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Election 2006: Who predicted this?

Bloggers, both blue and red, made all sorts of predictions about the future Congress. Who was right and who was wrong?

In the days before the closely watched contest for control of Congress, untold numbers of bloggers were predicting Tuesday's outcome.

Some spoke out in hopes of winning a lunch bet at a co-worker's expense. Others registered their picks with the Drudge Retort--a parody of the Drudge Report--in hopes of landing an iPod Nano.

But how did these predictions jibe with reality? An informal survey of some of the more prominent political blogs--and a slew of lesser-known ones culled from Technorati searches--found one visible theme: rampant optimism among both Democratic and Republican devotees.

This, of course, means that plenty of would-be political pundits were very, very wrong.

The Democrats have easily captured the U.S. House of Representatives. Final word on the Senate may not emerge for weeks if a recount takes place, but the Associated Press on Wednesday evening called the Virginia and Montana races--and therefore control of the upper chamber--for the Democrats.

The popular conservative blog RedState turned out to be wildly optimistic.

Predict06's summary of the views of more than 80 members of a RedState pool had Republicans retaining control of both chambers, with Democrats picking up only two seats in the Senate and 12 in the House. (There wasn't complete consensus among individual pool members about whether Republicans would retain control of both the House and Senate.)

They weren't alone. "I firmly believe the Republicans will retain control of both the House and Senate," wrote Terresa Monroe-Hamilton, a computer consulting entrepreneur, on her blog, "I do not believe the American people are fundamentally suicidal."

"I'm standing by my words: the GOP gains seats in both Houses," wrote Mark Noonan, editor of the site Blogs for Bush, in a post published early on Election Day.

Many bloggers singled out candidates they felt were assured victories but ultimately lost. One recurring pick among conservative bloggers was Michael Steele, the Republican lieutenant governor of Maryland, who at times on Tuesday night appeared close to edging out Democrat Benjamin Cardin for the state's Senate seat.

"I predict a Michael Steele win tomorrow in Maryland," a blogger who identified himself as "Baklava" wrote on the Baldilocks blog. "Why? Because he's personable, very handsome, a great orator and good on the issues."

Cardin, a veteran congressman from the Baltimore area, went on to take 54 percent of the vote.

A similar wave of optimism washed over blogs kept by Democratic supporters. At the popular liberal blog DailyKos, founder Markos Moulitsas Zúniga predicted the party would likely gain 24 seats in the House (or as many as 36, he added, if there were a "wave"). Kos, as he's known for short, also forecast a narrow power shift in the Senate.

Bloggers Jerome Armstrong and Nate Wilcox of the liberal site MyDD were equally bold, forecasting gains of 32 to 34 seats by House Democrats and the six seats necessary for a Senate takeover.

At the left-leaning blog FireDogLake, contributor Howie Klein went further, predicting a net gain of 40 seats ("with a potential upside of another 10 or so") by Democrats in the House and a narrow turnover in the Senate. Admitting he was skeptical about the Senate outcome in recent days, Klein wrote on Saturday: "Now I think they can (win control)--thanks in great part to the extraordinary efforts at self-destruction by George Felix 'Macacawitz' Allen--and without having to depend of the reactionary gentleman from Memphis, Harold Ford."

But the blogosphere didn't prove uniformly upbeat. For example, among about two dozen political bloggers participating in a by CNN at a Washington, D.C., Internet cafe, most said Democrats would gain enough House seats to win control. Far fewer, regardless of their political views, predicted that Republicans would lose their Senate majority.

"I battled between my head and my heart," Betsy Newmark, a North Carolina high school history and government teacher, explained in a Sunday post to her right-leaning blog. "My head won."

With the possibility of recounts and challenges ahead, though, those free lunches and iPods may have to wait.