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Senate Update

October 4th, 2010 by Kevin

Ok I figured it\’s time for another Senate update, because that Republican wave everyone keeps talking about appears to be spreading…a number of states that I had figured to be safe are now in play, or at least interesting.  As this trend seems to be spreading, I think from this point on, I\’m just looking at EVERY state that has a Senate race and that way we\’re not missing anything. Plus we\’ve had a couple primaries that yielded interesting results (Deleware!).

Now someone mentioned I haven\’t looked at the House at all.  Well you\’re right.  And that\’s because the House is well….huge.  It\’s a lot of work digging through polling data and background information for each race….the Senate takes awhile by itself, the House is more than quadruple that work.  And besides, even the Democrats have admitted the House is a lost cause and will be flipping.  So where\’s the excitement?  That\’s right….the Senate.

We\’re still stuck with the eternal question: \”Is the Senate in play?\”  I think the answer has been…..almost.  But Republicans have always been just a couple states short of being able to truly threaten leadership of the Senate.  To recap, the last time I looked at the Senate I made predictions of 49, 48, 48 and 47…in that order.  So let\’s get started….

First the safe states….states where I\’m only including them so I can say I looked at them and my brain instantly started doodling on my liver out of boredom.   The safe Republican states include Alabama (R), Arizona (R), Arkansas (D), Georgia (R), Idaho (R), Indiana (D), Iowa (R), Kansas (R), Louisiana (R), North Carolina (R), North Dakota (D), Oklahoma (R), South Carolina (R), South Dakota (R) and Utah (R).  Notice the three Ds in there….three solid pickups by the Republicans.  Now the Democrats also have some \”safe\” seats as well.  I use scare quotes because that list used to be as long as the Republicans, but it gets shorter every time I look at the Senate.  For now that list is Hawaii (D), Maryland (D), New York (D – Schumer), Oregon (D) and Vermont (D).  Notice the conspicuous lack of Rs in that list.

Delaware (D) – Ok this should have been a safe seat for Republicans.  Now it\’s all but a safe seat for the Democrats.  I\’m not ranking it as that more out of bitterness than anything else.  Fact is the Tea Party overplayed their hand here.  They had a safe Republican seat in one of the most liberal states in the country.  Sure Castle was more moderate than conservative, but on most of the key issues he would have sided with Republicans, instead of Democrat Coons who will side with Republicans on exactly zero issues.  Plus it would have been an additional seat towards that big majority everyone is aiming for.  If the Tea Party was going to throw Republicans in front of the conservative bus, I really wish they would have done it for a solid candidate rather than the incredibly flawed O\’Donnell.  Likely Democrat Retention.

New York (D – Gillibrand) – While New York\’s normal senate race is solidly in Schumer\’s hands, the special election to fill Hillary seat is suddenly worth paying attention to.  Let\’s not be mistaken, the polls are still very much in Gillibrand\’s favor.  However, it\’s also clearly that Republican Joe DioGuardi is quickly making up ground, and the Gillibrand\’s remaining support is very soft and may not actually hold up as Election Day nears.  All that said, this is still a long shot for Republicans and is far from canary-in-the-coal-mine status…if this particular canary keels over, it\’s probably because the entire cave collapsed. Likely Democrat Retention.

California (D) – Again…why do you put me through this??? My heart just can\’t take this.  The land of hippie gumdrops and magical sticky hemp rope swings is actually competitive.  And it\’s for real competitive, not just the \”competitive because it\’s fun to consider the possibilities\”.  There are few California Gurls more entertaining to watch than watching Boxer and Fiorina compete for this seat.  Fiorina has scored some solid hits and Boxer has been botching it so far, but the fact that this is California means this is still Boxer\’s race.  Digging into the demographics I see opportunities for Fiorina.  Even the San Fransisco paper refuses to endorse Boxer.  Everyone seems in agreement that Boxer is an  incompetent arrogant do-nothing.  But it appears as if California voters are tempted with going with the devil they know rather than the devil they don\’t.  But here\’s the real kicker…not only can\’t I rank this as safe Democrat, I can\’t even label it likely Democrat.  Leaning Democrat retention.

Nevada (D) – The Holy Grail of Senate seats.  Let\’s get this right out there….nobody is willing to make any sort of call on this seat and hasn\’t for quite a while, and for very good reason.  Statistically you can\’t get much more tied that these two are.  Multiple polls from multiple sources all showing the same thing, both candidates keep trading a statistically insignificant lead.  Digging into the demographics Read is very unpopular, but Angle is even more unpopular.  The support for both is starting to firm up with Angle\’s support being slightly less firm.  On the issues, Angle is a better match for Nevada voters but she\’s also got a lot of uncomfortable statements she\’s had to explain.  I think Angle\’s biggest problem here is the \”None of the above\” option Nevada voters have on their ballot.  With Reid as unpopular as he is, the fact that Nevada voters haven\’t swarmed to Angle probably means it\’s not going to happen.  Last time I moved this race into the toss-up category and that would be the smart move again.  However, although I have no empirical data to support my rating, I\’m going with my gut on this one.  Leaning Democrat retention.

Connecticut (D) – Another supposedly safe seat that is now in play.  Now Democrat Blumenthal should have been able to retain Dodd\’s seat without much trouble, instead Republican Linda McMahon has steadily closed the gap.  Blumenthal originally enjoyed a lead of 40+ points, now it\’s a statistical dead heat.  While McMahon has never actually lead in a poll so far, the gap is now within the margin of error and the momentum has been in entirely one direction.  The interesting part here is that Blumenthal\’s support has remained very steady, almost all of McMahon\’s gains have been independents falling to her.  Now that she\’s closed the gap she has to accomplish the real trick….chip away at Blumenthal\’s support, because she\’s already captured every free vote otherwise.  Blumenthal is still above 50% in most polls,  so he\’s not in real danger yet but if he doesn\’t stop the bleeding yesterday, this is another very blue state gone red.  In fact, even if this doesn\’t change parties, this is already a strategic victory for Republicans, because Democrats will have to spend limited resources to firewall Connecticut.  Leaning Democrat retention.

Washington (D) – Ok the lead has seesawed between Republican Dino Rossi and Democrat Senator Patty Murray, but mostly it\’s been Murray in the lead.  Washington already had a dry-run of this race via the primary so it\’s no surprise that there are virtually no undecided voters in this race.  That\’s the bad news, because while the race has closed, Murray has maintained a pretty stable lead lately.  With it being this close, something small could swing it, otherwise I wouldn\’t be as non-committal as I am.  Leaning Democrat retention.

West Virginia (D) – This one snuck up on us, the special election to fill Robert \”KKK\” Byrd\’s seat, previously an easy Democrat victory is now in play.  Which is a bit surprising, as West Virginia is usually a very reliably Democratic state and Gov. Manchin (D) at one point enjoyed a healthy lead, befitting that fact.  Now John Raese has not only closed the gap but surpassed Manchin.  His progress seems to stem less from their love for Manchin, but more from their dislike of Obama\’s agenda and giving Democrats another seat to implement that agenda.  Raese\’s campaign strategy seems to hinge on exactly that.  Problem is Raese has basically blown his entire budget to get to this point.  His campaign now has so little left in the bank he couldn\’t buy a used car.  Meanwhile Manchin has virtually all of his fairly sizeable warchest available to convince the voters why they should send him to Washington.  Now this race is by no means over or even close to over, there are still plenty of avenues to success for Republicans here, but at this point I see too many factors against Raese.  Leaning Democrat retention.

Illinois (D) – Basically we have two flawed candidates here fighting for one Senate seat, and the polling data shows the public knows it.  There are a lot of voters still undecided and what support each candidate has it very soft for this late in the game.  That\’s problematic for forecasting, especially for this seat.  On one hand you have the Democrat\’s corrupt Chicago political machine working for them.  On the other hand, while 2010 in general is a referendum on Obama, the election for Obama\’s former seat definitely is.  Republican Kirk maintains a very slim lead over Democrat Giannoulias, but this race hasn\’t been outside the margin of error in 7 months.  It\’s possible the race may hinge on peripheral issues such as the fact that Giannoulias told voters he quit his family\’s bank before it started imploding, but he told the IRS the opposite….oops.  But in reality I think the voters are already aware they have two D-List candidates to choose from and it\’s more likely to end on a referendum of whether the country is going the right direction….but this is Illinois, and that doesn\’t favor the Repubican Kirk.  Despite my being very pessimistic about this one, we\’ll leave it in the middle for now.  Toss-Up.

Wisconsin (D) – This race got going pretty late so we haven\’t had as much history here as we have elsewhere.  And while I wanted to call this leaning Republican for awhile, I didn\’t really have anything to hang my hat on and it was too soon to start going with gut reactions.  Well now we\’re close enough to do that but luckily I don\’t even have to do that.  The recent gains by Republican Johnson over Democrat Feingold, instead of just being a hiccup in the polls, turned out to be the leading edge of a huge swing towards the right.  Johnson lead has now swung well outside the margin of error and it gets worse from Feingold when you start digging into the demographics.  What support Feingold has is soft and independents have strongly lined up behind Johnson.  In fact digging through the demographics and the issues, it\’s hard to find any silver lining for Feingold, save his current cash-on-hand advantage.  And even that isn\’t likely to last.  Look for donors wanting to build relations with a new member of a strong Republican delegation and national Democrats now have big problems as bluer states are now at risk.  Look for Johnson\’s lead to increase in the next few weeks.  Leaning Republican takeover.

Colorado (D) – Although Republican Ken Buck has had a small lead ever since the primaries, this race has been close and in doubt for awhile.  Now voters appear to be coming to a consensus on the race, as Buck has opened a lead outside the margin of error over Senator Bennet (D), and he\’s also over 50%.  The real downside of this for Bennet is that there are very few undecided voters at this point.  This is not yet outside recovery for Democrats, but any path to victory is about as steep as the mountains surrounding Denver.  Leaning Republican takeover.

Pennsylvania (D) – Democrats have squealed about the last couple polls that show this race tightening up and they think they see Toomey (R) fading.  At first glance that is an understandable conclusion, but it doesn\’t tell the whole picture.  What\’s actually happening is undecideds are starting to break towards their candidate.  And while Sestak (D) has benefited from that more than Toomey, Toomey doesn\’t have far to go to cross that magical 50% barrier.   Sestak has a lot of ground to make up and digging into the demographics I don\’t see much promise of that happening.  Short of somet October surprise happening, I\’m pretty satisfied with this race.  Leaning Republican takeover.

Alaska (R) – Ok the only reason Alaska isn\’t listed above amongst the solid states above is because it\’s still unclear which Republican will win.  Alaska is a reliably conservative state.  So much so that even with a conservative (Joe Miller) and a pseudo-conservative (Sen. Lisa Murkowski) splitting the Republican vote, the Democrat (Scott McAdams) doesn\’t have a chance.  The polls show Murkowski closing in no Joe Miller but at the end of the day she\’s running a write-in campaign.  Sure some people say they\’ll write in Murkowski, but that actually takes work and I really can\’t see enough doing it that she wins.  I think the actual Republican wins this one.  Likely Republican retention.

Kentucky (R) – Democrats are still trying to label Rand Paul (R) as an extremist, and in truth he is quite a bit to the right of what Kentucky voters really are.  However, in this political climate that\’s overshadowed by the fact that his opponent Conway (D) supports the health care bill and Cap&Trade.  Paul has wisely kept the more unusual parts of his ideology in check so he\’s in good shape here.  Likely Republican retention.

Missouri (R) – The only thing that has changed here is the current breakdown of support has solidified.  Blunt (R) has maintained a solid lead over Carnahan (D).  Blunt has gotten over his tendency to commit unforced errors, so it\’s hard to imagine a scenario where this devolves into anything other than where it currently sits.  Likely Republican retention.

New Hampshire (R) – The only reason this was every close is because Hodes (D) is essentially running on the same platform as Ayotte (R), that of fiscal conservatism.  But with his party absolutely hemorrhaging money out of the Treasury in pursuit of a far left agenda, the voters aren\’t exactly receptive to Hodes claims.  It\’s still technically not lost but this is a pretty solid race at this point.  Likely Republican retention.

Florida (R) – Last time, I said it appeared that the trend I was hoping to see was beginning.  Namely that Republicans and Democrats both flirted with the idea of voting for Crist (I) but as the election nears, they are returning home.  Last time we looked at this race, it was a little too early to know if this was just a fluke or the leading edge of that trend.  Now it appears pretty obvious my observations were correct.  Crist is now way behind, while both Rubio (R) and Meek (D) have gained.  But Meek is still still way behind Rubio.  Florida has been a little weird this year so it\’s possibly for something to happen, but I can\’t imagine what it would have to be at this point.  Likely Republican retention.

Ohio (R) -Portman\’s (R) lead over Fisher (D) here, has absolutely exploded.  Fisher\’s strategy to tie Portman to Bush has absolutely flopped and at this point Portman has such a huge money advantage that any new strategy is damn near pointless.  Fisher is going to need the King of all October surprises here.  Likely Republican retention.

Okay so what\’s the final score??

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Well we have no Republican seats changing control..in fact none are even close.  Which is sort of amazing when you consider what the big picture looked like just a few month ago.  Sure we had lots of Democrat seats in danger and probably switching, but we also had a few Republican seats that looked less than safe, some even in real danger.  Now it\’s pure curiosity that makes me even look at the data anymore to try to imagine scenarios where the seat might be danger.

On the other side, we have an increasing number of Democrat seats in danger.  In fact, every time I\’ve looked at the data, we find another Democrat seat that\’s barreling out of control downward.  Although at this point, I only see six Democrat seats changing hands, thanks to the Tea Party\’s overzealous move in Delaware.  Although on that note I do have to point out to those Castle supporters who are criticizing the Tea Party by claiming that the Tea Party just ruined any chance for Republicans to control the Senate.  Well look at the data.  The Senate still isn\’t in serious danger of flipping, even if Delaware was still in the Republican column.  As it stands right now Republicans will control 47 seats.  Even using Democrat math I can\’t add one (Delaware) and get to 51.  Sure there are a lot of seats that are only leaning Democrat victory, but in most of those the Democrats position has actually improved in the last few months, rather than gotten worse.

Long story short (too late!), I\’m struggling to divine a scenario that results in Republicans taking control of the Senate.  Here\’s the most \”likely\” path….which still comes up short.  The toss-up state of Illinois goes red.  Then Angle pulls out a miracle and defeats Reid.  And then Raese overcomes his severe financial disadvantage in West Virginia.  Now that only brings Republicans to 50….which is still short since Biden casts the deciding vote.  After that it\’s pretty difficult to see a 51st seat.  California?? Delaware?  The most likely one is probably Washington but even with my obvious Republican bias I still struggle to see that happening.

Sorry Senate is out of reach, but with a caucus of 47, Republicans would basically bring Congress to standstill.  Which is really the important part.  Even if Republicans got control, what are you expecting to see happen?? Republicans passing their agenda?? Seriously people, Presidential veto…it exists.  Besides, Republicans are all but certain to control the House, which is the body that control spending anyway.

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Posted in 2010 Elections, True North | 1 Comment »

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