Monday, November 06, 2006

Predictions - Senate

Let’s use three categories again to talk about these.

Nothing To See Here, Move Along: PA, OH, NJ

It’s amazing that two weeks ago, NJ was a toss-up, now it looks like it’s over. Average the last 5 polls and Menendez is up by 6.6. Not sure why this happened, but the GOP threw away a lot of late advertising money here.

These Are Over, Right?: TN, RI

The average of the last 5 polls has Corker up by 7.4, which would normally put him in the top group. But the last two, Gallup and Rasmussen, have it at 3 and 4, respectively, which seems to have it in play. I still don’t believe it really is, still think Ford is probably outpolling his actual vote, but let’s not call it over.
RI is a whole different kettle of fish. I refuse to move it from the top category to the toss-up category in one week. The Mason-Dixon poll which actually had Chafee ahead by one point is very disturbing, especially since Gallup has it at 3 today. What actually concerns me most is the underlying data gathered from the Mason-Dixon poll. Here are a few tidbits:

Bush Approval/Disapproval: 29/70 (58% strongly disapprove)
Congress A/D: 26/70 (49% strongly)
Most Important Issues: Iraq 32%, Health Care 16%
Right Track/Wrong Track: 31/64
A/D Bush Iraq policies: 24/74 (59% strongly)

These are obviously core Democratic voters, yet they are voting for Chafee. Is this buyer’s remorse on a Democratic Congress? Do they prefer a moderate Republican to guard against ideological Democratic control? Will this also apply to similar House races, say in CT and NY? I have no idea, which is why it scares me. If core Democratic issue voters who hate Bush can vote for a Republican, I have no idea how to figure out how the House races, so dependent on a national tide, will turn out. As much as anything this is why I have scaled back the estimates which so many experts have made of 230-240 House seats and which I would have joined as late as last Friday. The surge I referred to includes this seat and the underlying data surrounding it. I still think this is a pickup for the Dems, but we surely have to be a little nervous at this point.

I Really Wish There Was a Paper Trail For All These Votes: VA, MD, MO, MT

VA: SUSA poll today has Webb up 52-44. Before we start the victory parade, let’s look at some numbers. That same poll shows 38-35 Democratic margin for likely voters, which seems a bit favorable. Just like the 10/29 Rasmussen poll that had Webb up 5, which turned back into a tie four days later, this is probably an outlier. The big hope is that these are margin of error variations, leaving Webb still up a bit. If you track SUSA numbers and just look at Independent voters, you see an interesting progression for Webb, going from down 42-49 on 9/29, to up 52-39 on 10/21, to today’s 59-33 lead. The latest Mason-Dixon poll had Allen up 4, but had Webb getting just 80% of the Democratic vote, with 12% undecided. He averages 88% in SUSA, so I think M-D is off there. They also have him up among independents, 46-39. After a bit of number crunching, I would say Webb has a about a 2 point lead here – not exactly solid, but he’s the only one who can say that in this race.

MD: Last week former Prince George’s county executive Wayne Curry and five fellow Democrats from the County Council endorsed Michael Steele. Prince George’s County is an affluent black suburb of Washington, D.C. and obviously a Democratic stronghold. Will this endorsement also include a GOTV effort on Steele’s behalf by these Dems? SUSA has had this race tight all along, currently tied. Mason-Dixon now has Cardin up by just 3. Cardin’s problem is that many black voters are upset at his beating Kwesi Mfume in a tough primary. The question is how many are willing to back up their poll answers with actually going out to vote for Steele, and how many will just sit home. On the other hand, how many of the black Democrats who say they’re voting for Cardin are going to bother showing up to actually do so? My assumption is that Cardin is ahead, but I have no idea who will be turning out tomorrow, so I think this is too hard to call.

MT: The Gallup Poll has Tester up by 9 – I don’t believe it, but he still seems to be ahead. There has still not been a poll with Burns ahead and the last two polls, Gallup and Rasmussen, show Tester at 50%, which is the magic number. In fact, the last three Rasmussen polls have Tester at 50% or above. The GOP has thrown lots of money and W at this race and it’s still mighty close and apparently (except for Gallup) getting closer.

MO: National trends matter little here. There are real issues driving this race, the war and stem cell research, and that makes it big. With a stem cell research initiative on the ballot, GOTV efforts won’t mean as much, as people are passionate about that and will show up without any prodding. How tight are the polls here? Rasmussen has polled this race six times in the last five weeks – the biggest margin in any poll was 2 points. Since 10/12 there have been 18 polls conducted, the biggest margin in any was 4 points (that’s yesterday’s Gallup, with McCaskill up). It’s going to be a long time before this is settled.

Assuming I’m right about the previous categories, the Democrats need to sweep these four to get control. The statistical analyst in me tells me that’s silly – four toss-up races are probably splitting 2-2, maybe 3-1. But if I look at each of these individually...

MD- Cardin is still ahead in polls, it’s still a Democratic state in federal elections.
VA- Allen is still under 50%, which is bad news for an incumbent and Webb seems to be winning more polls than he’s losing.
MT- I repeat, Burns has yet to lead in any poll.
MO: Talent barely won this seat last time, the last two sitting Senators to run in this seat lost, and McCaskill barely lost her Governor’s race two years ago – does this sound like a likely re-election to you?

In the end, I’ll go with random variance and say they split – leaving the Senate at 51-49, GOP. And the Chafee seat is no sure pickup either, so even if we get four, we could still fall short of a majority. I’m rooting for McCaskill and Cardin – McCaskill because it’s a stark ideological difference, with the issues well drawn and Cardin because Steele could be a major problem for the Democratic Party for a long time to come.

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