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How Democrats could lose 86 seats in the election

At this point, you're probably getting bored of hearing me say that this election is about who turns out to vote, not what the country thinks. But this Gallup poll makes the point particularly well:


In other words, if all registered voters turned out, Democrats would be looking at a fairly manageable loss. In a low-turnout election where Republican groups are more invested, however, Democrats run 18-points behind. "According to one formula that models turnover in the House based on the Gallup likely voter model specifically," Nate Silver says, "a 13-point lead for the G.O.P. would translate into a gain of 71 (!) seats — and an 18-point, lead, a gain of 86 (!!) seats." He thinks both scenarios are a bit overstated, but you can't rule them out.

That both goes to show how important turnout is in this -- or any -- election, and how different our system is from the compulsory-voting systems you see in Australia and Brazil. In our system, you don't just have to win over the populace, but you have to get them to the polls. Democrats aren't doing too badly in getting voters to prefer them to the Republicans. But they're doing horribly in getting those voters to want to act on that preference.

By Ezra Klein  | October 5, 2010; 4:34 PM ET
Categories:  2010 Midterms, Polls  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: The GOP's excellent trade
Next: Reconciliation


Quite a collection of depressing news tidbits today, Ezra! Nice. But if you REALLY want to get good and hopeless, I'd recommend attending this:

The Era of Low-Cost, Easy-to-Get Oil is Over

What: Peak Oil News Conference

When: Thursday, October 7 at 12:30 p.m. (Please note time change.)

Where: National Press Club, Edward Murrow Room

Coverage: Open

WASHINGTON, Oct. 5 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas (ASPO USA) is holding a news conference to build awareness of the energy crisis and the drastic consequences of shrinking oil supplies on our everyday lives, the economy, the environment and the military.

The debate about Peak Oil is over. Petroleum is being consumed four times faster than it is being discovered. It's time for the government and society to recognize the crisis. Immediate, bold action is required in the areas of conservation, mass transit, new technologies and lifestyle changes.

The news conference is the opening event of the three-day, 2010 ASPO PEAK OIL CONFERENCE at the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill. This is the sixth annual gathering of international energy experts from industry, academia, government, NGOs and the environmental community. The conference will include former Secretary of Energy James Schlesinger, scientists studying Peak Oil, advocates from across the political spectrum, including Ralph Nader and Bianca Jagger, and U.S. Representative Roscoe Bartlett.


* Mr. Jim Baldauf, ASPO-USA Co-founder and President
* Ms. Bianca Jagger, Council of Europe Goodwill Ambassador, Founder and Chair of the Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation
* Mr. Jeff Rubin, Former CIBC Chief Economist
* Mr. Charles Maxwell, Senior Energy Analyst at Weeden & Co.
* Dr. Robert Hirsch, Senior Energy Advisor at MISI

Posted by: nathanlindquist | October 5, 2010 5:16 PM | Report abuse

Many of the 21,000 Iowans who have lost their health care coverage due to the Obama/Pelosi PPACA are likely to vote in the upcoming election. As the DesMoines reports (, "About 21,000 Iowans received notice last week that their insurers would no longer provide their Medicare Advantage plans in 2011, a state agency said. ... Next year, Iowa will have 13 fewer stand-alone Medicare prescription drug plans, the state said. About 1,230 Iowans were notified last week their prescription drug plans would not be renewed."

It makes me wonder if statements about TARP and "The Stimulus" are like the repeated "if you like your plan, you can keep your plan" statements: the amount of dobleplusgood non-truth from the federal government demands the attention of responsible voters.

Posted by: rmgregory | October 5, 2010 5:36 PM | Report abuse

I was surprised that a country as US-like as Australia had compulsory voting, so I looked into it. According to Wikipedia, citing an Australian government source:

About 5% of enrolled voters fail to vote at most elections. People in this situation are asked to explain their failure to vote. If no satisfactory reason is provided (for example, illness or religious prohibition), a relatively small fine is imposed ($20),[7] and failure to pay the fine may result in a court hearing.


Only a $20 fine, yet they had 93% turnout last election!! (source:

Although a lot of people will vote just because they know it's illegal, or they don't want to have to go through the hassle of writing out their reason and doing the paperwork and perhaps having something on their public record.

It's very interesting how little it takes to skyrocket voter turnout.

Posted by: RichardHSerlin | October 5, 2010 6:31 PM | Report abuse

A small correction seems in order, Ezra: Democrats ARE doing badly at convincing potential voters to prefer them--they haven't managed even a plurality among registered voters in the stats you list. It's just that they aren't doing that bit of convincing as super-badly as they are in convincing pro-Dem voters to want to act on that preference.

Posted by: JonathanTE | October 5, 2010 8:46 PM | Report abuse

"In other words, if all registered voters turned out, Democrats would be looking at a fairly manageable loss."

In your perfect world when you can coerce everyone to vote on pain of criminal penalty are you also going to require all adults to register to vote? And then bill the rest of us for the cost of teaching your new constituents how to read and cast a ballot so they don't do a Palm Beach County on you and vote for the wrong guy?

Posted by: bgmma50 | October 5, 2010 8:56 PM | Report abuse

rmgregory, you forgot the following passage from the article you quoted from the DM Register:

"Iowans who received notice that their plans will no longer continue can join a new Medicare Advantage plan or return to original Medicare.

"You are still in the Medicare program no matter what you choose," said Kris Gross, director of the state senior health insurance program.

Gross said companies decide annually whether to renew their Medicare Advantage plans. The decisions are driven by a myriad of factors, she said, including changes in federal law and market and business needs."

How convenient that you left that part out.

BTW, the changes in the Medicare Advantage plans were made to stop OVER payments to providers and to begin to close the "doughnut hole" in prescription drug plans. It's interesting that some companies ceased to offer these plans once the gov't decided to stop over paying them, isn't it?

Posted by: co8906 | October 5, 2010 10:37 PM | Report abuse

You are missing the point. The basic question was what happened to "if you like your plan, you can keep your plan." I would asssume that since there are a number of Medicare plans, the one they are signed up for is the plan that they like. Why can they not keep their plan? Or did I just not hear President Obama correctly, and he really said, "if you like your plan, you can keep your plan, unless you are in a plan that you can't keep." I'm not saying it isn't good policy to do away with those plans, it very well may be, but the President made himself out to be the BS'er in Chief when he made that statement.

Posted by: mathewcarson1975 | October 6, 2010 8:06 AM | Report abuse

No mathewcarson1975, it is you who is missing the point. If an insurance company says it will no longer provide certain type of insurance coverage, how do you keep your insurance with that company much as you want to? All those insured with this company have to do is to find another company which provides that type of coverage. Did you want the govt to STOP insurance company from deciding not to provide specific type of insurance? Then you will be yelling about too much govt control.

Posted by: iarthur1 | October 6, 2010 9:22 AM | Report abuse

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