democrat in the campaign in November, it is likely that Dems will be able to take the seat back (or, even if they don't that they will do so in 2012).  As such, as I have argued in the past, perhaps it would actually be better for Djou to win the special election than Ed Case.  Sitting Democrats are extremely difficult to dislodge in primary elections, and having a Blue Dog in this strongly Democratic district would be unfortunate.  Not a single piece of legislation in 2010 will be dependant on the outcome of this seat, which hopefully a progressive Democrat will occupy in 2011 and beyond.

If Djou wins, hopefully neither Hanabusa nor Case will be the Democratic nominee in November.  We need someone more progressive than Case, and someone who is more electable, and a better campaigner, than Hanabusa.  This is a pretty embarrassing snafu for Democrats, but hopefully it will only be a temporary one.

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Post-hcr, Republicans gain 1.7% nationally; undecideds plummet

by: Chris Bowers

Wed Apr 21, 2010 at 11:00

The House of Representatives passed health reform one month ago today.  At that time, Democrats led the National House Ballot 41.87%--41.65%.  Now, one month later, with an entirely new set of polls, all of which have the majority of their interviews conducted post-hcr passage, Republicans lead 44.92--43.44%.

This represents a net 1.7% shift toward Republicans since the passage of health reform.  That is a modest, though not insignificant, improvement.

While Democrats did not receive a lasting post-health reform boost in polling, I am sympathetic to the argument that Republicans would have gained even more if health reform had not passed.  Admittedly, that argument is based entirely on hypotheticals and speculation, and cannot be proven.

Perhaps even more striking than the net Republican gain is the decline in undecideds.  Both Democrats and Republicans have actually seen increases in their raw support--Republicans just gained more.  Overall, the number of "undecided" or "other" voters declined by 4.84% over the past month, or nearly 30% of all "undecided" and "other" voters.  Not unlike a Presidential election, the health care reform fight pushed people into one camp or the other.  It made people pick sides.

Here are the polls used for the calculation.  They are drawn from and Polling Report.  The methodology can be found here.

National House Ballot, April 21st: Republicans +1.5%

This is not an insurmountable deficit for Democrats, at all.  With just a 5% net national swing, they would be back firmly in command of the 2010 elections.

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FL-19 results suggests slight GOP national lead; House control now a toss-up

by: Chris Bowers

Wed Apr 14, 2010 at 12:30

Democrat Tom Deutch won easily last night in the special election to replace Robert Wexler in Florida's 19th congressional district.  However, the enormous margin is not actually rosy news for Democrats nationwide.  Here is why:

Florida 19 Cook PVI: D + 14.8
This is a very blue district.  Given the results of the 2004 and 2008 elections, Democrats would be expected to win this seat by 29.6% (twice the PVI) if the national margin was precisely even.

Florida 19 Result: D +26.9
Duetch won last night by 26.9%, or 62.1%--35.2%. However, Kerry won this district 66%--33%, and Obama won 65%--34%.  So, Duetch slightly underperformed Democratic presidential candidates in this district.

Perhaps the district is trending redder, as Obama underperforming Kerry would suggest.  Perhaps this is still a good result for an open seat campaign.  Or, perhaps this suggests that Republicans have a slight lead in the National House Ballot.

I am going with the latter.  This is because my latest numbers on the National House Ballot, updated today, suggest that Republicans have taken a small lead:

US House of Representatives: Republicans +1.3%
Toss-up for overall control
Weekly trend: Democrats down 1.6%

Even if all of the various "questionable" polls are removed (Economist because it is Internet, Daily Kos because it isn't exactly a generic ballot, plus all of the Republican leaning polls), the result doesn't change at all.  Republicans still lead by 1.0%:

As Nate Silver discussed last Friday, Republicans will likely need to win the popular vote by 2-3% in order to win control of the House.  Given that Republicans have edged back into a lead in the national popular vote, and that these polls tend to underestimate Republican strength, control of the House of Representatives is now a true toss-up.

It's good that Democrats won the special election last night.  However, trouble still looms on the horizon.

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HI-01: Would losing a seat for six months really be so bad?

by: Chris Bowers

Mon Apr 12, 2010 at 11:57

The three-way special election in Hawaii's 1st Congressional district (May 22nd) is neck and neck, with the more progressive candidate a bit behind Ed Case (a former Blue Dog member of Congress) and Charles Djou (the Republican candidate):

Right now, the race is close: according to a Democratic source, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has conducted an internal poll showing Case at 32%, Djou at 32%, Hanabusa at 27%, and 9% undecided.

Even though the DCCC is supporting Case, these numbers are believable. The only public poll on the campaign, taken back in January, suggested a close campaign, with Hanabusa slightly behind, based on the underlying favorable ratings:

The poll also asked voters whether they had favorable or unfavorable opinions of the candidates, with Case rating highest at 42 percent, followed by Djou at 37 percent and Hanabusa at 33 percent.

Hanabusa had the highest unfavorable rating, 27 percent, compared to 18 percent for each of her opponents.

These numbers implied, even three months ago, that Djou had a chance and Case had underlying strengths that would help him offset Hanabusa's strength among organized labor and local endorsements.

Unless the unfavorables for both Case and Djou are driven upward, it is going to be difficult for Hanabusa to win this campaign.  As such, it is worth wondering whether a Djou victory is all that terrible.

The only reason Djou has a shot in this campaign is because of the unusual, three-way race.  Thus, even if he wins next month, he will have extreme difficulty keeping the seat in November when he will have to face a single Democratic candidate.  Democrats will get this seat back pretty quickly, and there won't be a single piece of legislation from May through November that will be imperiled by a Republican victory here.

By contrast, if Case wins the seat, it will be extremely difficult to ever oust a Blue Dog from this D +11 district.  Successful primary challenges are few and far between, what with the difficulty of recruiting primary candidates, high incumbent name IDs, and the virtually the entire Democratic and advocacy group infrastructure lining up behind every Democratic incumbent.  If Case wins this seat, good luck getting rid of him.

Some will point out other considerations, mainly the impact a Djou victory will have on other campaigns in terms of diverted resources spent winning back HI-01, and a negative media narrative.  However, the media narrative for Democrats in 2010 already stinks, and a congressional campaign in HI-01 won't really ever suck up that many resources.

Is a Republican holding a seat for five and a half months worse than a Blue Dog holding a seat for a decade or more?  The answer is yes, if a Blue Dog ends up replacing Djou in November anyway.  If Djou can be replaced with a strong, progressive Democrat, then the answer is no.

Progressives should hope that Hanabusa pulls this one out, and not sweat the Case vs. Djou result that much.  Arguably, it is better for them over the long-term if Djou wins (although that is not a certainty).  

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14 Candidates on ballot for Hawaii special election, not just 3

by: Chris Bowers

Thu Apr 08, 2010 at 13:01

The May 22nd special election to replace Democrat, and Progressive Caucus member, Neil Abercrombie in Hawaii's 1st Congressional district is drawing a decent amount of attention these days.  The election is notable almost entirely because there is no primary.  With two top-top tier Democrats running (State Senator Colleen Hanabuda and former Rep. Ed Case), versus only one top-tier Republican (City Councilman Charles Djou), the prospect of Democrats splitting their votes has given Republicans a chance for a pick-up in what would otherwise be a solid blue district.  This has in turn put greater emphasis on the Blue Dog (Case) vs. Progressive (Hanabusa) split between the two major Democrats, and also resulted in a split within the Democratic electoral infrastructure (DCCC for Case, unions, EMILY's list, and Hawaii's US Senators for Hanabusa).

However, the situation is even more fractured than news stories indicate.  There are actually 14 certified candidates for the winner-take-all election on May 22nd, not just three: 5 Democrats, 5 Republicans, and 4 other candidates. This is both good and bad for the Democrats in the campaign.

On the one hand, this means that Democrats will not be the only ones suffering from a split.  The other Republicans in the campaign, however poorly funded, will draw away from support from Djou.  Additionally, a significant amount of the anti-establishment vote, which would plausibly break for Republicans in the current electoral environment, will be soaked up by the four independent candidates.  While none of this is as problematic as the split Democrats are facing, it is not insignificant and could swing a close election.

On the other hand, a 14-candidate campaign, with three top-tier candidates, lowers the percentage of the vote needed to win the campaign.  It is plausible that Djou could win the campaign with only 32% of the vote--a number a Republican can definitely achieve in this district--if the 11 lower-tier candidates combine for around 5% and Hanabusa and Case evenly split the rest.

Then again, until some new public polling is released, all of this speculation about Republican chances to win the seat is a lot of hyperventilating over not that much.  The only public poll on the campaign to date, from mid-January, showed Case with 37%, Hanabusa with 25%, and Djou with only 17%.  That just isn't a close campaign.  While the DCCC running anti-Djou ads, and sending staff to Hawaii, implies that they have new information showing Djou close, it is just an implication, and not publicly verifiable information.  Perhaps Djou has surged, but there isn't any public proof of that at this time.

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Stupak likely to run for re-election

by: Chris Bowers

Thu Apr 08, 2010 at 10:02

Rumors flew around yesterday that Bart Stupak was considering retirement.   Facing a primary challenge from his left, attack ads from the right, and increased pressure in general now that he has become a national figure, his office was not ruling out retirement when asked about the rumor.  However, this morning it looks like Stupak will run again:

All speculation to the contrary aside, U.S. Rep Bart Stupak says he has every intention of running for re-election this fall.

The Menominee Democrat  told the Free Press on Wednesday that he hasn't made his final decision yet to run for a 10th term -- but that's only because he sits down with his family every two years just before the filing deadline in May to decide.

The filing deadline is on May 11th, at 4 p.m.  The primary is on August 3rd.  The district has a Cook Partisan Vote Index of R +3, which could potentially make this campaign competitive in the general election, too.

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International House Ballot, April 7th: U.K. and U.S.A.

by: Chris Bowers

Wed Apr 07, 2010 at 01:20

Tonight, and for the next month, the National House Ballot goes international.  Until the election on May 6th, I will feature the latest polling on the UK House of Commons alongside the national ballot polling here in the United States.

Here are today's numbers (methodology):

UK House of Commons: Conservatives +7.7%
Projected hung parliament
Trend: Conservatives up 0.1%

Even though the Tories are favored to win a plurality, Labour and the Liberal Democrats combined still hold a commanding edge on the Tories.  Were that the center-left still clearly ahead in the United States as well.

Unless there is a noticeable shift in the share of the vote for Conservatives (either up or down), it's going to be anarchy coalition forming time in the UK.  The margin is close enough that a Lib-Lab coalition would likely need the left-wing Respect, and / or some combination of the various nationalist parties, in order to form a government.

Fourth and fifth parties are really on the rise in the UK, receiving a record 9.3% of the vote in 2005.  They might form a part, however small, of Her Majesty's Government in 2010.

US House of Representatives: Democrats +0.3%
Projected narrow Democratic hold
Trend: Democrats up 0.2%

The margin in this campaign has not shifted more than 1.5% in either direction in four months.  That is remarkable stability compared to the epic pitched battle over health reform, which saw several wild swings of momentum since early December.  Once again, that makes me think that health care will not be a major factor in this election.

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