Politics Prof. Larry Sabato spoke Saturday about the upcoming presidential election and current state of the U.S. legislature as part of the “More Than the Score” lecture series.
More than 400 parents, alumni and others attended the talk at Alumni Hall, at which Sabato said he believes gridlock will continue unless a Republican president takes office.
The only way for the Democrats to gain control of the House of Representatives is for the Republicans to nominate a very weak presidential candidate, Sabato said.
“The only way Democrats could take over the House is if the Republicans nominate a fool,” Sabato said. “There is a record number of candidates, and it’s amazing how many bad candidates there are.”
The upcoming Senate race will be the more interesting, and will most likely go to the same side as the presidency, Sabato said.
“The winner of the presidential election will probably get the Senate,” Sabato said. “If a Democrat wins by two or three points nationally, they’ll win the Senate again.”
By “Democrat,” Sabato said he meant Hillary Clinton, as he believes she will receive the nomination.
“Hillary is the nominee — it’s just going to take a while to work through it, which is a great advantage for the Democrats,” Sabato said. “They [the Democratic Party] could be organizing and raising money for the general election while the Republicans are beating the stuffing out of one another.”
The potential Republican presidential nominees fall into three tiers, Sabato said — “The Yin and Yang Outsiders,” Trump and Carson, “The Most Plausible Semi-Traditional Nominees,” Rubio, Bush, Cruz, Florina and Kasich and “The Daydream Believers,” Christie, Huckabee, Paul, Jindal, Santorum, Graham, Pataki and Gilmore.
Sabato said Republicans should take pride that there are some respectable 2016 candidates. The difficulty for a party to win three terms in a row, combined with Obama and Clinton’s fatigue and the disarray caused by Bernie Sanders, should make Republicans optimistic, he said.
“Bernie will be Bernie, or should I say Larry David will be Larry David,” Sabato said, referencing an SNL skit in which David portrayed Sanders.
Democrats have their own reason to be hopeful, he said, given the increasingly high percentage of minority voters, the currently positive state of the economy, the strength of the “Clinton Machine,” Bush’s fatigue and the Trump backlash.
“Trump is burning a lot of bridges for the Republican party, especially with the Hispanic community,” Sabato said.
Sabato said unless the 2016 presidential election is a landslide, it will come down to 86 electoral votes spread across seven states — Florida with 29, Ohio with 19, Virginia with 13, Colorado with 9, Nevada and Iowa with 6 and New Hampshire with 4.
Sabato’s best advice to the Republican party is to pick a nominee who will appeal to voters in those seven states.
“There’s nothing in the constitution or the law that says you have to pick a winner, Republicans,” Sabato said. “If you decide that you might like to win, however, you might want to think about these seven states.”