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Larry Sabato predicts a Republican House majority

1. In a report issued this morning, University of Virginia political handicapper Larry Sabato estimated that Republicans will pick up 47 seats in the House on Nov. 2, more than enough to restore the party to majority status at the start of the 112th Congress.

"Conditions have deteriorated badly for Democrats over the summer," writes Sabato. "The economy appears rotten, with little chance of a substantial comeback by November 2nd. Unemployment is very high, income growth sluggish, and public confidence quite low."

He adds: "To most voters--fair or not--it seems that President Obama has over-promised and under-delivered."

Sabato's prediction comes amid increasingly pessimistic assessments of Democratic chances in the fall from the political prognosticator class.

Last week, Time magazine's Mark Halperin said that if circumstances didn't change Democratic House losses could total as many as 60 seats.

And, on Wednesday, Charlie Cook, a former Fix boss and editor of the Cook Political Report, wrote that "Democrats find themselves heading into a midterm election that looks as grisly as any the party has faced in decades."

Cook added that there are 32 Democratic incumbents who currently trail their Republican challengers in either public or private polling -- far more than the 11 GOP incumbents who were losing at this time in 2006. (Democrats re-took control of the House that year.)

Dire predictions like these add to a growing perception problem for Democrats with just 60 days left until the midterms. People like Sabato, Cook and Stu Rothenberg, editor of the Rothenberg Political Report, are quite influential within the Washington chattering class and can shape the tone and demeanor of the campaign conversation for both parties.

Their gloom and doom predictions for Democrats, therefore, can have real world implications as donors are less likely to pony up crucial dollars, targeted Members go into panic mode and party strategists become more willing to throw their side overboard in conversations with reporters.

For Democrats trying to hold the House majority then, these increasingly pessimistic prognostication add another layer of complexity to the challenge.

2. The AFL-CIO is kicking off its general election effort this weekend with a $500,000 national TV and radio ad buy reminding workers that, as president Richard Trumka told reporters at a press conference Wednesday, "This is a defining Labor Day for working people."

"America's workers. The people we rely on every day. The backbone of our communities," the narrator of the 30-second spot says. "Making things, innovating, working together -- that's how we've always moved our country forward, and that's how we'll do it again."

The spot, which will be targeted into NASCAR and baseball and football games over the holiday weekend, is notable for being a positive (and decidedly non-political) ad at a time when many Democrats have sought to fight back against the tough national political environment by assailing their opponents with negative ads.

Also at Wednesday's event previewing the AFL-CIO's efforts this fall, the group announced that it will be holding a Washington rally for union families on Oct. 2. AFL-CIO executive vice president Arlene Holt Baker said that the union is holding the event in part because it is determined that "the 'tea party' and its corporate backers are not going to get the final word."

Trumka's words for the tea party, however, were notably less harsh. "I don't see the tea party as a threat to workers. I see rhetoric -- if it's geared toward hatred and anger, which some of it has been -- I see that as a threat to America and democracy," Trumka said. "That's why we're trying to change the frustration and prevent it from being turned into anger and hatred."

Trumka declined to reveal a dollar amount for how much his organization will spend over the next two months, offering only that he predicts that the group will be outspent by organizations such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has spent $2.6 million on races this cycle.

He noted that the AFL-CIO will play in more than 400 elections this cycle, including 70 House races as well as state legislative races. Among the union's 26 targeted states, Trumka mentioned California, Illinois, Nevada, Ohio and Pennsylvania as top priorities.

3. Independent candidate Bud Chiles has ended his campaign for Florida governor and will be endorsing state Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink (D).

"I need to be able to look people in the face and really believe in my heart that this was a campaign I could win and really be viable," Chiles told the St. Petersburg Times. "I just got to the point where it was difficult for me to do that."

The Times reported that Chiles, who is the son of former Democratic Gov. Lawton Chiles, will announce his support for Sink in a press conference Thursday in Tallahassee.

Chiles didn't get much traction in the campaign, but his family name helped him to poll in the teens in early polling. A Quinnipiac poll this month showed Chiles taking 12 percent of the vote, including 13 percent of Democrats and 7 percent of Republicans.

Things have been looking up for Sink in the governor's race of late. She got a break last week when former health care executive Rick Scott beat the establishment favorite, state Attorney General Bill McCollum, in the GOP primary.

4. Voters in Florida will soon be hearing the voice of Gov. Charlie Crist (I) on the airwaves -- brought to them courtesy of Crist's Senate rival, Rep. Kendrick Meek (D).

Meek is going up with his first radio ad against Crist in the three-way Senate race, which also features Republican Marco Rubio.

"Home is where the heart is. And for Charlie Crist, home is with the GOP," the narrator of the 60-second spot says. The ad goes on to feature audio of Crist calling himself a "Jeb Bush Republican" and praising national Republicans including former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and former President George W. Bush.

"Don't be fooled. If Charlie Crist gets to Washington, his heart will lead him right back to where he belongs," the narrator concludes.

Meek is vying with Crist for the votes of Democrats and, so far, he's on the losing end. Crist has sent signals -- subtle and not-so-subtle -- that he would caucus with Democrats if elected this fall and, as a result, national party leaders are loathe to wade into the race on Meek's behalf.

Meanwhile, the National Republican Senatorial Committee has announced that it's committing $2.5 million to Rubio's bid - a hefty sum that's likely to up the pressure on Democrats to make a financial commitment to the contest.

5. Delaware Rep. Mike Castle is going on the air in his Republican Senate primary against tea party candidate Christine O'Donnell.

Castle, a centrist former governor, has gone up with a $113,000 ad buy in the Salisbury, Md., media market for the week of Aug. 31 to Sept. 6. The Delaware GOP Senate primary is set for Sept. 14.

O'Donnell recently got a boost in the form of a six-figure commitment from the Tea Party Express, and tea party activists seem to be eyeing up Castle as the next scalp in their increasing list of establishment candidates to lose in primaries.

The under-funded O'Donnell was the party's 2008 Senate nominee, losing badly to then-Sen. Tom Carper Joe Biden (D-Del.).

Democrats believe O'Donnell's insurgent candidacy boosts their chances of defeating Castle in November though she remains a long shot to defeat the popular longtime office-holder in the primary.

Waiting in the general election is New Castle County Executive Chris Coons (D). The seat is being vacated by appointed Sen. Ted Kaufman (D).

With Felicia Sonmez and Aaron Blake

By Chris Cillizza  | September 2, 2010; 8:08 AM ET
Categories:  Morning Fix  
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