Sunday, May 24, 2009

Predictions: Senate Races 2012

Most recent updates: 11/1: IN, NE, VA
Current Senate: 53 Democrats, 47 Republicans.

Current 2012 election prediction: 55 Democrats, 45 Republicans.
Democrats to pickup AZ, IN, MA, ME and NV.
Republicans to pickup MT, NE and ND.

(5/1/10) As of this writing, Democrats control the U.S. Senate 59 seats to 41. They will lose some seats in 2010, so if they fare poorly in 2012, Republicans will gain control of the Senate. There are two big questions for 2012. First, how strong will Obama be at the top of the ticket? If he remains popular and beats his GOP opponent by a wide margin, Democratic candidates down the ballot will get a lot of help. Second, how many Democrats will retire? In the past several elections, the Republicans have had no luck in picking off Democrats incumbents, but better luck in picking up seats where the Democratic incumbent has retired or passed away. Of the 33 seats up for election, Democrats hold 24 while Republicans hold only 9. The blue team will be playing a lot of defense.

Races are categorized as either likely or unlikely to be competitive. This post will be updated continuously until election day.

Likely to be competitive:

Rating: Leans Democratic takeover
Republican: Congressman Jeff Flake
Democrat: Former Surgeon General Richard Carmona
Overview: (2/19/11) This open seat race will turn on two things. Number one: which Arizona voters show up at the polls. Will it be the electorate who gave Barack Obama 45% in 2008 despite having fellow Arizonan John McCain on the ticket, or will it be the electorate who gave insane xenophobe Governor Jan Brewer a comfortable victory in 2010? Number two, will Democrats be able to recruit a top-tier candidate? That's something they haven't been able to do in any high-profile statewide race in Arizona in many years. The blue team's dream candidate is Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who's recovering from her attempted assassination.
(11/03/11) A recent poll gives Obama a 5-point lead over Romney in Arizona. C'mon Democrats, find a candidate already!
(11/12/11) Thanks for listening, Arizona. Richard Carmona, former Surgeon General for G.W. Bush, is a shrewd choice for the blue team. Arizona is more or less evenly divided between Republicans, Democrats and independents. Carmona has appeal for independents. The question is, does he also have the kind of political skills needed to win a Senate race?
(6/2/12) Flake has a comfortable lead. Unless his campaign implodes, he will win.
(8/10/12) The most recent PPP poll shows this race tied(!) Unfortunately the same poll shows Romney leading Obama by 11. So for Carmona to win, he'd have to get the vote of quite a few Romney supporters. Not likely. Of course if Romney's candidacy continues to implode, Carmona has a real shot.
(9/14/12) Another PPP poll shows Romney leading in Arizona by 9, but Flake by only 1. This race is begging for Democrats to make a serious commitment.
(9/21/12) A Republican poll shows Carmona leading 44-39. No, not a misprint. Obama has cut Romney's lead here to 3. If the GOP doesn't stop the bleeding now, Flake loses.
(10/16/12) I'm switching this to Dem pickup. There have been two polls of this race in October, both showing Carmona ahead. Flake's campaign, seems, well, flaky. Yes I went there. Combine that with the fact that Obama may be LEADING in Arizona, and this is looking like the sleeper race of the year.

Rating: Likely Democratic hold
Democrat: Congressman Chris Murphy (Joe Lieberman retiring)
Republican: Businesswoman Linda McMahon or former Congressman Chris Shays
Overview: (1/25/11) So long, Joe Lieberman. No one will miss you very much. Republicans aren't likely to get a big name into this open seat race. Obama carried Connecticut by 23 points in 2008, and the Democrats are clearly going to get a top-tier nominee.
(9/12/11) In 2010, a year when Republicans won everywhere, Linda McMahon spent $50 million to lose Connecticut's Senate race by 12 points. Guess what, she's running again! Hooray!
(6/2/12) Neither party knows for sure who will be nominated in this race. But Linda McMahon is the likely Republican nominee, and I'm very confident she cannot win.
(8/29/12) The Democrats' effort to retain control of the Senate is like a boat that keeps springing new leaks. McMahon has outspent Murphy 4-to-1, and apparently it's paying off: a new Quinnipiac poll shows Obama leading 52 to 45, and McMahon leading 49 to 46. Who the heck are these supposed Obama-McMahon voters?! But it's not time to panic yet. Today's PPP poll shows Murphy ahead 48 to 44. And Nate Silver of the New York Times is still projecting a 10-point spread for Obama.
(9/28/12) Murphy's ahead in the polls, and McMahon is trying to do damage control over remarks that she'd like to "sunset" social security. Game over.

Rating: Leans Democratic hold 
Democrat: Bill Nelson (incumbent)
Republican: Congressman Connie Mack (likely)
Overview: (5/24/09) Nelson won reelection easily in 2006, but is likely to be a GOP target in purple-state Florida. Republicans will need to find a top-tier recruit to beat Nelson.
(5/1/10) Nelson's path to reelection is getting easier. Popular Governor Crist's defection from the GOP demonstrates that the Florida GOP is in disarray. Registered Democrats also now outnumber Republicans by 700,000.
(3/26/11) Congressman Connie Mack has decided not to run. Things are looking up for Nelson.
(7/3/11) Republican Florida Governor Rick Scott has a 29% approval rating, so he's not doing his party any favors heading into 2012. State Senate President Mike Haridopolos will definitely give Nelson a run for his money, but Democrats still have the edge in this one.
(11/3/11) So Connie Mack is running. He brings a lot of name recognition to the race, but his political acumen seems a little shaky.
(11/12/11) Mack is doing well out of the gate, trailing Nelson by only 2.
(4/2/12) Mack hasn't caught Nelson in the polls, and Obama appears to be leading here by around 7, the same margin by which he defeated McCain.
(6/2/12) The polls show this race more or less tied, and Romney is giving Obama a run for his money is Florida. I'm almost ready to change my rating on this one to Toss Up. But not quite yet.
(9/14/12) NBC/WSJ/Marist poll shows Obama ahead by 5 here, Nelson ahead by 14. Feeling pretty good about this one.

Rating: Likely Democratic hold
Democrat: Congresswoman Mazie Hirono (Dan Akaka retiring)
Republican: Former Governor Linda Lingle
Overview (3/26/11) Even in an open seat race, this one should be about as safe as it gets for Democrats. Any Hawai'ian Republican who is thinking about running for office in 2012 has to consider that three-quarters of the voters there will start their ballot by voting for local boy made good Barack Obama.
(10/13/11) The GOP got its dream candidate today. If former Governor Lingle were running for an open Senate seat in any year other than 2012, she'd be a good bet to win. But to claim victory next November, she'll need about one out of every three Obama supporters to split their ticket. Possible, but not likely.
(9/14/12) Hirono worked hard for this nomination and will win in November.

Rating: Leans Democratic takeover
Republican: State Treasurer Richard Mourdock (incumbent Richard Lugar defeated in primary)
Democrat: Congressman Joe Donnelly
Libertarian: Clinical researcher Andrew Horning
Overview: (5/8/11) Once upon a time, no one even considered the possibility that a six-term incumbent Republican Senator would face a serious primary challenge for reelection. Even when the Senator in question is considered to be something of a sell-out to conservative principles. But that was before the Tea Party decided that they'd rather be right than win elections. As Indiana state Treasurer, Richard Mourdock endeared himself to America's kookiest by filing a lawsuit to stop the TARP bailout of Chrysler Corporation. So, America is better off if the auto industry in this country ceases to exist? Apparently, this makes sense to enough people that Mourdock is considered a serious threat to Indiana institution Dick Lugar. The prospect of a Mourdock victory has prompted a top-tier Democrat to jump into the race in the person of Congressman Joe Donnelly. With Indiana sure to be a swing state in 2012, this race should be a good one. Also, "Mourdock" sounds like the villain in a Disney movie.
(4/2/12) The Lugar vs. Mourdock race for the GOP bid is very close. One of the biggest surprises of 2008 was Obama's 50 to 49 victory over John McCain in Indiana. A recent CNN poll shows Obama leading Romney by a whopping 11 points here. So whichever Republican gets the nod, he may have to overcome both the lack of general enthusiasm for his candidacy among his party's voters and the fact that his party's Presidential nominee is running behind.
(5/16/12) "Bipartisanship ought to consist of Democrats coming to the Republican point of view." "To me, the highlight of politics, frankly, is to inflict my opinion on someone else with a microphone or in front of a camera." - Richard Mourdock. Donnelly's internal poll shows this race a tie. Let's hope so.
(9/14/12) There are no recent polls here, but I think Donnelly has a shot. Obama outperformed the polls in Indiana in 2008.
(9/21/12) A Donnelly internal poll has him ahead by 3. I really can't say any more about this race until someone polls the Presidential race in Indiana. If Romney is ahead by double digits, Mourdock should win. If Obama has closed the gap, it's looking good for Donnelly.
(9/28/12) The Howey/DePauw poll shows Romney leading by 12, but Donnelly leading Mourdock by 2. That's some major crossover support for Donnelly among Republicans. I also don't believe that Romney can beat Obama by 12 here.
(10/16/12) There was a debate today between Donnelly, Mourdock and Libetarian Andrew Horning. Just what the GOP did not need in this race: an intelligent third-party conservative who provides an attractive alternative to the odious Mourdock. Horning is polling as high as 7%; if he gets half of that, Mourdock is doomed.
(11/1/12) Who looks at Todd Akin's comments on rape and says, "Yes! What a great strategy!"? Mourdock might still win this, but not if Donnelly's internals are anywhere near accurate.

Rating: Leans Independent takeover (who will likely join the Democratic caucus)
Independent: Former Governor Angus King
Republican: ? (incumbent Olympia Snowe retiring)
Democrat: Former Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap?
(1/5/10) Snowe is preceived as the most liberal Republican Senator. Conceivably she could lose the Republican primary to a right-wing challenger, or possibly she could just get fed up with attacks on her by conservative activists and retire. If Snowe is not the GOP nominee, this race leans Democratic pickup.
(9/19/10) Snowe and the Tea Party are on a collision course. Tea Party activists flexed their muscle by nominating one of their own in the gubernatorial race in moderate Maine this year. Snowe meanwhile is drawing a huge target on her back by criticizing the movement, saying, "Ideological purity at 100 percent is a utopian world and I don’t know who lives in utopia. I’ve never lived in utopia." This is going to be a fight to remember.
(1/15/11) Alas, the Tea Party can't seem to find anyone to take on Snowe in the GOP primary. If Snow is renominated, she wins this race.
(2/29/12) Hey, Olympia Snowe and I have something in common: neither of us can stand today's Republican party. I don't know who the nominees in this race will be, but I do know that President Obama carried Maine by 17 points in 2008, giving Democrats the inside track to elect Snowe's replacement.
(4/2/12) Former Governor King's entry into this race as an independent seems to have scared off the top-tier potential nominees for both the Democrats and the GOP. There's widespread assumption that King will join the Democratic caucus. (Hey, the GOP is already attacking him.)

Rating: Leans Democratic hold
Republican: Scott Brown (incumbent)
Democrat: Professor Elizabeth Warren
Overview: (12/09/10) A new poll shows Brown with (53/29) favorability ratings, and good polling numbers against potential Democratic opponents. Ok, maybe there are enough ticket-splitters Massachusetts for him to win a full term.
(1/15/11) Some Massachusetts Democrats are now saying they don't think Brown can be beaten. One possible solution: nominate a Kennedy.
(7/28/11) Does Brown really have a 62% approval rating? If so, he'll win. Elizabeth Warren would give Brown a run for his money, but this race is looking more and more like an uphill climb for the blue team.
(9/12/11) This poll suggests Warren trails Brown by only 9. If she can get around to declaring her candidacy, there's hope.
(11/3/11) This race is now a dead heat, despite the fact that Warren has fairly low name recognition. This suggests Brown is in trouble.
(12/4/11) Warren now leads according to a recent poll. More bad news for Brown: MA Republicans can't be as excited about Newt Gingrich at the top of the ticket as they would have been about their former Governor, the now fading fast Mitt Romney.
(6/2/12) The polls show this race as a dead heat. However, Obama leads Romney by 20. With that kind of spread, it's just gonna be hard for Brown to win.
(8/22/12) A new PPP poll shows Brown ahead by 5. Not good. But then we are in that convention-time stretch when the Romney ticket is getting a little bump. Warren will have an important role at the Democratic convention, and I think this race will be decided late.
(9/21/21) Watched the Warren-Brown debate last night. Wow, Scott Brown is a complete jerk. Things are looking up for Warren. She's running a strong campaign. Another important point: a month ago, Obama was leading here by around 16; now it's more like 23. That's enough to overcome a lot Obama-Brown crossover votes.

Rating: Leans Democratic hold 
Democrat: Debbie Stabenow (incumbent)
Republican: Former Congressman Pete Hoekstra
Overview: (1/5/10) Michigan's economy is in tatters, and its incumbent politicians are getting the blame.
(12/18/10) Considering that Michigan moved hard to the right in the 2010 election, Stabenow is polling remarkably well. No reason to panic yet.
(11/3/11) Wow, almost a year since I commented on this one. Considering how successful the GOP was in Michigan in 2010, you'd think they'd be trying harder to make this one competitive. Yet Stabenow still leads her most likely opponent, Pete Hoekstra, by 15 points.
(08/29/12) Hey, I finally have something to say about this one. Polling has been all over the place in Michigan. A couple of recent polls show Romney tied with Obama here, and Hoesktra tied with Stabenow as well. If Nate Silver of the New York Times is to be believed (and he pretty much always is) the recent polls showing good news for Romney are under-polling the minority vote. Right now Nate's projected Obama to win Michigan by five, which should be enough for Stabenow to win as well. But this race has turned into yet another headache for the blue team.
(9/21/12) High tide seems to have passed for Hoekstra (and the Republican ticket in general). Stabenow leads comfortably.

Rating: Leans Democratic hold
Democrat: Claire McCaskill (incumbent)
Republican: Congressman Todd Akin
Overview: (1/5/10) Missouri is the perpetual swing state. This fact keeps every politician there at least somewhat vulnerable all the time. A strong challenge to McCaskill is within the realm of possibility.
(6/30/10) Gad. Apparently Jim Talent wants to run against McCaskill in 2012. Talent lost a statewide election in 2000, then lost against McCaskill in the 2006 race for this same Senate seat. Missouri's got a lot Republicans, can't they find anybody new?
(11/3/11) Seems like state Senator Sarah Steelman is McCaskill's most likely opponent. I'm inclined to say that as an incumbent Senator, McCaskill is likely to have enough money and organization to win. On the other hand, President Obama is none too popular in this part of the country. Also consider the way incumbent Senator Blanche Lincoln got stomped next door in Arkansas in 2010.
(6/2/12) McCaskill is blessed by the fact that the GOP race is currently a three-way tie. So on the one hand, McCaskill can expect to face a weak opponent. On the other hand, she'd better hope that the Obama campaign doesn't falter (a recent PPP poll shows him leading by 1% here), because she has little margin of error.
(7/30/12) Yikes! These are some ugly poll numbers for McCaskill. This is the one part of the country where Democratic prospects have really diminished. I'm still in shock that Blanche Lincoln in Arkansas could only get 37% of the vote as an incumbent Senator in 2010. Sorry, Claire but I now think you're going to lose. Please prove me wrong.
(8/10/12) McCaskill lucked out; Akin is the weakest, most extreme candidate. I also hear he's low on funds. But this race stays 'Leans Republican takeover' until I see some better polling numbers for McCaskill.
(8/22/12) Akin has dominated the recent new cycle by making some outrageous comments on rape, reproduction and abortion. And by "outrageous" I mean "entirely consistent with the beliefs of other Republicans." Anyway, it looks like a badly wounded Akin is staying in the race. If the conservative Rasmussen organization thinks Akin is 10 points behind McCaskill, that means he's really down by at least 15 points. The blue team has caught a huge break.
(9/28/12) Akin continues to make stupid remarks, and won't get any funding from the Republican party. But make no mistake, Akin's not out of this. McCaskill hasn't been able to build any kind of polling lead on Akin, and Nate Silver is only showing a 67% chance of her winning.

Rating: Leans Republican takeover
Democrat: Jon Tester (incumbent)
Republican: Congressman Denny Rehberg
Libertarian: Dan Cox
Overview: (5/24/09) Tester squeaked into office in 2006 with only 49.7% of the vote against an unpopular incumbent in a strongly Democratic year. That said, I still think he’s a good bet for reelection.
(12/18/10) Jon Tester has voted to support the Republican filibuster of the DREAM Act, which would have provided path to citizenship for some illegal immigrants. The progressive netroots who worked hard to elect Tester in 2006 are having some serious misgivings. An ominous development, but until a major Republican challenger emerges, there's no way to know just how much trouble Tester is in.
(1/19/11) The GOP has gotten their strongest possible candidate in the person of the state's lone U.S. House member, Denny Rehberg. This race is trending against incumbent Jon Tester.
(7/3/11) Tester polling and job approval numbers are ok but not great. One thing's for sure, he's not trying to build his street cred with progressive Democrats.
(5/16/12) The most recent PPP poll shows Tester ahead by five. Maybe he knows what he's doing.
(9/14/12) Rehberg's candidacy is being crippled by the Libertarian candidate, Dan Cox. According to PPP, Tester leads Rehberg and Cox 45-43-8. The same poll shows Romney leading by only 5, and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Steve Bullock also leading by 5 to win the open seat. If the Romney-Ryan ticket gets any weaker, we'll be looking at a Democratic sweep in Montana.
(9/28/12) The most recent poll of this race shows Rehberg ahead by 3. I'm getting a bad feeling about this one. In the past few weeks, Democratic Senate candidates have been getting a boost all over the map as the Romney campaign has floundered. So why isn't Tester putting up better numbers?
(10/16/12) The only poll of this race in October shows Tester ahead by 2 with Libertarian Cox at 8%. I may need to flip a coin on this one, but it's beginning to look like one of several races where the Libertarian party will play spoiler and save the day for blue team.

Rating: Likely Republican takeover
Democrat: Former Senator Bob Kerrey
Republican: State Senator Deb Fischer
Overview: (2/8/10) Up until 2009, Nelson was considered to be one of the most politically astute members of Congress, maintaining high approval ratings and winning reelection by large margins in red-state Nebraska. In 2010 however, his approval rating stands at only 42%. He's fallen to earth principally because of his votes on health care reform. He should draw a strong challenge in 2012, but he's still got plenty of time to improve his standing and win another term. Nebraska isn’t as red as it used to be; Obama won an electoral vote in 2008 by carrying Nebraska's 2nd congressional district.
(2/28/10) In 2006, Nelson had the highest approval rating of all 100 Senators. I mention this fact for the following reason. Ben Nelson, Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas and Joe Lieberman of Connecticut have been the three Senators most determined to derail their own party's health care reform proposals. Now all three have seen their approval ratings crash and burn. This is not a coincidence. Get with the program, Ben.
(1/15/11) Barring some dramatic new development, Nelson is going to lose. His best hope in this race was for the GOP to nominate a Tea Party nut job, but that's clearly not going to happen. Attorney General Jon Bruning is already in the race, and if he's not the nominee, some other top-tier candidate will be.
(11/3/11) PPP has an interesting poll on this race. Nelson doesn't trail by much, and he's picking up the support of 1 in 5 Republican voters. So he's not finished. But let's not kid ourselves, he's still likely to lose.
(12/27/11) According to Politico, Nelson's retirement is "a serious blow to Democratic efforts to hold on to the majority in the chamber next November." Uh, well, no, actually. Nelson was going to lose anyway.
(2/29/12) So former Senator Kerrey may run after all, giving us a at least a a shot in this one. I saw Kerrey speak during his Presidential run in 1992. Man, was he dull. Oh well.
(4/1/12) This race is not competitive. Bruning will win. OOPS
(5/16/12) Congratulations Deb Fischer. The Senate needs more women.
11/1/12) Former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel is endorsing Kerrey. The most recent poll shows Fischer leading by only 3. A miracle in the making?

Rating: Leans Democratic takeover
Republican: Dean Heller (appointed incumbent) (incumbent John Ensign resigned 5/3/11)
Democrat: Congresswoman Shelley Berkley
Overview: (3/26/11) Senator John Ensign confessed to an affair with the wife of a member of his own staff, then was kind enough to set the staffer up with a lobbying job and use his influence to get corporate friends to give the guy lobbying work. Gee, what a nice guy. Unfortunately, this sort of thing is not legal, and Ensign is retiring. Hopefully, we'll get a top-tier recruit for the blue team: Congresswoman Shelley Berkley. Obama carried Nevada by a whopping 12.5% in 2008. If he puts up similar numbers in 2012, the GOP will need a pretty substantial crossover vote from Democrats to survive. Right now, that seems unlikely.
(4/24/11) With Ensign's resignation, Heller now gets to run as an incumbent. As Nate Silver points out however, there's no reason to believe this gives Heller any particular advantage.
(7/3/11) A new Republican poll shows Berkley leading Heller by 3. I think Berkley now has the edge.
(6/2/12) Obama leads Romney only narrowly here, and the Berkley campaign has been ok but not great so far. So how can I argue that Berkley's going to win? Well, Nevada Democrats have a record, at least recently, of out-performing the polls. Going into election day 2010, Sharron Angle had about a 4% lead in the polls over Harry Reid, yet (as this web site predicted) Reid triumphed on election day. Quite comfortably as it turned out.
(9/28/12) PPP currently has Obama ahead by 11, and Berkley ahead by 4. NBC/WSJ/Marist has Obama ahead by 2, and Heller ahead by 4. This race is all about turnout. Berkley just needs Obama to win by around 7 points, and she'll be able to overcome the Obama-Heller crossover votes.
(10/16/12) I'm not the only one pointing out that Nevada Democrats have been outperforming the polls. Similar stories here and here.

New Jersey
Rating: Likely Democratic hold
Democrat: Bob Menendez (incumbent)
Republican: State Senator John Kyrillos
Overview: (5/24/09) State-wide races in New Jersey are always sort of competitive, but I don’t think Menendez will be in any trouble.
(5/17/10) New Jersey never seems to like its public officials very much. Just six months after he was elected, Republican Governor Chris Christy has an approval rating of only 33% according to one poll. Another current poll shows Bob Menendez tied with Tom Kean Jr. (his 2006 opponent) should Kean choose to run again in 2012. The good news for Menendez is that he's running in the same year as Barack Obama, who crushed John McCain by 15.5% in New Jersey and who is still popular there today. The Republican who is eventually nominated to run against Menendez will likely need a huge crossover vote from Obama supporters to win. That is not likely to happen.
(6/02/12) The GOP has failed to secure a top-tier candidate. Menendez has nothing to worry about.

New Mexico
Rating: Leans Democratic hold
Democrat: Congressman Martin Heinrich (incumbent Jeff Bingaman retiring)
Republican: Congresswoman Heather Wilson
Overview: (2/19/11) "Pure downside for Democrats" is how pundits are describing the retirement of popular incumbent Jeff Bingaman. Well, let's look on the bright side. President Obama carried New Mexico by a staggering 15.1% in 2008. If he can give the Democratic ticket that kind of advantage again in 2012, the GOP will have a hard time catching up.
(4/24/11) The blue team will definitely get a top-tier nominee in this race.
(7/3/11) State auditor Hector Balderas beat his Republican opponent by more than ten points in that most Republican of years, 2010, and currently leads in a new poll for the 2012 Senate race.
(4/2/12) Polls of this race have consistently showed a small race for Heinrich. With Obama holding a huge lead over Romney here, Wilson faces long odds.
(8/10/12) Wilson has been polling within 5% of Heinrich, but the devil is in the details. How is she going to win if Romney loses? Well, women don't like Romney. If Obama carries New Mexico by five points or less, there a chance that Wilson can get enough crossover votes from women supporting Obama to win. But Heinrich still has the inside track.

North Dakota
Rating: Leans Republican takeover
Democrat: Former Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp
Republican: Congressman Rick Berg
Overview: (11/15/10) North Dakota politics are a little different. The state has no voter registration; just show up and vote. In Presidential elections it's a reliable red state, yet for many years it has elected Democrats, and fairly liberal ones, to its two Senate seats and lone House seat. Democrats with seniority in Congress are good at bringing home federal dollars. In 2010 however, the writing is on the wall for North Dakota Democrats. They've just lost Byron Dorgan's Senate seat and the House seat long held by Earl Pomeroy. That means Kent Conrad is in trouble too. It's not hopeless however. A curious thing about President Obama: in 2008 he spent an inordinate amount of time campaigning on the northern plains. I recall seeing polls from Montana and North Dakota actually showing his race against John McCain within the margin of error in those states. An Obama rally in Grand Forks, ND was the largest political rally in North Dakota since an FDR visit in 1934. So it's possible Obama can give Conrad a boost in 2012.
(1/25/11) Conrad is out. Ok, so Obama will probably lose North Dakota in 2012 by 8 points or so. That means for the Democrats to win, their candidate, who will not be someone who currently holds statewide office, will have to get crossover votes from people voting Republican at the Presidential level, because for some reason they don't like the GOP's Senate nominee, even though that nominee is very likely someone who already holds statewide office in North Dakota. Not much chance of that.
(12/4/11) Well this is welcome news: Heitkamp leads Berg in a recent poll. As I mentioned earlier, Heitkamp will need to get Republican crossover support to win. But she's done that twice before. In both 1992 and 1996, she received nearly two-thirds of the vote in winning election as state Attorney General, despite the fact that Bill Clinton lost North Dakota by 12% in '92 and by 6% in '96.
(7/12/12) At long last, a major-league pollster has looked at this race, and found Heitkamp ahead 47 to 46. But the same poll shows Romney ahead by 13. Not sure if Heitkamp can get enough crossover voters to beat that.
(9/28/12) The Heitkamp team keeps releasing internal polls showing her ahead. But let's not kid ourselves. The fundamentals favor Berg in a big way. Given Romney's sagging campaign, I can see a path to victory for Heitkamp, but well... let's say she has a 1 in 4 chance of winning.

Rating: Leans Democratic hold
Democrat: Sherrod Brown (incumbent)
Republican: State Treasurer Josh Mandel
Overview: (5/24/09) The heart of Ohio is still conservative, and Brown is not a conservative Democrat, so this one could become competitive.
(11/3/10) The rust belt went Republican big time in yesterday's mid-terms. Look out, Mr. Brown.
(12/8/10) Brown's approval numbers are very weak. If he gets a top-tier Republican challenger, or if Democrats fail to win back the confidence of the upper midwest in 2012, odds are Brown will lose.
(11/3/11) Similar to Michigan, we have a race where the Republicans should have a good chance, but can't seem to get started. Brown leads comfortably.
(4/2/12) So far, Mandel isn't catching on. With Obama leading Romney here as well, Brown is looking good.
(8/29/12) As if the Democrats didn't have enough problems trying to hold onto the Senate, we have our first non-Rasmussen poll showing Mandel tied with Brown. On the other hand, this is Republican convention week. Polls conducted around GOP convention time in 2008 suggested that McCain could actually beat Obama, and we all now how that turned out.
(9/21/12) Five different polls conducted this month in Ohio each show Brown ahead by at least 6. The GOP has spent a fortune in Ohio on their "rising star" Mandel. Seems like the star isn't rising quite high enough.

Rating: Likely Democratic hold
Democrat: Bob Casey, Jr. (incumbent)
Republican: Businessman Tom Smith
Overview: (2/28/10) As of early 2010, Pennsylvania appears to be trending Republican. Casey however is a moderate who has maintained a high approval rating among Democrats, and pretty decent numbers among Republicans as well.
(1/15/11) Casey continues to poll well against potential GOP opponents.
(11/3/11) Anyone in the Republican party want this nomination? Hello? Is this thing on?
(4/2/12) Looks like this one's in the bag. Casey has a huge lead over all potential opponents, and Pennsylvania Republicans may by unenthused this November when Mitt Romney rather than hometown boy made bad Rick Santorum will bethe GOP standard bearer.
(8/10/12) Tom Smith is as anonymous a guy named "Tom Smith."

Rating: Guaranteed Republican hold
Republican: Former state Solicitor General Tex Cruz (Kay Bailey Hutchison retiring)
Democrat: Former state Representative Paul Sadler
Overview: (1/15/11) Hutchison had actually promised to resign this seat early, but reneged, saying, "My experience will be better used fighting this effort by the president and the Congress to do so much to take away the essence of America." She wants to protect our essence? Hey, she's turned into General Ripper from Dr. Strangelove! The only way Democrats are going to win this race is if the GOP nominates a completely unpalatable tea bagger ala Christine O'Donnell from Delaware or Sharron Angle from Nevada, who gave away the Senate races in those states to Democrats in 2010.
(4/24/11) Democrats would like to stitch together a coalition of latino voters (who represent about 38% percent of Texas' electorate), veterans and other persons tired of business as usual in Texas to elect former General Ricardo Sanchez. Texas is drifting slowly from red to purple state, but I'm not sure it's moving quickly enough for Democrats to start winning statewide in 2012.
(8/10/12) Ted Cruz is an interesting guy. Any way, we'd better get used to him. He'll be part of the national political scene for the next four or five decades. Democrats are probably lucky he can't run for President.

Rating: Guaranteed Republican hold
Republican: Orrin Hatch (incumbent)
Democrat: State Senator Scott Howell
Overview: (5/24/09) Hatch will be 78 in 2012. Might he retire? Would an open seat race be competitive in uber-conservative Utah? Dare to dream.
(5/12/10) Hatch is undoubtedly not amused by the easy way party activists ended the career of fellow Utah Republican Senator Bob Bennett this month by failing to renominate him at the state convention. Hatch might see himself as the next target and choose to retire, or he might just lose the race for the GOP bid the same as Bennett.
(12/18/10) Rumors of Hatch's retirement abound. In an open seat race in Utah, the chances of a Democrat winning are slim and none, and slim has already left town. So what about a scenario where the electorate is split between a Democrat, a Republican, and some sort of Tea Bagger independent conservative? Even then, it would take a miracle for the blue team to win. Consider what happened in Alaska in 2010. There were two Republicans and one Democrat on the ballot, and the Democrat still only got 23% of the vote.
(7/28/11) A recent poll shows Matheson could actually defeat Hatch. Hmm. It's fun having this contest on my "competitive races" list, but really, a Democrat is about as likely to win a statewide race in Utah as it is likely that it will rain White Castle cheeseburgers here in Seattle. (The nearest White Castle is 1,000 miles from Seattle you see.)
(11/3/11) The Teabaggers say they want to defeat Hatch, but they can't find a candidate. Try harder guys.
(6/2/12) I was hoping for some fun here, but no luck. Howell's a smart guy. Too bad he doesn't have a prayer.
(9/21/12) Forget anything positive I said about Howell, he's a complete jackass.

Rating: Leans Democratic hold
Democrat: Former Governor Tim Kaine (incumbent Jim Webb retiring)
Republican: Former Senator George Allen
Overview: (5/24/09) There’s no way Democrats are going to get a free pass in purple-state Virginia, but I think Webb is another good bet for reelection.
(11/3/10) Apparently, Webb doesn't want to be a Senator any more. He isn't fundraising. Calling Tim Kaine? Oh yeah, George Allen, the guy Webb defeated in 2006, wants his job back.
(1/25/11) Allen is in. Will he win his seat back? It depends on whether he can behave himself this time. The reason Allen lost his seat in 2006 wasn't just that he made a racial slur at a campaign rally, it's that he kept making the same kind of mistakes, and seemed incapable of learning from them. First he kept changing his story about the racial slur, as if the public wasn't capable of noticing that even if one of his stories about the slur was true, that meant all the other explanations he gave about it were lies. Then his campaign staff beat up a blogger. Allen might win this election, but given his record, it will only take one major mistake to sink his candidacy.
(4/24/11) Democrats' first choice is in: former Governor Kaine. He's probably has the edge in this race.
(7/3/11) Kaine leads by one in a new poll. Allen needs to hope that the GOP can find a Presidential nominee who can generate more interest in the upper south than John McCain did in 2008.
(4/2/12) This NBC/Marist poll suggests that Obama is leading Romney by 17% in Virginia. What a minute... 17%?! Hey, that's a lot of punctuation. Kaine appears to be leading as well. I think Virginians have already made up there mind about George Allen.
(9/21/12) A month ago, polls showed that Romney could carry Virginia. Today, Obama's ahead by about 5. Kaine's lead over Allen mirrors this.
(11/1/12) Kaine is leading in some, but not all polls. President Obama however seems to have pulled back into the lead here after trailing by a point or two. And again, there's no such thing as an Obama-Allen crossover vote.

West Virginia
Rating: Likely Democratic hold
Democrat: Governor Joe Manchin (incumbent)
Republican: Perennial candidate John Raese
Overview: (6/30/10) Senator Robert Byrd will be deeply missed by the progressive community. Democrats have recently fared quite poorly when one of their Senate seats has suddenly become vacant. Ted Kennedy's seat has already been lost, Joe Biden's seat will be lost this November and both Barack Obama's seat in Illinois and Ken Salazar's seat in Colorado might also go Republican this fall. Conventional wisdom suggests that very popular Governor Manchin will appoint a placeholder to this seat and then run for it himself in 2012. Since President Obama will probably lose West Virginia by a substantial margin in 2012, Manchin will need some crossover support to win. This will probably not be a problem; in 2004 Manchin beat his Republican opponent in the gubernatorial race by 30 points even though Bush beat Kerry by 13 at the top of the ticket. Manchin is far more conservative than Byrd, but I guess that's life.
(11/3/10) Manchin won yesterday, but he ran a fairly lackluster campaign. In 2012, he's going to need crossover support from Republican voters to hold his seat, because President Obama will probably lose West Virginia by a substantial margin.
(12/18/10) Senator Manchin is quickly establishing himself as a very conservative Democratic, and kind of a strange person. I hope he knows what he's doing.
(8/10/12) Wow, 2012 will be the fourth time Republicans have nominated John Raese and lost. It's baffling to me that a state with such a strong conservative base can't come up with any new candidates.

Rating: Leans Democratic hold
Democrat: Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin (incumbent Herb Kohl retiring)
Republican: Former Governor Tommy Thompson
Overview: (7/28/11) Heading into 2010, I started hearing that Wisconsin Democratic Senator Russ Feingold was in trouble in his reelection battle. Ha, I said, that's ridiculous. Wisconsin has been trending steadily Democratic for years. Besides, not one Democratic incumbent Senator lost in 2006 or 2008. Feingold lost by 5 points. Ok, so I won't underestimate Wisconsin Republicans again. I have to say though, the GOP will not have an easy time winning this open seat. Obama will probably carry Wisconsin by a substantial margin, and the voters of Wisconsin are showing some serious buyer's remorse over the Republican state government they elected in 2010.
(4/2/12) Polls show this race as a tossup. I think Baldwin has the edge. Romney is going to beat Santorum in the Wisconsin primary this Tuesday, but not by as much as he should. And Thompson is exactly the kind of non-hyper-crazy Republican that Santorum supporters will find it difficult to support in November.
(7/12/12) So Tommy Thompson's days of tepid support as the default candidate are over. According to polls from PPP and Marquette, businessman Eric Hovde is at least competitive with, or actually leading Thompson. Seems to me that Hovde, as the more conservative candidate, has the edge. According to those same two polls, Tammy Baldwin is either tied with or leading Hovde in the general election. On balance, this seems like good news for Baldwin, as she has consistently trailed Thompson in the polls. There is however an argument that suggests that more conservatives will ultimately be inspired to vote on election day when there's a more conservative nominee on the ballot.
(7/30/12) Yep, Baldwin is benefiting from the shake up on the GOP side. She now leads both contenders. The GOP lost two or three Senate races they could have easily won in 2010 thanks to the teabaggers push for more conservative candidates. It looks like we may see the same in Wisconsin this year.
(8/10/12) Quite the horse race here. Last week’s PPP poll had it Hovde 27, Thompson 25, Neumann 24. The previous week’s Marquette poll had it Thompson 28, Hovde 20, Neumann 18. Baldwin still has to hope she doesn’t get Thompson; the most recent Quinnipiac poll shows her tied with Thompson but leading the others.
(8/22/12) Wisconsin Republicans seem to catch every break. In 2010, it was narrow victories in their gubernatorial and senate races. In 2011, their Governor survived a recall vote. Mitt Romney has chosen a VP candidate from Wisconsin. And now the bitterly contested 2012 senate primary has been won by their strongest candidate, Tommy Thompson. Three new polls show Thompson leading Baldwin by between 5 and 9 points. Unless something changes in this race, Thompson will win.
(9/21/12) Baldwin leads in the last four polls of this race. A lot's changed in a month. First, the wind has gone out of the GOP's sails in Wisconsin. In August, Romney and favorite son Paul Ryan led by 1 in the PPP poll, now they trail Obama by 7. Second, the Baldwin campaign seems to be hitting on all cylinders. Third, something is clearly wrong with the Thompson campaign. Seeing his candidacy falter, Thompson is, "blaming his financial disadvantage and partly blaming Mitt Romney for his standing." I suspect that Thompson's team has feet of clay. It reminds me of Elizabeth Dole's failed reelection campaign in 2008. Seeing their candidate fall behind in the polls, Dole's campaign consultants confided, "We don't want to do campaigns anymore... We're old men, and this is a young man's game." 
(9/28/12) Thompson wants to "do away with Medicaid and Medicare." Yeah, that should go over real big. Baldwin leads in every poll.

Unlikely to be competitive:

California: Dianne Feinstein (D) may not run for reelection, but California is likely to stay blue.

Delaware: Tom Carper (D). With Delawarean Vice President Joe Biden on the ticket, Democrats will win easily in The First State.

Maryland: Ben Cardin (D). (2/28/10) How useless is the Maryland GOP? The Democratic-controlled state legislature gerrymandered the state's 8 congressional seats so 6 would be guaranteed to go Democratic, with Republican voters all shoved into the remaining 2 districts. And in 2008, the GOP managed to lose one of those 2 seats. Cardin has nothing to worry about.

Minnesota: Amy Klobuchar (D). (1/5/10) Strong approval ratings protect Klobuchar from vulnerability.

Mississippi: Roger Wicker (R). (2/28/10) As I noted in a post in 2008, here's how voting works in Mississippi in statewide races: white people vote Republican, black people vote Democratic. The population demographics needed for a serious challenge to Wicker just aren't there.

New York: Kirsten Gillibrand (D). Gillibrand won the special election for the last two years of Hilary Clinton’s term in 2010 and has to run again in 2012. Although Republicans did quite well against Democratic US House incumbents in 2010, I just don’t see the GOP winning a state-wide race in New York in the next cycle.

Rhode Island: Sheldon Whitehouse (D). (2/28/10) Once upon a time, deep-blue Rhode Island actually had a couple of popular Republicans: Senator Lincoln Chafee and Governor Don Carcieri. In 2006, Chafee lost his job to Whitehouse. In 2008 the GOP lost 8 of its meager 18 seats in the 113-seat state House of Representatives. And in 2011 Carcieri will be leaving office with an approval rating in the cellar. Whitehouse has nothing to worry about.

Tennessee: Bob Corker (R). (1/5/10) Tennessee does not like President Obama. Freshman Corker can sleepwalk to reelection. (2/19/11) A new poll shows that if former Governor Phil Bredesen jumps into this race, he could defeat Corker. If Bredesen does have any interest in such a contest, he hasn't said anything.

Vermont: Bernie Sanders (I, member of the Democratic caucus). (2/28/10) Sanders beat his last opponent 2-to-1. The Republican party just doesn't have much of a presence in Vermont, usually the best they can hope for is that the voters will elect a GOP Governor as a balance to the overwhelmingly Democratic legislature.

Washington: Maria Cantwell (D). (2/28/10) There have been bold predictions in the last couple of years of a Republican resurgence in my home state, but Democrats ran the table on the GOP in 2008 and again in King County in 2009.

Wyoming: John Barrasso (R). (2/28/10) Watching paint dry will be more interesting than this race.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Republican Civil War. What is it good for?

Recently, the Republican Party has been doing a lot of soul-searching. Here’s a hint guys: you might as well quit searching, because the Devil doesn’t tell you where he’s keeping your soul after you've sold it to him.

The Republican Civil War started about five seconds after the Party’s massive defeat last November. In an article entitled The GOP Fallout: Cue the Circular Firing Squad, Time Magazine accurately summarized the situation just one day after the election:

"When removed from power by voters, no party keelhauls itself quite like the GOP. The party's success at capturing the White House is matched by a violent, burn-it-all-down mentality when it loses. Because John McCain's defeat seemed likely for weeks, the fighting began long before Election Day. Some Republicans believe that the old conservative message must be modernized. Others see a need to return to the conservatism of old. For many, Palin was a godsend, a true populist in the spirit of Ronald Reagan. For others, she was a nightmare. With no leader in sight, factions are maneuvering behind the scenes to assign blame and take control. "It's not going to be business as usual," says Richard Viguerie, a 75-year-old direct-mail wizard who joined the conservative movement before becoming a foot soldier for Barry Goldwater. "There are going to be just some massive battles for the heart and soul of the Republican Party.""

The "massive battles" that the astute Mr. Viguerie spoke of are shaping up right now in the form of bitterly contested primaries for many of next year's Congressional races.

In one corner of the figurative boxing ring, we have the true right-wingers, sometimes called the "movement conservatives." Their attitude can be summarized by a recent statement from South Carolina’s Senator Jim DeMint, who said of Senator Arlen Specter’s defection to the Democratic Party, "I would rather have 30 Republicans in the Senate who really believe in principles of limited government, free markets, free people, than to have 60 that don’t have a set of beliefs."

In the other corner, we have the Republicans moderates, who are more concerned with winning elections (and, hopefully, good government) than they are ideological purity. Their attitude toward the right-wing zealots can be summarized by Peggy Noonan’s response to Senator DeMint’s statement above, "The other day Sen. Jim DeMint said he'd rather have 30 good and reliable conservative senators than 60 unreliable Republicans. Really? Good luck stopping an agenda you call socialist with 30 hardy votes. "Shrink to win": I've never heard of that as a political slogan."

Here's an example of how this conflict is playing out on the ground. The Republican leaders in charge of recruiting Congressional candidates tend to be from the "moderates are ok" wing of the party. They want to win elections, even if they have to make a few compromises. Bloomberg reported this week that, "California Representative Kevin McCarthy, the chief recruiter for House Republicans, said he wants his party to select candidates based less on ideology and more on their chances of winning. The goal, he said, is to seek out prospects who are ethnically diverse, female, less partisan and even supportive of abortion rights. So far, these efforts are more concept than reality."

But don't tell that to Chuck DeVore, the Republican assemblyman from California who may serve as the GOP's sacrificial lamb against Senator Barbara Boxer next year. DeVore disparaged the "Big Tent" strategy favored by Congressman McCarthy this week, saying, "Even if they win some seats, they will wind wind up with principle-less individuals who perpetuate themselves in power. We saw what happened with that in 2006 and 2008. If we want the GOP to succeed in the future we need to get back to what makes us different than the Democrats."

Here's another example. The Republican Senatorial Committee is now openly taking sides in the Party's contested primaries, and offering or withholding support based on their confidence in a candidate's electability. Committee Chair John Cornyn recently refused to endorse Pat Toomey, the leading Republican for next year's race in Pennsylvania, saying, "I don't think it's wise for me to tell Pennsylvania Republicans who their nominee should be." Cornyn then turned right around this past week and decided that it would be wise for him to tell Florida Republicans who their nominee should be, as he endorsed popular moderate Governor Charlie Crist for next year's Senate race in the Sunshine State. This of course has infuriated supporters of Crist's primary opponent, the far more conservative (and less electable) Marco Rubio.

I of course will continue to enjoy watching the GOP waste resources fighting among themselves. Until Republicans show some willingness to be something other than the party of obstructing any and all efforts to make government work again, they don't deserve to win anything.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

This is a Democrat?

"I'm Homer Simpson, the most powerful food critic in town, who will never get his comeuppance! You hear me? No comeuppance!" - Homer J. Simpson

As far as Arlen Specter is concerned, he is the most powerful Senator in town, and like Homer, he will never get his comeuppance.

Specter didn't mince words when he switched to the Democratic Party at the end of April. He let everyone know that he is simply too good to stand before the voters in a competitive primary:

"I am unwilling to have my twenty-nine year Senate record judged by the Pennsylvania Republican primary electorate."

So what has the newest "Democratic" Senator accomplished in his first week? Well, on the day he switched parties, it was reported that Specter told the White House, "I am a loyal Democrat." Now he says that he never said he was a loyal Democrat.

And boy oh boy is he determined to prove that he's not a loyal Democrat. He's stated his opposition to Obama's budget and his nominee to head the Office of Legal Counsel. He won't get behind Obama's health plan. He continues to oppose a key Democratic initiative to allow labor unions to have the elections of their choice. Finally, he said today that he hopes that "justice" will prevail in Minnesota and allow Norm Coleman to be declared the winner of a Senate election that Coleman clearly lost to Al Franken.

The question is, how long will Democrats in Pennsylvania continue to stand for this crap?

Perhaps not long. Joe Sestak, Congressman and retired Navy Admiral has been talking seriously against getting into the 2010 Democratic primary against Specter. Let's hope it happens.

On a related subject:

Speaking of Senators without a lot of party loyalty, there is nothing quite like the comedy stylings of Kentucky's own Jim Bunning. Bunning had some interesting thoughts today regarding Specter as well as his own party leadership:

"It is the fact that Arlen Specter is probably as selfish as our leader is in trying to survive, that’s the only way he thought he would survive in the U.S. Senate," Bunning said. "Do you know Arlen Specter will be 80, has had four bouts with cancer and he still wants to run for the U.S. Senate?" Bunning continued. "And I’m being criticized at 77 and healthy for wanting to run for the U.S. Senate by certain leadership people in my party. Give me a break."

Asked if the leadership he was referring to was (Republican Senate minority leader Mitch) McConnell, Bunning answered: "Obviously. Do you want me to spell it out for you?" He said: "Do you realize that under our dynamic leadership of our leader, we have gone from 55 and probably to 40 (Senate seats) in two election cycles, and if the tea leaves that I read are correct, we will wind up with about 36 after this election cycle. So if leadership means anything, it means you don’t lose ... approximately 19 seats in three election cycles with good leadership."

I've often said I think Bunning is senile, but darned if these aren't some pretty keen observations on his part.