Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Numbers and Notes -- Senate Predictions

The amount of polling this cycle has been amazing, almost as amazing as the quantity of analysis of them. I was pretty successful last time around, so I figure I’ll toss my opinions out there again.
In a landslide year, there is usually one result which comes out of nowhere. Of course, with all the polling and analysis, there is nothing which will really surprise anyone. The Dems need to turn 9 seats to get to the magic number of 60. Frankly, this is purely symbolic and meaningless in reality. On some big issues, like the war, those 60 won’t hold, as Lieberman and several others won’t support the majority. On court appointments, the 60 is pretty unnecessary, as a number of Republicans – Spector, Snowe, Collins, and Hatch (who believes Presidents should be able to appoint anyone who is qualified) are unlikely to join a filibuster. Other issues will be decided on their own merits, with votes going both ways.
The Republicans are purely playing defense, as there are no Democratic seats in danger. Even Mary Landrieu in LA seems safe. The following seats figure to switch:
NH: Jeanne Shaheen has gradually pulled ahead, helped by what appears to be an Obama landslide in NH.
VA: Mark Warner’s election has never been in doubt. Even as well known as he is, I wonder how many people will vote for him thinking he’s John Warner? Just asking. As an aside, John Warner is a loss for the Senate. He was a conservative, but a man who truly cared about the Constitution and the country, rather than just his party and religious fundamentalists. Not only are the Republicans losing moderates, they’re also losing decent conservatives.
NC: This race seems to have solidified for Kay Hagan late, perhaps helped by a reaction to a Dole ad which a former Jesse Helms strategist said goes too far. That’s right, a Jesse Helms strategist was offended – I didn’t think that was possible, given the nature of the last Helms campaign, but Dole has accomplished it. I personally believe this country would be better off with an atheist or two (or fifty) in the halls of Congress, but you could see how a Presbyterian Sunday school teacher (which Hagan is) might be offended by the accusation. Dole is a sleazy bitch and has been inept at every political job she has ever held – especially as head of the GOP Senate campaign committee in 2006. This will be a very nice win.
AK: Let’s complete the list – don’t get caught with a live boy, a dead girl, or convicted of a felony before your election. This is Ted Stevens’ election to nowhere. Good riddance.
OR: Gordon Smith (another decent sort of conservative) is getting buried in the wave. He spent much of this campaign telling people how good a friend of Barack Obama he is. It hasn’t worked.
NM: Tom Udall is winning easily – nothing to see here.
CO: Mark Udall is winning easily. Biggest excitement in these two races is which Udall has the biggest margin of victory. They’re both up by double digits, Tom is a few points ahead in the recent numbers.
Alright, that leaves the Dems at 58 (including the two independents). This leaves us with four races to look at.
KY: Mitch McConnell has been locked in a tight struggle in a battle reminiscent of Tom Daschle’s defeat as minority leader. The problem is that Bruce Lunsford is in a state where he has no real help from Obama coattails. The most recent polls here have McConnell opening up a lead and it looks like he’ll survive.
MS: There are two races here, the one which seemed to be in doubt was the one for Trent Lott’s seat, which is the appointee, Roger Wicker is the temp appointee, while former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove is the Dem trying to do the impossible. The polls here are going the wrong way for the upset, with Wicker pulling well out ahead in the late polling. It would require a spectacular black vote and even then it might not be enough. Musgrove’s problem is that he’s barely running ahead of Obama, which doesn’t seem like a good omen.
GA: This one has been a real battle, very tight, and if the Democrats could pick one, this might be the one to win, because Saxby Chambliss is scum. For those who don’t remember, he won this seat by attacking Max Cleland’s patriotism. It appears to have moved a couple of points in Chambliss direction in the closing days, but there are still a few things Martin has going for him. First, Obama has closed ground late here and if there is a huge turnout edge for him, could pull off the upset. Unlike KY, there are Obama coattails here and they could take Martin in. Second, Chambliss is stuck under 50%, a dangerous place for an incumbent to be. Third, this state requires you to get 50% to get elected, so even if Martin doesn’t win, it could result in a runoff. Frankly, I’m not excited about the runoff possibility, since I think a significant number of Obama voters won’t show up a second time. But make no mistake, it would be a lively (and expensive) battle.
MN: Anyone who thinks he knows what is going to happen in this race is basing it on instinct, rather than data. The most recent Minneapolis Star-Tribune poll has Obama +11 and Franken +4. The most recent Rasmussen poll has Obama +12 and Coleman +5. Research 2000 has Obama +15 and Coleman +3. The last PPP poll has Obama +16 and Franken +5. Add in a real independent candidate in Dean Barkley, who actually had this seat for a few months following the tragic death of Paul Wellstone, and it becomes a real mess. Coleman is the kind of politician who wears well in MN – not a doctrinaire conservative, but a moderate who can go in either direction. In all honesty, my opinion of this race has always been that I’ll believe Al Franken gets elected to the Senate right after Norm Coleman officially concedes. It still is my opinion, but, for old SNL fans, this election night could truly be all about him, Al Franken.
Maybe the Dems will pick up one of these seats, but I wouldn’t bet on it. I am somewhat frustrated that we didn’t go after Susan Collins in ME. There is no excuse for our Senate candidate to be running 30 points behind our Presidential candidate. I also thought Texas might have been in play, but Cornyn seems to have gotten control of that race back from Noriega.
All in all, I’ll say we finish at 58 and hope for a GA or MN to come our way.



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