Monday, November 06, 2006

Predictions, Predictions, Predictions

Polls open less than twenty four hours from now so it’s time to make some predictions. There has been a great deal of buzz this weekend and this morning regarding some polling data indicating that specific races, especially races for the Senate, have begun to tighten, mostly in the favor of Republicans. Two polls, the Gallup and the Mason-Dixon poll, are polar opposites when it looks at the races in Rhode Island, Missouri, Virginia and Montana. What is a political pundit to believe?

Only one poll matters…the one tomorrow. It was inevitable that the races would tighten. While there has been no October or November surprise for the Republicans, there has been enough good news to help solidify their base in the last week to ten days. John Kerry’s blunder, positive stock market growth, lower unemployment and the Saddam Hussein verdict were all headlines that put some wind in Republican sails, and President Bush out on the campaign trail, even though he has stayed in red states, has also been a positive factor nationally.

One historical trend keeps coming to mind as the election nears: since 1914, control of the House of Representatives has only switched when the Senate has switched also. Most polling continues to show Democratic candidates still running very strongly in House races around the country. There are at least twelve races that currently look increasingly likely to switch from Republican to Democrat which leaves only a net gain of three more seats for the Dems to win in order for them to take control of the House. Only six Democrat held seats fall in the toss up and leans Democratic columns while forty eight Republican held seats fall into the leans Dem, toss up and leans Republican columns. It’s hard to see Democrats not picking up those three remaining seats.

So where does that leave us in regards to the Senate races if, historically, they would have to switch from Republican to Democrat as well? While the challenge is much harder for the Democrats in the Senate, it is not impossible. Many states still have very tight races, including Montana, Rhode Island, Missouri and Virginia. Amazingly, Maryland is not a lock for the Democrats yet and Republicans may be feeling a little bit too comfortable about Tennessee. All of these races could go either way.

There was no question that both the Democrat and Republican bases would be motivated on November 7th. Karl Rove has created a formidable Get Out The Vote machine, and while the Democrats are still playing catch-up to Rove, they are not as far behind as many might think, and the disillusionment with the war in Iraq has become the best GOTV issue the Democrats have had in years. So, if the national base turnout from both the Democrats and Republicans is equal, to at most, a one percent advantage to the Republicans, and a ninety two year trend in House/Senate changes has to be considered, what will be the deciding factor in these elections?

Independent/Unaffiliated voters will decide the mid-term elections this year. While both the Democrat and Republican bases will have a strong turnout, Independent voters, who usually don’t turnout heavily in mid-term elections, will be a force at the polls this year. If this is true, the Republicans will be in for a long night because all of the polls show a decided advantage for Democrats as it pertains to Independent voters. Polls show that those voters will be voting AGAINST George Bush in large numbers which mean they will be voting FOR the Democratic challenger in most races. Just a few percentage points spread in the Independent vote will be more than enough to decide the outcome in close House and Senate races, and unless Karl Rove is a supreme genius who has created the greatest political machine of all time, those races should break Democratic.

Regarding the historical trend, trends, like records, are made to be broken. Remember that officially you will have two Independents in the Senate, Joe Lieberman in Connecticut and Bernie Sanders in Vermont. Those two are expected to align and vote with the Democrats. That leaves the possibility that the Senate becomes a 49/49 Democrat/Republican split which favors the Democrats. Just a little wrinkle for the trend.

So, let’s look at our predictions:

House of Representatives

Democrats need to pick up 15 seats for control of the House. We predict they will pick up 18 seats, far from the tsunami that has been predicted but we're sure after twelve years in the wilderness, the Democrats will be very pleased.

Senate

Let’s first look at the races that have been on the radar but now seem to be firmly in Democrat, Independent or Republican possession:

Arizona: Republican Kyl should hold off a late charge by Democrat Pederson. Democrats thought this race had a chance to go their way but it may be a case of too little too late.

Connecticut: Independent Lieberman looks to be safe here. Republicans were smart to throw their candidate, Schlesinger, under the bus. Without him drawing votes away from Lieberman, Democrat Lamont was never able to close the distance. For Republicans, it’s a win. They’d rather have Lieberman in there who is an Iraq war hawk as opposed to Lamont who would be another thorn in Bush’s side.

Michigan: Democrat Stabenow beats Republican Bouchard pretty handily.

Minnesota: Democrat Klobuchar also puts a pretty good whipping on Republican Kennedy.

New Jersey: Democrat Menendez holds off Republican Kean. Kean had a chance here but fumbled at the end. It’s one thing to attack your opponent when it comes to corruption. It’s another thing to portray in commercials the Italian Mafia making calls on Menendez’s behalf. New Jersey Italians did not like that, and they will show their displeasure at the voting booth.

Ohio: Democrat Brown will defeat Republican DeWine. Ohio is just plain ugly for Republicans in 2006.

Pennsylvania: Democrat Casey will clobber Republican Santorum. Casey ran a great campaign…he shut up and let Santorum do all the talking. Santorum may go down as one of the most divisive political figures in all of history.

Washington: Democrat Cantwell will hold off Republican McGavick. Not the year for a red candidate in this blue state.

Now let’s look at the races that will decide the Senate balance of power:

Maryland: There is a good chance that Incumbent Governor Bob Ehrlich will hold onto his seat by beating Democratic challenger Martin O’Malley. Ehrlich, after being behind all year, has peaked at the right time. The question is whether his coattails will be enough to lift his Lieutenant Governor, Republican Michael Steele, to victory over Democrat Ben Cardin. Steele has closed the gap but it’s getting late. In any other year, Steele, who has shown his great personality, might beat Cardin handily, who has shown himself to be as stiff as they can get. We think even though Ehrlich will win, Steele will come up short by the slimmest of margins. Prediction: Cardin.

Missouri: Bush’s visit over the weekend definitely energized Republican Talent’s campaign, but will it be enough? Democrat McCaskill has run a very competent race. She knows she will do well in the cities and she’s concentrated on getting out the vote in suburban and rural areas which Democrats sometimes fail to do. This, along with the gift that Rush Limbaugh gave her campaign by criticizing Michael J. Fox, also gives her a boost with the stem cell issue. The stem cell amendment looks like it will pass and we think it will carry McCaskill as well. Prediction: McCaskill.

Montana: Republican Burns has been gaining ground here and the recent visit by President Bush has helped to keep the momentum going. This state is as red as it gets and we see more of a chance for the Republican base to come home in this state in the last few days then anywhere else. We think this will happen which will make it difficult for Democrat Tester to hold on. Prediction: Burns.

Rhode Island: This is a state where those Independent voters we talked about may make all the difference. Some polls show Republican Chaffee bouncing back to take the lead while others show Democrat Whitehouse with the advantage. The Independents will most likely tip this race to Whitehouse although it will probably be a nail biter. Prediction: Whitehouse.

Tennessee: We think this race is closer than some of the polls seem to show. Democrat Ford has run a good race, but we believe he made a misstep by confronting Republican Corker at his press conference. Also, the much criticized ad that stirred up the subject of race in this contest seems to have worked in Corker’s favor. There probably isn’t enough time for Ford to catch up. Prediction: Corker.

Virginia: This race, no matter the outcome, has produced one fact: along with John Kerry, Republican George Allen has destroyed any chance he had of becoming President. Frankly, for both Democrats and Republicans, this is good thing. Kerry has shown himself to be “The Great Non-Communicator” and Allen has displayed that he is not a very intelligent person. It’s better that both get put on the sidelines sooner than later. As far as this race is concerned, Democrat Webb may not be the best candidate himself but Allen has done significantly more to shoot himself in the foot than any candidate in recent memory. Momentum has been moving in Webb’s favor, but this is still Virginia. Allen needs to get votes from downstate in huge numbers to offset Webb’s advantage in the DC suburbs of Northern Virginia. Webb also needs to steal some disgruntled Allen votes elsewhere in the state. We think he will. Prediction: Webb.

That would leave us with Republicans holding 50 seats, Democrats 48 and 2 Independents. With the two Independents expected to vote with the Democrats, Dick Cheney looks to be a busy guy for the next couple of years. Republicans still maintain the majority, literally and figuratively.

Republicans will have to look at this outcome as a victory. The House could easily switch back in 2008 and they prevent the Democrats from claiming a mandate. Democrats have to take what they can get. It’s been quite a long time since they had something to hang their hats on and this will give them some momentum as they look towards selecting a candidate for president. Either way, no tsunami. But at least, also, no more political ads.

5 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

great post. I think you're right on the money

5:41 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

I think you're going to be low. I hope the Dems do better!

5:42 PM  
Anonymous Frank in LA said...

This would be a huge loss for the Democrats. I hope we didn't get our hopes up too high...

5:43 PM  
Anonymous John-Republican said...

I like this post. So many people want to say that the Democrats are going to kill my Republicans tomorrow. 18 seats in the House sounds realistic....and that's not a killing!

5:45 PM  
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