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Larry J. Sabato

Sabato (left) with guest lecturer Hillary Rodham Clinton during his American Politics 101 class on February 11, 2008.
Born August 7, 1952 (1952-08-07) (age 57)
Norfolk, Virginia, U.S.
Occupation Professor
Director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics

Larry Joseph Sabato (born August 7, 1952) is the Robert Kent Gooch Professor of Politics at the University of Virginia, director of their Center for Politics, and a political analyst. He also founded Sabato's Crystal Ball, an online newsletter and website that provides free political analysis and electoral projections. He has been called "the most-quoted college professor in the land,"[1] a "pundit" with an opinion for every reporter’s phone call.


Early life and Education

Sabato grew up in Norfolk, Virginia, graduating from Norfolk Catholic High School in 1970. Four years later, he graduated from the University of Virginia. A 1974 Cavalier Daily poll showed more people could identify Sabato as student government president than could name Edgar F. Shannon, Jr. as University president.[2] Sabato graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a degree in government. He followed his undergraduate degree with graduate study at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs for one year. He was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship in 1975, which brought him to study at Queen's College at Oxford University. In less than two years he earned his doctorate in politics from Oxford.[3]

Prior to his time as a political analyst, Sabato worked for nine years with Virginia Democratic politician Henry Howell. At the age of 15, Sabato joined Howell's first campaign for the Virginia governorship in 1968, and then worked on his successful run for lieutenant governor in 1971, and his campaigns for governor in 1973 and 1977.[2]


Before becoming an academician at the University of Virginia, Sabato had already established a reputation as a published expert on the rise of two-party politics in the Southern United States, particularly with his 1977 publication of The Democratic Party Primary in Virginia: Tantamount to Election No Longer.[4] See also Solid South and tantamount to election.

In 1978, Sabato became a member of the faculty at the University of Virginia. Sabato has engaged in 30 years of research and taught more than 14,000 students.[5] Supply of positions in Sabato's classes at the University of Virginia is heavily outweighed by demand, with four applicants for every seat available in his upper-level Campaigns and Elections class.

He is a University Professor and the Robert Kent Gooch Professor of Politics at the University of Virginia.[3]

In 2005, Sabato made a $1 million contribution to UVA, the largest gift ever by a faculty member.[5]


Sabato has authored over twenty books on politics, his best-known volumes including Feeding Frenzy: Attack Journalism and American Politics and The Rise of Political Consultants: New Ways of Winning Elections. His most recent book, released in April 2009, is The Year of Obama, which chronicles the 2008 election cycle from party nominations to the November election.

Prior to The Year of Obama, Sabato authored A More Perfect Constitution in 2007, which discussed his ideas for amending the U.S. Constitution. Other Sabato books include The Sixth Year Itch: The Rise and Fall of the George W. Bush Presidency, Divided States of America: The Slash and Burn Politics of the 2004 Presidential Election, and Get in the Booth! A Citizen's Guide to the 2004 Election. He also issues a political newsletter, Sabato's Crystal Ball. He has also written textbooks used by high school and college American government classes. He has been a frequent guest analyst on cable news outlets as well as radio programs.

Sabato's Crystal Ball

Dr. Larry J. Sabato's Crystal Ball is run by the University of Virginia Center for Politics in Charlottesville. The Crystal Ball contains up-to-date analysis of an array of political races around the United States. The website has developed from an effort to inform and motivate the nation's citizens about the political process. It follows presidential elections, as well as each Senate, House, and gubernatorial contest. The Crystal Ball is a free public service intended to interest both the average voter and political junkies. Users are able to subscribe to Crystal Ball e-mail updates at the official website.


Prior to the 2002 midterm elections, where the Republican Party saw gains in both branches of Congress, Sabato's Crystal Ball website accurately predicted the outcome in 433 of the 435 contests for the House of Representatives and 32 of 34 Senate races.[6]

In 2004, which saw Republicans retain the White House and gain seats in the House and Senate, Sabato's Crystal Ball website correctly predicted (99% accuracy) the outcome of 525 of the 530 political races, missing only one House race, one Senate race, one governor's race and two states in the Electoral College.[7]

In August 2006, Sabato's Crystal Ball predicted that the Democrats would gain 29 seats in the House of Representatives and 6 seats in the Senate, providing them with a majority in both chambers. Sabato's predictions proved correct: each of his 33 Senate predictions were accurate, and in the House, Democrats gained 29 seats on election night, the precise total predicted by the Crystal Ball (Democrats would go on to pick up a 30th seat in the December 12, 2006 run-off in Texas' 23rd district).[8]

In July 2008, Sabato's Crystal Ball correctly projected that Barack Obama would win the presidency in a near-landslide.[9] Sabato predicted a 364-174 margin in the Electoral College, as well as the popular vote percentages.[10] The prediction was merely one point off the mark, with the actual result on November 4, 2008 being Obama 365 and McCain 173. Sabato's Crystal Ball also accurately predicted 100% of all 35 Senate races, and 11 gubernatorial races correctly.[11] In 2006 he was named the most accurate prognosticator by FOX News, MSNBC, CNBC, and Pew's Project for Excellence in Journalism. In 2006, Sabato was the only national analyst to correctly predict the exact Democratic gains in Senate and House contests.[8]

Notoriety from extensive quoting

The Wall Street Journal refers to Sabato as "probably the most quoted college professor in the land."[1][3] The number of times he has been quoted annually has risen dramatically over the years: 78 times in 1992; 122 times in 1996; 179 in 2000; and 344 times in 2004.[5] A 1996 New Republic article found that over the course of just one month, Sabato had been quoted as an expert on an astoundingly large range of political topics: "[Ross] Perot's exclusion from the debates, Clinton's policy toward Iraq, Whitewater, Dole's attitude toward pot-smoking, Dick Morris, negative ads, (and) the continued relevance of political parties."[5]

His ability to speak on a wide range of topics had led to a similarly wide range of titles for Sabato, including: an "an expert on political scandals" in an article about misdeeds in the Ohio GOP, a "congressional expert" when writing about a congressional election, an "expert on presidential affairs" when writing about a presidential visit, and "an expert in opinion and opinion making" when discussing Katie Couric's declining ratings.[12]

Earmark controversy

In June 2009, it was revealed that Sabato's Center for Politics had been the recipient of over seven million dollars in earmark money from Congressman Virgil Goode, whom Sabato predicted would win re-election in 2008, despite declining poll numbers; Goode ultimately lost the race by a small margin.[13] Some observers have suggested that Sabato should have revealed his financial connection to Goode or recused himself from making predictions about the race.[14]


  1. ^ a b Perry, James M. (July 18, 1994). "Sabato, `Dr. Dial-a-Quote' of Political Scientists, Dispenses Advice to Candidates, Spin to the Press". Wall Street Journal: p. A14. 
  2. ^ a b "Life of Larry: How Sabato faces the election". The Hook. November 2, 2006. 
  3. ^ a b c "Sabato profile". Crystal Ball. 
  4. ^ Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1977, ISBN 0813907268 and ISBN 978-0813907260.
  5. ^ a b c d Cohen, Mark Francis (April/May 2005). "The Quote Machines". American Journalism Review. 
  6. ^ "ELECTION 2002: How the CB fared..." (PDF). Center for Politics, University of Virginia. 
  7. ^ "A Look Back, A Look Forward". Center for Politics, University of Virginia. November 9, 2004. 
  8. ^ a b "News Networks Recognize Success of 'Sabato's Crystal Ball'". UVA Today (University of Virginia). November 10, 2006. 
  9. ^ "The Myth of a Toss-Up Election". July 24, 2008. 
  10. ^ "The Last Last Word". November 3, 2008. 
  11. ^ "The Election Without End". November 6, 2008. 
  12. ^ Josh Goodman, Quote Larry Sabato, Ever More, Governing, 13th Floor blog, Jan. 9, 2007
  13. ^ Ben Smith, Sabato's program earmark dries up, The Politico, June 19, 2009
  14. ^ Greg Sargent, Larry Sabato And The D.C. Pundit-Industrial Complex, The Plum Line, June 19, 2009

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