Many Placing Their Money on House GOP Surge

Many, but not all, were surprised when Massachusetts Rep. Scott Brown earned the special election victory earlier this year to replace Ted Kennedy. The same group that called that upset also predicted President Obama’s electoral vote total nearly a month before the 2008 election.

That same entity — Dublin, Ireland-based InTrade, an online futures market — now is giving House Republicans a 50-50 chance to reclaim control of their chamber in November.

On Tuesday, April 20 at 4:55 p.m., InTrade’s market for GOP control of the House hit 50.5, meaning traders believed there was a 50.5 percent chance the House would change hands in November. According to CongressDaily:

Analysts at the Wharton School of Business have pegged InTrade’s margin of error at 1 to 1.5 percent, or half that of comparable Gallup polls.

Although one or two major market-makers with deep pockets and an axe to grind can sometimes influence the betting, InTrade has proved to be accurate more often than not. That’s because traders are more likely to do their homework with actual money on the line than with a pollster’s voice on the line, Wharton professors and others argue.

At the close of trading in April 22, Democrats had only a 48.4 percent chance to retain the House. That chance has steadily declined throughout the year but only dropped below 50 percent this week. InTrade’s market for House Republicans picking up at least 35 seats hit 59.5 percent.

The Senate picture is brighter for Democrats, based on InTrade betting. The latest trading puts Senate Democrats’ chances at holding their majority at 77.9 percent. But the market for Republicans picking up at least seven seats stood at 50 percent. 

Worst Winter Olympic PR Scandals of All-Time

Think you have PR problems? At least you don’t have corrupt judges and a drunken skier on your hands.

Business Insider recently took a look at the worst Winter Olympics PR disasters of all time. Lowlights include the Harding/Kerrigan debacle, Denver refusing to host the games after being awarded them in the 1970s, and a couple are unfortunately from the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. A snippet:

NBC: The network that prevents you from watching the Olympics.

In the age of Twitter, 24/7 real-time online news coverage, and real-time everything, NBC still thinks it’s 1976, and that the best way to cover the Olympics is via tape delay.

Actually, that’s the worst way to cover the Olympics. For instance, by the time NBC got around to airing Bode Miller’s downhill run last night, everyone already knew that he came in third place.

For the record, despite my issues with NBC’s lack of live coverage, this has by far been the most enjoyable Olympiad for me. Discussing this with friends recently, we decided the Winter Olympics are so much fun because these are events we don’t see otherwise. While curling is enjoying unprecedented recognition, I’ve personally found a new love for downhill skiing, Snocross and even ice hockey. Most importantly, it’s been great to see Canada and its famously welcoming people garner some well-earned recognition for the nation’s gorgeous West Coast.

2010 Census: Keeping Count (and Earning Cash)

What if I told you the U.S government plans to create 45,000 jobs in Indiana this year?

OK, maybe not the permanent, high-paying jobs we’re looking for. But that’s how many Hoosier workers will be hired for the 2010 Census.  The temporary positions (many lasting two to six weeks) will pay between $12.25 and $15 per hour. Jobs include census takers, office clerks and crew leaders.

Interested job seekers must take a basic skills test (check out the practice exam) and undergo a background check. Testing is going on now in Marion County and other parts of the state. Testing times and locations are available by calling toll-free (866) 861-2010. More information about the 2010 Census and employment is available on the state’s census site.

So what’s the big deal with the census? The United States conducted its first one in 1790 and has done so every decade since then. The population count determines the number of seats Indiana and others states have in the U.S. House of Representatives. Data also is used to determine political districts and funding distribution for schools, roads, elderly care and neighborhood improvement.

Basically, if every Hoosier is not counted that means less representation and less federal funding for communities. Most people will not fill the role of census taker, but all should take the time to fill out the 10-question form (look for it in the mail in mid-March) – that way a census worker won’t have to come knocking.

Experts Predict Slow Jobs Recovery for 2010

When it comes to the employment outlook, the private sector name to know is Challenger, Gray & Christmas. The Chicago-based outplacement and consulting firm offers this look ahead for the 2010 job market. The overview: positive news but tempered with a great deal of caution.

After starting the year with the heaviest downsizing in nearly a decade, the number of announced job cuts declined dramatically in the second half of 2009, providing hope for an eventual job-market turnaround.  The turnaround should become more evident in 2010, as job creation finally begins to outpace job losses.

However, while hiring is expected to accelerate in the new year, unemployment could remain stubbornly high, as millions of Americans who abandoned the job search out of frustration – and, therefore, not counted among the unemployed – reenter the labor pool. 

The economy is just beginning to pull out of the worst economic downturn in decades.  Since the recession began in December 2007, employers have announced nearly 2.5 million job cuts.  The heaviest downsizing occurred between July 2008 and June 2009, with more than 1.6 million job cuts announced.

Job cuts appear to have peaked in January 2009, reaching 241,729, the highest monthly total since January 2002.  In the months to follow, announced layoffs steadily declined, but the monthly average remained above 130,000 through the first half of the year.  Since July 1, however, monthly job-cut announcements have averaged about 69,000.  In November, job cuts fell to 50,349, the lowest monthly total since December 2007. 

“The end of the year is typically when we see a surge in layoff activity.  The fact that job cuts continued to decline in the fourth quarter is a good sign that the job market has truly started the recovery process.  Unfortunately, the recovery process is slow, so it could be several months or even years before unemployment returns to pre-recession levels,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

There were approximately 15.4 million unemployed Americans in November, up from 7.2 million in November 2007, just before the recession began.  In addition to the unemployed, there were 6.0 million Americans in November who want a job but were not considered part of the labor force because they had not sought employment for at least four weeks.  That figure is up from 4.2 million in November 2007.

According to Challenger, some of the areas that will begin to see renewed job creation in the new year include health care, information technology, government, financial services and energy. 

An Early Look at the 2010 Congressional Vote

Politicos tell us it’s never too early to look ahead to the next election. Washington’s CQ Politics does so for Congress, rating 100 House districts in play in some form in the 2010 mid-term elections.

CQ has eight of Indiana’s nine incumbents in the safe category. They are Visclosky, Donnelly, Carson and Ellsworth on the Dems’ side, and Souder, Buyer, Burton and Pence for the Republicans. Baron Hill (9th District) is in the Democrat Favored listing.

Key items to watch, according to CQ:

  • Democrats will likely lose a portion of their 256-178 (one current opening) advantage. The party in charge of the White House typically loses seats during the first mid-term vote (although the GOP and President Bush were an exception in 2002)
  • Swing seats will be a big focus. In 49 districts, voters favored John McCain for president but elected a Democrat to the House; conversely, 34 districsts backed President Obama but put a Republican in the House
  • Of the 100 seats rated competitive, 59 are held by Democrats. Only three are viewed as toss-ups, a slightly higher numbers as highly competitive and the majority as slightly competitive

Much can change, however, over the next 15 months.