Saturday, December 18, 2010

2016 Senate Predictions

Final Prediction: 
Current Senate: 54 R and 46 D 
Current Prediction: 52 D and 48 R
 Democrats to pick up IL, IN, NH, NC, PA, WI

(1/8/2015) Republicans now control the Senate 54 to 46. Long story short, given the current field Democrats have about a 50% chance of retaking control in 2016.

(12/18/2010) Forecasting Senate races six years ahead of time? Yep, that's what we do here. As of this writing, Democrats control the Senate 53 to 47. It is however likely that in either 2012 or 2014 Republicans will win control of the upper house of Congress. Presuming that the GOP has a modest majority in the Senate heading into the 2016 elections, the chances of Democrats winning it back are pretty good. Most of the vulnerable incumbents will be Republicans first elected in 2010.

If you'd like to read what I wrote about this same class of Senators the last time they were up for reelection in 2010, click here.

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

Competitive races:

Rating: Leans Republican hold
: John McCain (incumbent) or state senator Kelli Ward
Democrat: Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick (likely)
Libertarian: Engineer John Lewis Mealer
Overview: (12/18/10) In 2000, John McCain was asked whether he might run for President in 2008. McCain's response: "by 2008, I think I might be ready to go down to the old soldiers home and await the cavalry charge there." McCain of course did run for President in 2008, and managed to win another Senate term in 2010. By 2016, will he finally be ready to go gently into that good night? I certainly hope so. McCain has long since gone from moderate, to conservative, to plain crazy. In an open seat race in Arizona, anything can happen. The state's electorate seems to have multiple-personality disorder, giving Barack Obama a healthy 45% of the vote in 2008, then turning around and electing loony xenophobe Jan Brewer as Governor by a comfortable margin in 2010.
(3/6/14) According to a new PPP poll, John McCain is America's least popular Senator, with an approval rating of 30%. The same poll suggests Hillary Clinton may carry Arizona as the Presidential nominee. Time to retire, John.
(1/29/15) McCain is "leaning" towards running for reelection. Arizona Republicans want him out, and are trying to clear a path for a single strong challenger to McCain in the GOP primary. While I expect a competitive race, it's hard to get my hopes up about this one. Even in a open-seat race, and even in an election where the Democratic Presidential nominee will probably be competitive in Arizona, the Republicans probably have the inside track. The Republican nominee will probably be someone experienced, well-known and well-funded while the Democrat will probably be a second-tier newcomer.
(5/26/15) The big news is that Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick is running. Democrats couldn't ask for a better candidate. Who will be the Republican nominee? Two Congressman have been talking about running (Matt Salmon and David Schweikert), although both seem to have lost interest, at least for the time being. Someone is bound to run against McCain the primary, though without Salmon or Schweikert in the picture, McCain will probably win. Meanwhile, polling indicates that Hillary Clinton is even money to carry Arizona at the Presidential level, meaning Democrats can expect a boost down-ticket. I'd almost call this race a tossup, but the person with the easiest path the victory is still John McCain.
(10/27/15) "But when I look at what’s happening in our federal government, I know Arizonans need new representation in the U.S. Senate, and that’s why I’m running. Failures of leadership have led to the problems we face in our state and our country: open borders, over 90 million Americans out of work, lost insurance and skyrocketing costs under ObamaCare, and a federal budget that only goes up. Failures of leadership have led to the problems we face in our state and our country: open borders, over 90 million Americans out of work, lost insurance and skyrocketing costs under ObamaCare, and a federal budget that only goes up." Meet state Senator Kelli Ward, who apparently can lie about anything. Illegal immigration from Mexico has plummeted, the number 90 million "out of work" includes the retired and high school students, people did not lose insurance or see higher costs under Obamacare, and the federal budget has been flat. Anyway, I see that an August poll shows Ward with a healthy lead over McCain for the GOP nomination. That's great news, as I think Kirkpatrick would likely defeat her.
(1/1/16) Apparently McCain's path to reelection is going to be pretty easy. Kelli Ward is turning out to be a dingbat unlikely to defeat him in the Republican primary. But her presence in the race is keeping out other legitimate candidates such as congressman David Schweikert. Schweikert might be able to edge McCain for the GOP bid, but not if he has to split the anyone-but-McCain vote with Ward. And Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick is unlikely to beat McCain. A wild card here is the Libertarian party, who managed to pull 4.5% of the vote in the 2012 Senate race in Arizona, and 4.7% the last time McCain ran in 2010. In theory, if Democrats win Arizona at the Presidential level and the Libertarians run a strong race (and take away some of the McCain vote), Kirkpatrick has a chance.
(3/30/16) McCain is in trouble. Start with an approval rating of 26%. Now factor in a poll showing Hillary Clinton tied with Donald Trump in Arizona, and McCain leading Kirkpatrick by only one point. Then consider that the Libertarian party usually pulls around 5% of the vote in statewide elections in Arizona, virtually all of which they would siphon from McCain.
(6/16/16) PPP is showing Kirkpatrick leading by 2. Also noteworthy: an April poll showed Clinton beating Trump by 7. Given that Trump was polling better in April than he is now, things are looking bleak for McCain.
(10/24/16) Since McCain won his primary, polls have showed him with a solid lead. One the other hand, the most recent WaPo polls shows Kirkpatrick trailing by only 3. A Democratic tidal wave might be enough to take out McCain, otherwise he's going to win.

Rating: Guaranteed Democratic hold
Democrat: State Attorney General Kamala Harris (incumbent Barbara Boxer retiring)
Democrat: Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez
Overview:(1/8/15) California is more of a Democratic stronghold than ever. Barack Obama won there in 2012 by a staggering 60% to 37% for Romney. This race will be competitive in name only.
(10/27/15) So far the Republican lineup of possible nominees is definitely third-tier. Looking good for the blue team.
(6/16/16) Democrats finished first and second in California's jungle primary. Harris will win in November.

Rating: Likely Democratic hold
Democrat: Michael Bennet (incumbent)
Republican: County Commissioner Darryl Glenn
Overview: Former school superintendent Michael Bennet was the surprise appointee to replace retiring Senator Ken Salazar in 2009. Bennet turned out to be a more adept politician than anyone expected, winning a full term in his own right in 2010 even though he was widely expected to lose to Republican Ken Buck. Note: Joe's Prediction forecast that Bennet would win.
(10/27/15) So far no big name Republicans have stepped up. Hillary Clinton should carry Colorado by at least five points. So far so good.
(1/1/16) Republicans have not been able to recruit a big name for this race, so it looks like they'll get Tea Party favorite state Senator Tim Neville. Bennet is favored.
(7/11/16) El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn won the Republican nomination with 37% of the vote over five other third-tier candidates. Why did no well-known Colorado Republican want this nomination after the GOP flipped the state's other Senate seat in 2014? Who knows? Bennet will win.

Rating:Leans Republican hold
Republican: incumbent Marco Rubio
Democrat: Congressman Patrick Murphy or Congressman Alan Grayson
Overview: (12/18/10) What will it take to beat Rubio in 2016? It won't be easy. Maybe if Florida continues trending blue in national elections, and we nominate a strong candidate, and, -oh, I don't know-, maybe if by 2016 the Castro brothers are dead, and Cuba is free, so that the hispanic vote in Florida is less likely to vote Republican? Like I said, it won't be easy.
(6/19/13) A new poll shows Hillary Clinton leading Jeb Bush by 7 and Marco Rubio by 12 in the state of Florida, should either one of them be the Republican Presidential nominee. Obama beat Romney by 0.88% in Florida. This is intriguing, because if Hillary has the potential to put up a big win in Florida, then the Senate race starts tilting toward the Democratic nominee. How many Hillary voters are likely to crossover and support Rubio?
(3/24/15) Observers are confident that Rubio will run for President and retire from the Senate. Democrats already have a strong candidate in the person of Congressman Patrick Murphy. Murphy has a centrist record and is very good at politics in general. This being Florida, the Republicans have an army of potential top-tier recruits. That is both a strength and a weakness. If the GOP primary is crowded, it may be difficult for the eventual nominee to rally support in November.
(4/14/15) Rubio is out. I'm not sure what his appeal is supposed to be as a Presidential candidate. There are already a bunch of potential candidates on the GOP side. Democrats should hope that the GOP Presidential nominee is not Bush or Rubio; a favorite son at the top of ticket would be bound to help their senate candidate.
(10/27) Good news, A September poll showed Murphy with a big lead over both Republicans David Jolly and Carlos L√≥pez-Cantera. Bad news, another September poll showed Murphy trailing Alan Grayson for the Democratic nomination. Grayson has his good points, but I don't like him.
(1/1/15) Indications are that Murphy's campaign is going well while Grayson's is not. Good news.
(7/11/16) Marco Rubio promised he would not run for reelection. He told us repeatedly he did not like the Senate. As late as May 16, he was mocking those who begged him to run, tweeting, "I have only said like 10000 times I will be a private citizen in January." But of course he lied. It's pretty clear he's running again to help his viability for another Presidential campaign (groan). Any way, this race is more or less tied in the polls. The outcome will probably be determined by Hillary's margin over Trump in Florida. She beats Trump by 2%, Rubio has a good chance of winning. She beats Trump by 8%, Rubio is doomed.
(10/24/16) The Democratic party has pulled resources out of this race, signalling they don't think Rubio is beatable. Polls are all over the place, either Rubio has a huge lead, or the race is tied. A Democratic tidal wave (which, thanks to Trump, may be in the making) will take out Rubio, otherwise he'll survive.

Rating: Likely Republican hold
Republican: Johnny Isakson (incumbent)
Democrat: Businessman Jim Barksdale
Overview: (12/18/10) Isakson should be vulnerable. He's not particularly popular or well-known, but it's been many years since Democrats won a high-profile race in red-state Georgia.
(7/11/16) No high-profile Democrat wanted to challenge Isakson. The incumbent will win.

Rating: Likely Democratic takeover
Republican: Mark Kirk (incumbent)
Democrat: Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth
Overview: (12/18/10) Kirk squeaked into office in 2010 by defeating a damaged-goods Democrat in a very Republican year. He won't be able to count on that kind of good fortune in 2016, when Illinois will probably turn out much stronger support for Democratic candidates.
(2/29/12) Senator Kirk may be facing some serious health challenges, but there's no reason to believe that he can't continue to do his job. I'm pleased to see that he appears to already be making a lot of progress on his recovery.
(6/19/13) Apparently Kirk is running for reelection. He is not making any effort to moderate his views. If Hillary Clinton is the Presidential nominee, I expect her to carry Illinois by 15 points or more. I have no idea how Mark Kirk, who received only 48% of the vote in the super-Republican year of 2010, gets reelected given these facts.
(8/3/15) Unless there's some major change in this race, it's already over. Tammy Duckworth already has a healthy polling lead on Mark Kirk. Kirk was hoping that his comeback from health challenges would translate into votes, instead he's becoming more known for endless verbal gaffes and Republican leaders are starting to sound like they've already given up.
(7/11/16) Nothing changed here since I last commented on this race almost a year ago. Duckworth hasn't made any major mistakes, so she's going to win.

Rating: Leans Democratic pickup
Republican:  Congressman Todd Young (likely) (incumbent Dan Coats retiring)
Democrat: Former Senator Evan Bayh
Overview: (12/18/10) Coats was a retired Senator turned lobbyist in 2010 when the GOP scraped him up to run after the surprise retirement of Democratic Senator Evan Bayh. This suggests that in 2016, he'll be ready to retire again. In a Presidential election year, Indiana is likely to go Republican, suggesting that even if this were an open seat race, Democrats would face an uphill climb.
(3/24/15) Coats is retiring, now Bayh is back in? Speculation is that Bayh, who is still sitting on the $10 million in campaign funds he had when he retired in 2010, might seek a return to his old seat. Democrats will hope that a horde of candidates will seek the Republican nomination, and that the eventually winner will emerge bruised from the primary season with limited support. And if the Republican nominee is an unelectable Tea Party nut a la Richard Mourdock, who fouled up what should have been an easy Senate race win for Republicans in 2012, all the better. Democrats might get some help from the Libertarian Party, who ate some of the Republicans lunch in that 2012 race with 5.7% of the vote.
(10/27/15) Two bland Republican congressmen are running, either one is a good bet to beat former Democratic Congressman Baron Hill in red-state Indiana.
(7/11/16) This certainly came out of nowhere: former Senator Evan Bayh is the Democratic nominee. The conservative Democrat was remarkably popular as both Governor and Senator; he won both his Senate races in Indiana by nearly two-to-one over his Republican opponents. Todd Young still has a very good chance of winning. Hillary Clinton is from Illinois and should get a strong turnout from the Chicago suburbs in Indiana, just as Barrack Obama did in 2008 in surprise victory over John McCain. On the other hand, Donald Trump is polling fairly well in Indiana and might beat Clinton by a large enough margin to help out Todd Young.
(8/18/16) Bayh's internal polls have been showing outlandish leads for him, finally we have a more genuine poll showing him up by 7. This is hardly a left-leaning poll; it also shows Trump leading Clinton by 11 in Indiana. Apparently the name Bayh has some kind of magic attached to it. Incidentally, I don't believe for a second that Trump has anything like a double-digit lead here.
(10/24/16) Bayh is being hounded with endless stories of his being a lobbyist who doesn't spend any time in Indiana. Somehow however, his poll numbers are holding up. The USS Trump has definitely hit an iceberg, and it seems unlikely that Republican Todd Young will avoid going down with the ship.

Rating: Leans Republican hold
Republican: Chuck Grassley (incumbent)
Democrat: Former Lt. Governor Patty Judge
Overview: (12/18/10) Grassley was first elected to public office in 1958, the same year Ford introduced the Edsel. Coincidence? Long a quiet, dignified and relatively moderate figure, by 2009 Grassley had become the point man for the Republican party's disingenuous, fear-mongering campaign to destroy health care reform. He's also started going a little nuts over any kind of criticism. If he retires, this race is a toss up.
(3/30/16) Grassley has lost considerable support due to his public refusal to consider hearings for President Obama's Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland. He's probably unbeatable nonetheless. It's nice, however, to see this race as one more headache for Republicans rather than a cakewalk.
(6/16/16) PPP has a poll of this race showing Grassley leading by only 7. Also noteworthy is that the poll hardly leans to left; it also has Clinton leading Trump by only 3 and she'll certainly beat him by more than that. Still, only an absolute tidal wave in November will send Grassley to defeat.

Rating: Likely Republican hold
Republican: Rand Paul
Democrat: Lexington Mayor Jim Gray
Overview: (12/18/10): Paul is controversial enough to suggest that his reelection bid will be at least sort of competitive. A top-tier candidate like Democratic Governor Steve Beshear might be able to beat him, but the odds are always going to be against the blue team in Kentucky.
(4/16/13) Rand Paul may run for President. If he were to capture the GOP nomination, he would not be allowed to also appear on the ballot for Senate. So hey, we might be rid of him in three years. On the down side, if the GOP Presidential nominee in '16 is a Kentuckian, the chances of the Democrats grabbing this seat are very slim.
(8/18/16) Everyone's forgotten Paul's joke of a Presidential campaign already, and he will beat Lexington Mayor Jim Gray by double-digits. Too bad.

Rating: Likely Republican hold
Republican: State Treasurer John N. Kennedy? (incumbent David Vitter retiring)
Democrat: Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell or Attorney Caroline Fayard?
Overview: (12/18/10) Here's what I wrote about Vitter heading into the 2010 elections. It's still a pretty good summary of the Senator and his future prospects: "Vitter is the only Republican ever to be popularly elected as a U.S. Senator in Louisiana. The principal obstacle to Vitter's reelection bid is the recent revelation that during the 1990's through about 2001, he was enjoying the services of a number of prostitutes. And by prostitutes, I mean women who had sex with Vitter for money, not K Street Washington lobbyists. Another Christian conservative holier-than-thou hypocrite. The good news is that possibly Vitter will face a stiff primary challenge, and even if he survives he might be too damaged to win another term. The bad new is that Louisiana is the one red state that is arguably getting redder, and Vitter's approval numbers really aren't that bad (in Louisiana it seems, corruption in politics is like hot sauce in New Orleans cuisine)."
(7/17/13) Vitter will apparently forgo a reelection bid to seek the Governor's office in Louisiana. I think it's possible that Hillary Clinton could carry Louisiana as the Presidential nominee. That might give a boost the Democratic nominee in this race.
(1/1/16) Vitter is out after his embarrassing loss in the gubernatorial race last November. A small army of Republicans will run; three of Louisiana's GOP congressmen are already in and other top-tier candidates are giving it consideration. The Democrats' only chance would be if exactly two Democrats ran, and they somehow managed to win the top two spots in the election day "jungle primary" for the December runoff. For example, if the results were Democrat #1 - 20%, Democrat #2 - 20%, Republican #1 - 19%, Republican #2 - 18%, then the two Democrats would face each other in the runoff.
(7/11/16) This is sort of playing out the way I described in the comment above. There are two Democrats polling around 15% each. Six Republicans have declared. Unfortunately, state Treasurer John N. Kennedy is polling at around 30%, with everyone else far behind. Unless the other Republicans start eating his support, he'll win this race.

Rating: Likely Democratic hold
Democrat: Congresswoman Chris Van Hollen (Democrat Barbara Mikulski retiring)
Republican: State Representative Kathy Szeliga?
Overview: (3/11/15) Thank goodness Senator Mikulski is retiring in a Presidential election year. While Maryland may be just about the bluest state in the country, Republicans there have handed Democrats a number of stinging defeats in mid-term elections. The real race here is the Democratic primary, which will likely pit Donna Edwards true-blue liberalism versus Chris Van Hollen's strong fundraising abilities.
(8/18/16) Donna Edwards might have better Democratic candidate, but in any case Van Hollen will cruise to victory.

Rating: Toss up
Republican: Roy Blunt
Democrat: Secretary of State Jason Kander
Overview: (12/18/10) Let me be blunt on Blunt. He's probably the most conservative member of the Senate. Blunt is a "birther," a distinction even the rabidly-right wing Jim DeMint doesn't have. In 2010, I thought the Democratic candidate, Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, would probably be able to beat him. But Carnahan ran a surprisingly bad campaign, and Blunt defeated her by a huge margin. He will not be easy to defeat in 2016.
(3/11/15) I've been blunt on Blunt, now let me express my candor regarding Kander. The Democratic Secretary of State is popular and well-known; in 2012 he won a squeaker of an election on the same night when Barack Obama was beaten in Missouri by almost 10 points. Can he beat Blunt? Probably not. But it's nice to see a somewhat-competitive race here. In too many parts of the country, Democrats have just given up.
(3/30/16) Roy Blunt's approval rating has cratered at just 25% in one poll, and 38% in another. There are no recent polls of this race or of Clinton vs. Trump in Missouri, but Kander's chances are improving.
(8/18/16) One recent poll shows Blunt leading by four, another shows him leading by seven even with two right-leaning independents in the race. Donald Trump's campaign may be imploding, but probably not enough to help Kander. Barring a major change in this race, Blunt will win.
(10/24/16) Astounding. That "major change in the race" I mentioned? Yeah, it's happened in the form of the total collapse Donald Trump's candidacy. Kander has caught Blunt in the polls, and is now narrowly forecasting Kander to win.

Outlook: Toss up
Democrat: Former Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto (incumbent Harry Reid retiring)
Republican: Congressman Joe Heck
Overview: (12/18/10) The 2010 Nevada Senate election was the greatest show in politics. First came Democrats suggesting that Senate Majority Leader Reid was so unpopular, he couldn't be reelected no matter who the Republicans nominated. Next came a likely opponent in the form of Republican Sue Lowden, who suggested that people should attempt to pay their medical bills by bartering chickens. Finally, The GOP nominated Sharron Angle,  a nutty, Scientology-friendly lightweight who once endorsed bringing back prohibition of alcohol. On election day, Nate Silver, the most respected prognosticator in the business, gave Angle an 83% change of winning. Joe's Prediction, however, correctly called the race for Reid. Ah, the memories. Ok, on to 2016. Reid will never be popular, and he's not getting any younger so this will likely be one of the most competitive races of the year.
(4/16/13) Reid says he intends to run in 2016. He survived 2010, so there's every reason to think he can win in the should-be-much-easier-for-Democrats year of 2016.
(4/14/15) Goodbye Harry. Nevada is a swing state. While George W. Bush was President, Democrats did very well in elections there. With Obama in office, Nevada has swung to the right, and there are many strong potential candidates on the GOP side. Republicans will be hoping this race will look like the 2012 Senate race, when a lot of voters supported the Democratic Presidential candidate, but didn't vote for the Democratic Senate candidate. In 2012, Obama won Nevada 531K to 463K, but the GOP won the Senate race 457K to 446K. As I predicted, the Democratic, Shelley Berkley, outperformed the polls, but still lost by 1% - almost one voter in 10 voted for Obama, but did not voter for Berkley.
(8/3/15) Republicans got the candidate they wanted in the person of Congressman Joe Heck, and a recent poll shows him with a big lead on Cortez Masto. The best pickup opportunity for the GOP.
(8/18/16) A new poll shows this race tied while also showing a 2% lead for Clinton over Trump. Obama won here by 6% four years ago, and I'm confident that as usual Nevada Democrats have better support than the polls indicate. Cortez Masto has momentum.
(10/24/16) Eight recent polls of this race; four showing Cortez Masto leading, three showing Heck ahead, one tie. However, Democrats are dominating the early voting in Nevada, and, (I can't say this enough times), Democrats always outperform the polls there. Barring a change in this race, I'll be calling it for the blue team.

New Hampshire
Rating: Leans Democratic takeover
Republican: Kelly Ayotte
Democrat: Governor Maggie Hassan
Overview: (12/18/10) Ayotte ran an impressive campaign in New Hampshire's open-seat race in 2010. In 2016, she'll first have to fend off challenges from the right to win renomination. Next, there's the fact the that 2016 is a national election year, and the last time New Hampshire had one of those, the Democratic Presidential nominee won by nearly 10%. To win, Ayotte will probably need some voters to split their ticket.
(10/27/15) Democrats have their dream nominee in popular Governor Maggie Hassan. Polls show a dead heat, but I don't see how Ayotte wins with Hillary versus either Trump or Rubio at the top of the ballot.
(8/18/16) Hassan is leading all polls, Clinton leads Trump here by nine points in one recent polls and by seventeen (!) in another. Ayotte circling the drain...
(10/24/16) Hassan leads narrowly in the polling aggregate.

North Carolina
Rating: Toss up
Republican: Richard Burr (incumbent)
Democrat: Former state representative Deborah Ross
Overview: (12/18/10) North Carolina is the state that likes to replace its Senators rather than reelect them. Due to a series of deaths, retirements and electoral defeats, Burr is the seventh man to hold this seat since 1975. And if 2008 is any indication, North Carolina is now a swing state in national elections. Burr however rallied from poor polling numbers to win in 2010, and he probably has the inside track in 2016.
(10/30/15) Deborah Ross is polling within 4 points of Burr, which is encouraging for a little-known candidate. I can see a path to victory for Ross, but it's a narrow one. Barack Obama carried North Carolina in 2008, and Hillary Clinton might do the same in 2016. That means some Clinton supports would have to crossover and support Burr for him to win. We can hope for some kind of scandal to drag Burr down, but he's likely too boring for that.
(3/30/16) Notes from a recent PPP poll summarize this one perfectly: "The Senate race is tight, with Richard Burr holding just a 5 point lead over Deborah Ross at 40/35, with Libertarian candidate Sean Haugh pulling 7%. To put the current state of the race in perspective Elizabeth Dole led Kay Hagan by 5 points on our first poll after the primary in 2008 too, so Ross is starting her upset bid in a very similar place to where Hagan started hers." The same poll shows Clinton leading Trump by two in North Carolina. Burr still has the advantage here, but only just barely.
(8/18/16) Ross has a 2% lead in the NBC/WSJ/Marist poll. The same poll shows Clinton leading Trump by 9%; that seems unlikely. It's too early to call this race anything other than a tossup, but Ross has a very good chance to win.

Rating: Leans Republican hold
Republican: Former Congressman Rob Portman
Democrat: Former Governor Ted Strickland
Overview: (12/18/10) In 2010, Ohioans elected former President George W. Bush's budget director as their Senator. Sort of like electing a pyromaniac as your Fire Chief. Any way, Ohio votes Republican more often than not, meaning Portman will probably win another term.
(3/11/15) Democrats have a top-tier recruit in the person of Former Governor Ted Strickland. Strickland was popular enough as Governor that he only lost his 2010 reelection bid by 2% in a very Republican year. Portman will not be easy to beat; he's an incredibly adept fundraiser. This race will be close, but Democrats will need all the breaks to win.
(10/27/15) Strickland has a small but consistent lead in the polls.  Assuming Hillary Clinton carries Ohio by at least three points, Stickland will probably win.
(3/30/16) Three recent polls show Clinton leading Trump by an average of 6% in Ohio, and the two most recent polls of this Senate race show Strickland leading by 1% and 2%. Portman is the better fundraiser, but Strickland has the edge in this race.
(8/18/16) This may be the one that got away. Portman is running an outstanding campaign; Strickland, not so much. Polls that showed Strickland with a narrow lead early this year now show Portman ahead. It's possible that Trump's sinking ship will take Portman down with him, but right now it looks like Portman is a good bet to win.

Rating: Leans Democratic pickup
Republican: Pat Toomey (incumbent)
Democrat: Former Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Katie McGinty
Overview: (12/18/10) 2010 saw a lot of painful defeats for Democrats. On election night, it looked like Democrat Admiral Joe Sestak was going to win a surprise victory in Pennsylvania. But when all the votes were counted, Pat Toomey, former President of the anti-sanity PAC Club for Growth, won the day. Republicans however cannot count on 2016 being as favorable to them as 2010 was. Toomey is vulnerable to any top-tier Democratic recruit.
(5/20/13) Sestak has declared for a rematch against Toomey. I don't normally go out on a limb this early, but I think Sestak is going to win. Consider: Toomey beat Sestak only 51% to 49% in that most Republican of years, 2010. In 2016, the Democratic nominee for President is likely to win by 6 points or more. There is probably not enough cross-over support from Democrats for a far-right candidate like Toomey to beat a well-known, top-tier candidate like Sestak. Toomey also has lackluster approval ratings, and I think he looks like kind of a jerk for somehow finding a way to blame President Obama for Toomey's own failure to get Republican Senators to support background checks for gun ownership.
(10/27/15) The picture here is cloudy. Democratic state party leaders don't like Sestak. McGinty is running to the left, and while that might resonate in 2016, she is not well-known.
(6/16/16) Katie McGinty is polling 3 points behind Toomey. That's pretty good considering her late entry to the race and low name recognition. Curiously, a new poll shows Clinton leading Trump by only 1 point in Pennsylvania. I'm sure Clinton will win by at least 6, probably more. Toomey may survive, but the odds are against him.
(8/18/16) McGinty is leading in all recent polls, Trump trails Clinton by double-digits in same. Barring a big change in this race, McGinty will win.

Rating: Guaranteed Democratic hold
Democrat: Patty Murray (incumbent)
Republican: Former state Representative Chris Vance
Overview: (12/18/10) Republicans talked a good game about beating Murray in both 2004 and 2010, then nominated terrible candidates to run against her. Murray should win a fifth term without a problem.
(8/18/16) When the nominee is the former Republican state party Chairman that means they're not even trying. Congratulations, Senator Murray.

Rating: Leans Democratic takeover
Republican: Rob Johnson (incumbent)
Democrat: Former Senator Russ Feingold
Overview: (12/18/10) This one is painful for me to write about, so I'll just quote myself from my comments on 2010's race between incumbent Democrat Russ Feingold and Rob Johnson: "So it's come to this. Russ Feingold, one of the smartest, most decent members of the Senate might lose to Rob Johnson, a man with no public policy experience who lies about his own background as he accepts the federal handouts that he claims to despise. What more is there to say? ...I just wish that if Russ is going to lose, it didn't have to be to such a completely meritless candidate."
(4/22/13) According to one source, there has been "speculation among Republicans that Johnson might not run in 2016 because his "direct approach to policy problems sometimes seemed to clash with the culture of the Senate."" This is a polite way of saying they don't like him and hope he doesn't run again. Johnson seems to be principally known for his pointed attacks on the State Department over the Benghazi affair, which he insisted on making despite the fact that he hadn't bothered to attend the briefings that might have given him the answers he claims are so important to him. A recent PPP poll put Johnson's approval rating at 37%, compared with 41% disapproval. Former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold led Johnson 52% to 42% in a hypothetical rematch. I have mixed feelings about Feingold seeking the nomination again. He's never really been that strong of a candidate. In 1998, a good year for Democrats, he barely squeaked by with a 50% to 48% reelection win. In 2010, he became the first Democratic incumbent Senator to lose a reelection bid in a blue or purple state in many years. On the other hand, he would seem to be going into the 2016 race with the wind at his back. His signature issue, campaign finance reform, is much more in the public spotlight since the Citizens United decision. And the Republican nominee, whomever he or she is, is going to need a lot of crossover support from Democrats. The Democratic Presidential nominee will probably win Wisconsin by at least 7%.
(3/11/15) A new PPP polls shows Feingold leading Johnson 50% to 41%. Johnson is now mired in accusations that he misled Congress and the public on the VA medical scandal. I see that Republican Governor Scott Walker's approval rating has also dropped. It's just possible that Wisconsin's recent love affair with right-wing Republicans is beginning to cool off. Hard to see how this race doesn't go blue in 2016.
(10/27/15) No one has stepped up to challenge Johnson on the Republican side, and polls show Feingold with a double-digit lead. Bye, bye, Johnson.

Races unlikely to become competitive:

Alaska: Republican Lisa Murkowski incumbent. Outlook: Unbeatable. Lost the GOP primary to Tea Bagger Joe Miller in 2010 and won the election as a write-in. Forget about it.

Alabama: Republican Richard Shelby incumbent. Outlook: Elected as a Democrat in 1986 and 1992, switched parties in 1994. What a jerk. Shelby will be 82 in 2016, but even if he retires, Alabama isn't exactly trending blue.

Arkansas: Republican John Boozman incumbent.
Outlook: (12/18/10) Boozman is a formidable politician, to say the least. One thing Republicans have not done well in the last few elections cycles is to offer serious challenges to incumbent Democratic Senators, yet Boozman stomped Blanche Lincoln by an incredible 21 percent in 2010.
(8/3/15) Democrats have no lack of well-known potential candidates here, mainly because so many Democrats have been voted out of office in Arkansas during the past few years. Boozman's not invincible; polls show former Governor Mike Beebe could beat him. Beebe's made it clear he's retired. But who knows, this race may yet come off the non-competitive list.

Connecticut: Democrat Richard Blumenthal incumbent. Outlook: Blumenthal has made some controversial statements that have threatened to derail his career, but he's a pretty safe bet to win another term.

Hawaii: Democrat Brian Schatz incumbent. Outlook: Schatz managed to fend off a primary challenge from a more conservative Democrat in the 2014 primary for the remaining two years of the late Dan Inouye's term. This seat is probably now his for life.

Idaho: Republican Mike Crapo incumbent. Outlook: With a name like Crapo, it has to be good.

Kansas: Republican Jerry Moran incumbent. Outlook: Quiz question: Who was George McGill? Answer: Mr. McGill was the last Democrat elected to the Senate from Kansas. That was in..get ready...1932!

New York: Democrat Chuck Schumer incumbent. Outlook: Schumer has become one of the most respected and powerful Senators in party history.

North Dakota: Republican John Hoeven incumbent. Outlook: Even as a freshman Senator running for reelection, Hoeven is probably the safest bet of the year.

Oklahoma: (1/8/15) Republican James Lankford incumbent. Outlook: Oklahoma is a one-party state now. Forget it.

Oregon: Democrat Ron Wyden incumbent. Outlook: The Oregon GOP has been on life support for a number of years now.

South Carolina: (1/8/15) Republican Tim Scott incumbent. I would think that Democrats could make this race competitive. Unfortunately, the blue team has been so devastated in some southern states they're just not taking statewide elections seriously any more.

South Dakota: Republican John Thune incumbent. Outlook: Democrats didn't even bother to field a candidate against Thune in 2010.

Utah: Republican Mike Lee incumbent. Outlook: Why does Utah even bother to hold statewide elections?

Vermont: Democrat Pat Leahy incumbent. Outlook: Leahy is a big fan of the Grateful Dead. Any attempt to defeat him for reelection will also be dead on arrival.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The 2010 Election (Let's Get This Over With)

It wasn't easy writing about the 2010 campaign for month after month with a growing sense of doom. And as Led Zeppelin sang, "The pain of war cannot exceed the woe of aftermath." Sigh. Ok, let's do this thing.

What went wrong, in one sentence: Any time unemployment is hovering near 10%, the people in power are going to lose the next election.

What went wrong, encapsulated in a single race. The open-seat race in Pennsylvania featured Republican Pat Toomey versus Democrat Joe Sestak. Toomey won 51% to 49%. A CNN/Time poll just before the election showed Toomey leading by four among likely voters, but Sestak winning by four among registered voters. So that means they polled a bunch of people who said they preferred the Democratic candidate, but who also said that they weren't voting this year. In races all over the country, Democrats faced this same problem.

Again, Democrats stayed home due to disappointment with the President and Congress over the economy. But that was only the tip of the iceberg. Democrats are disappointed about a lot of other things that the President and Congress didn't deliver. This subject deserves, and will get, a whole post of its own sometime soon right here on this blog.

Some other observations

Democrats aren't likely to get the House back in 2012
So maybe Obama will win in two years, and Democrats will flip the 20-odd seats they need to recapture House? Yes, it's possible. In fact, if Sarah Palin is the nominee, I'd almost guarantee it. But there are three reasons why Republicans are likely to keep the House for a few years. First, it's always the case that after the House changes hands, the survivors in the losing party retire in large numbers. Just wait and see; a bunch of House Democrats, finding that it's no fun to be in the minority, will move on to greener pastures (meaning they'll retire to take high-paying lobbying jobs). That means a bunch of open-seat races next time around, some of which will be juicy targets for the Republicans. Second, the decennial redistricting of the House happens next year, and it couldn't come at a worse time for Democrats, who just handed a bunch of state legislatures and Governor's offices over to the Republicans. That means the Republicans will totally control the redistricting process in a lot of states, and will naturally draw up the new districts so as to eliminate as many Democrats as possible. Lastly, in 2010 we saw corporate groups pour money into elections, mostly to the benefit of Republicans. Get ready to see that as a permanent fixture of American democracy.

Tea Party candidates were a disaster in statewide elections
Given a choice between semi-sensible conservatives and totally wacko Tea Party candidates as their nominees, Republicans mostly went for the tea baggers, and cost themselves a lot of races and a ton of money. Specifically:
* The GOP cost itself the Senate seats in Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware and Nevada by nominating tea baggers over more electable and only marginally less conservative candidates.
* The Republicans also chose tea baggers over more electable candidates in Florida and Kentucky. And while they won those races, they were forced to spend many millions of dollars that they would not have had to had they chosen nominees with broader appeal.

The biggest losers: Blue Dog Democrats

If you're not familiar with the Blue Dogs, they are House members, "identifying themselves as moderate-to-conservative Democrats committed to financial and national security and favoring compromise and bipartisanship over ideology and party discipline." The majority of the Blue Dogs lost their reelection bids this year; 27 went down to defeat and 26 survived. I've generally been an advocate of the Blue Dogs, because I'd rather see swing districts won by conservative Democrats than conservative Republicans, and because it's good to have debate within the Democratic party.

Unfortunately, for the past two years the Blue Dogs have foolishly sided with Republican nonsense more often than with their own party's agenda. As Markos said, the brunt of Democratic losses in the House were, "felt by the very same people who helped obstruct the Democratic agenda, who fought middle class tax cuts and the Public Option, and who fueled the "Dems are divided" narrative. We'll get rid of the hypocrites who, like their Republican BFF's, scream about "fiscal responsibility" while fighting desperately to cut taxes on the wealthiest." Now do you get it, Blue Dogs? If you want Democrats to vote for you, you're going to have to consider supporting the Democratic agenda. You're not going to magically win election by getting the votes of "conservative independents" or something.

I'm amazed to say this, but it was Senator Harry Reid, in his race against Tea bagger Sharron Angle, who showed Democrats how to win in a tough year like 2010. That is, to energize supporters by continuing to support and defend the Democratic agenda and the party's accomplishments. As Michael Blood of Huffington Post wrote, "Reid pointed to Angle's proposal to privatize Social Security as a defining contrast between them. He calls it one of the great government programs in history."

And finally: Congratulations, Governor Quinn
Governor Pat Quinn of Illinois trailed in all the polls right up to election day. I never met him personally in the years I worked in Illinois politics, although I knew some of the people who worked for him. Quinn is one of the nicest, most decent public servants in America, and I'm very pleased he was able to beat the odds and win election to a four-year term.

On to 2012. We're going to need more than hope.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Can Republicans now buy every election?

Ladies and gentlemen, democracy is for sale. And the corporations buying our democracy are only interested in one thing: electing Republicans who want to eliminate taxes and regulations on corporations and Wall Street.

In January of 2010, the US Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in the case of Citizens United v Federal Election Commission that the government may not ban political spending by corporations in candidate elections.

As the New York Times said the day after the decision, the ruling, "overruled two precedents: Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce, a 1990 decision that upheld restrictions on corporate spending to support or oppose political candidates, and McConnell v. Federal Election Commission, a 2003 decision that upheld the part of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 that restricted campaign spending by corporations and unions.

The 2002 law, usually called McCain-Feingold, banned the broadcast, cable or satellite transmission of “electioneering communications” paid for by corporations or labor unions from their general funds in the 30 days before a presidential primary and in the 60 days before the general elections."

To recap, this disastrous decision by the Court means that corporations and other groups can not only spend an unlimited amount of money on electioneering, but also that they don't have to reveal the source of their funding. Suppose that a Saudi Arabian prince wants to give millions to the US Chamber of Commerce to run attack ads on a Congressman from New York. He's now perfectly free to do so. And guess what? The Chamber of Commerce doesn't have to tell anyone where they got the money to run the ads.

I recommend this article from USA Today for text and graphics that demonstrate the huge boost that Republicans got in 2010 from "outside groups" thanks the the Citizens United decision.

"Conservative spending has topped $187 million this year, up from $19.6 million in 2006, the last midterm election,"

"In the 48 House contests in which outside groups spent a combined $1 million or more, Republicans won two-thirds, a USA TODAY analysis of election results and campaign reports shows. In one Upstate New York district, conservative groups such as American Crossroads, the Tea Party Express and the 60 Plus Association bought $2.8 million in negative ads attacking freshman Democratic Rep. Scott Murphy on health care, helping Republican Christopher Gibson win 55% of the vote.

Here's another way to look at this year's spending by outside groups, as detailed in the same article. The top four groups, led by the US Chamber of Commerce and groups formed by Karl Rove and Wall Street hedge fund moguls spent a total of $97 million, virtually all of which went to Republicans. The Service Employees International Union, which gives money principally to Democrats, was a distant 5th with $15 million spent.

Last year, I wrote about how Democrats are gradually gaining an inherent advantage in electoral politics due to the country's changing population demographics. To summarize those observations, the Republican party derives nearly all of its support from suburban college-educated whites and rural whites with less than a college education. And because those two groups are making up a smaller and smaller percentage of American voters, it's becoming harder and harder for Republicans to win elections. I mention this because the Citizens United verdict may be just what the doctor ordered for Republicans to combat the Democrats' increasing demographic advantage. Most elections are won by the side who raises and spends the most money. So if corporations are going to start giving Republicans a blank check every year, then Republicans are going to win.

The conservative corporate-backed groups who bought so many elections this year like to claim that they are striking, "a decisive blow for freedom."

But isn't it a funny sort of "freedom?" We're already familiar with the "freedom" of corporations to rely on Americans as their principal consumer market, while refusing to give Americans good jobs. As I noted in September, corporate profits in America are currently near their all time high, even as unemployment continues to hover near 10%. Corporations also insist on the "freedom" to take all the advantages that America has to offer while giving nothing in return. Exxon-Mobile, for example, routinely makes about $1 billion dollars in profit per week and pays zero income taxes in this country, due to its off-shore incorporations. Then of course there's the insistence on "freedom" from government regulation, even as episodes like the sub-prime credit crisis continue to prove that deregulation leads to disaster.

Now cap all of those "freedoms" with the "freedom" to buy elections, and to tell no one where the money came from. Isn't it great to be free?

Saturday, November 06, 2010

2011 and 2012 Gubernatorial Predictions

Most recent updates: 8/27/12: DE, NH, NC, WA

Three states will hold their gubernatorial elections in 2011 and eleven will in 2012.

Delaware 2012

Rating: Likely Democratic hold
Democrat: Jack Markell (incumbent)
Republican: Terry Spence, former state Speaker of the House?
Overview: (11/6/10) Markell has had a very successful first term in office and should cruise to victory in blue-state Delaware.
(8/27/12) It's hard to even find information on this race. This suggests Markell has nothing to worry about.

Indiana 2012
Rating: Likely Republican hold
Republican: Congressman Mike Pence (incumbent Mitch Daniels term limited)
Democrat: Former Speaker of the state House John Gregg
Overview: (11/6/10) This is shaping up to be the most interesting of the 2012 races for Governor. Incumbent Daniels is term-limited, opening the door for rising Republican star Mike Pence. Former Senator Bayh may weigh in for the Democrats, who can expect a good turnout in Indiana in 2012. One of the biggest surprises of 2008 was President Obama's victory over John McCain in the Hoosier State.
(6/9/12) Pence will cruise to victory.

Kentucky 2011
Rating: Leans Democratic hold
Democrat: Steve Beshear (incumbent)
Republican: State Senate President David Williams?
Overview: (1/16/11) Democrats are never going to have an easy time in red-state Kentucky, but I've yet to see any bold predictions that Republicans are going to topple Beshear this year. His polling numbers are solid.

Louisiana 2011
Rating: Likely Republican hold
Republican: Bobby Jindal (incumbent)
Democrat: ?
Overview: (1/16/11) Huge numbers of Democratic voters left Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina and never went back. Given the state's hard swing to the right, the Louisiana Democratic Party is having a difficult time finding candidates willing to be sacrificial lambs in statewide elections.

Mississippi 2011
Rating: Likely Republican hold
Republican: Lt Governor Phil Bryant (Haley Barbour term limited)
Democrat: Hattiesburg Mayor Johnny Dupree?
Overview: (1/16/11) Phil Bryant is a very seasoned politician, and about as close to a sure-fire winner as you'll ever see in an open-seat race with a contested primary.

Missouri 2012
Rating: Likely Democratic hold
Democrat: Jay Nixon (incumbent)
Republican: Businessman Dave Spence
Overview: (11/6/10) This one is tough to gauge. President Obama nearly carried Missouri in 2008, but he is not currently popular is this part of the country. That may prove troublesome for incumbent Democrat Jay Nixon.
(6/9/12) Given that Republican prospects in Missouri this year are pretty good, it's strange that their gubernatorial candidate will be a nobody like Dave Spence. Nixon has nothing to worry about.
(8/27/12) Nixon was leading by a wide margin even before the Akin disaster crippled the GOP ticket in Missouri.

Montana 2012
Rating: Toss up
Democrat: State Attorney General Steve Bullock (incumbent Brian Schweitzer term limited)
Republican: Former congressman Rick Hill
Overview: (11/6/10) This open-seat race is anybody's game, but the northern plains are more friendly to Republicans.
(6/9/12) Current polling shows this race as a dead heat. I think Bullock has a slight edge. Rick Hill has won statewide before, but he only managed 34% of the vote in the GOP primary.

New Hampshire 2012
Rating: Leans Democratic hold
Democrat: Former state Senator Margaret Hassan or former state Senator Jackie Cilley (incumbent John Lynch retiring)
Republican: Attorney Ovide Lamontagne or former state Representative Kevin Smith
Overview: (11/6/10) Lynch emerged victorious in 2010 against a tough Republican challenge. Things will probably be easier in 2012 when he seeks a third 2-year term.
(6/9/12) Ovide Lamontagne is a New Hampshire attorney who's been running for office for two decades without winning anything. Polls show him tied with either likely Democratic candidate. Lamontagne is just not a strong candidate, and I think New Hampshire is likely to go blue this year.
(8/27/12) The most recent PPP poll shows that a Hassan versus Lamontagne is most likely, with Hassan leading the Republican by 2 points for the November election. So far so good.

North Carolina 2012
Rating: Leans Republican takeover
Democrat: Former Charlotte mayor Walter Dalton (incumbent Beverly Perdue retiring)
Republican: Lt Governor Pat McCrory
Libertarian: Perennial candidate Barbara Howe
Overview: (11/6/10) Governor Perdue's approval ratings are nothing to write home about. She's likely to face a stiff Republican challenge. Many were shocked when President Obama carried North Carolina and Perdue won a toss up race in 2008. Can it happen again?
(6/9/12) Polls show this race as competitive, but Dalton is a much better known candidate. I think Obama may be able to beat Romney here this year, but the cards are stacked against the blue team in the gubernatorial race.
(8/27/12) Libertarian Barbara Howe is polling around 7%. Virtually all the votes she would get would be siphoned off from McCrory, giving Dalton a shot at winning this race. So far though, Dalton is polling remarkably badly.

North Dakota 2012
Rating: Likely Republican hold
Republican: Jack Dalrymple (incumbent)
Democrat: State Senator Ryan Taylor
Overview: (11/6/10) Dalrymple has just inherited the Governor's office from Senator-elect John Hoeven. He'd have to screw things up pretty badly to not win a term in his own right in conservative North Dakota.
(6/9/12) Dalrymple has raised enough money in this race to silence any doubts about his winning (if there was any doubt in the first place).

Utah 2012
Rating: Likely Republican hold
Republican: Gary Herbert (incumbent)
Democrat: retired General Peter Cooke
Overview: I had a dream where a Democrat won a statewide race in Utah. I also had a dream where it rained White Castle cheeseburgers. It's 1,600 miles from my house to the nearest White Castle.

Vermont 2012
Rating: Likely Democratic hold
Democrat: Peter Shumlin (incumbent)
Republican: State Senator Randy Brock
Overview: Shumlin won a very close open-seat race in 2010, but he probably has an easy path to reelection in 2012.
(6/9/12) Shumlin might double his opponent's vote total.

Washington 2012
Rating: Leans Democratic hold
Democrat: Congressman Jay Inslee (incumbent Christine Gregoire retiring)
Republican: State Attorney General Rob McKenna
Overview (11/6/10): In 2004, after multiple recounts, Christine Gregoire beat Dino Rossi by 129 votes out of more than 2.7 million cast. 2008 saw a wild rematch against Rossi, in which she beat him easily one day after the Seattle Post-Intelligencer all but guaranteed victory for Rossi. Gregoire may or may not run for a third term in 2012. The likely Republican candidate is already known however; Attorney General Rob McKenna has been grooming himself for the job for years.
(7/3/11) A new poll shows Inslee with a 3-point lead over McKenna. Unless something happens to Inslee late in the game that causes voters to abandon him, this race is already over. Obama crushed McCain in my home state by 17 points in 2008, and the number of crossover votes that McKenna might get from Obama voters in 2012 is nowhere near the number he would need to win this race.
(2/29/12) Please forgive my irrational exuberance over Inslee. McKenna now has a substantial lead in the polls. I'm also seeing his ads all over the darn place. I sort of get the impression that Inslee is using a rope-a-dope strategy and plans to come out fighting later in the contest. I certainly hope so.
(4/2/12) The very reliable polling firm PPP has this race as a tie. Considering the way McKenna has owned the media coverage so far, that has to be good news for Inslee.
(6/9/12) Documents show that while KcKenna was a King County Councilman, he illegally used his office for campaign activities. Whether or not this scandal will get a lot of attention remains to be seen.
(8/27/12) The most recent polls of this race show Inslee ahead. A recent SurveyUSA poll shows Obama leading Romney by 17 points here. If McKenna wants Obama voters to crossover and support him, he's got to make headlines. And he's just not doing that.

West Virginia 2012
Rating: Likely Democratic hold
Democrat: Earl Ray Tomblin (incumbent)
Republican: Businessman Bill Maloney
Overview: (11/6/10) As President of the West Virginia Senate, Tomblin inherited the Governor's mansion after Governor Manchin was elected to fill the remainder of the late, great Robert Byrd's Senate term. Tomblin was a member of the state Senate for 30 years. Presuming he wants to win a term as Governor in his own right, he's going to need his high name recognition and a lot of other resources, as President Obama is likely to lose West Virginia by a substantial margin.
(6/9/12) This race is a rematch of last year's special election, when Tomblin beat Maloney by 2.3%. President Obama may run very poorly here, but the only recent poll of this race shows Tomblin with a big lead.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

2010 Election Predictions

Current Senate, 111th Congress: 59 D, 41 R
Prediction: Senate, 112th Congress: 54 D, 46 R

Republicans to pickup AR, IN, ND, PA and WI.
Notes: I'm predicting Democratic holds in Illinois (open), Nevada (Harry Reid) and Colorado (Michael Bennet). These three races are essentially tied, and I might be wrong on all of them. Democrats have some chance of turning a Republican seat in Alaska or Kentucky and a chance of holding Pennsylvania. But don't count on it. The loss of Russ Feingold in Wisconsin is devastating. I'm sure I'll have more to say about that later.

Current House, 111th Congress: 256 D, 179 R
Prediction: House, 112th Congress: 228 R, 207 D

I've never tried to predict the House on a seat-by-seat basis before, so here goes:
Republican gains: AL-2, AR-1, AR-2, AZ-1, AZ-5, CA-11, CO-3, CO-4, FL-2, FL-22, FL-24, GA-2, GA-8, IL-11, IL-14, IN-8, IN-9, KS-3, LA-3, MD-1, MI-1, MI-7, MO-4, MS-1, MS-4, NC-2, NH-1, NH-2, NM-2, ND-AL, NV-3, NY-20, NY-29, OH-1, OH-6, OH-15, OH-16, OR-5, PA-3, PA-7, PA-8, PA-10, PA-11, SC-5, TN-4, TN-6, TN-8, TX-17, TX-23, VA-2, VA-5, WV-1, WA-3, WI-7, WI-8.
Democratic gains: AZ-3, DE-AL, HI-1, IL-10, LA-02, WA-8.

Notes: GOP to gain 49 seats. I've carried a torch just as long as I could for the Democrats to hold onto the House. The pundits and markets however are unanimous on this one: the GOP will gain the 39+ House seats it needs to win control.

The race for control of the House is all about the rust belt. The key to Republican gains this year is the fact that the GOP is going to pick up the Governor's offices in Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and possibly in Illinois. Four of those six races are not even close, and that means that incumbent Democrats down the ticket are going to suffer.

House Democrats got some help in New York with the collapse of Republican Carl Paladino's candidacy for Governor. A poll in late September showed Paladino within 6 points of Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. But that was before a series of homophobic remarks by Paladino left his campaign in freefall, so that by late October the New York Times was showing a 35-point lead for Cuomo. Before Paladino's collapse, many pundits had been predicting that Republicans would pick up at least 4 and possibly as many as 8 Democratic House seats in New York. Now I'm betting that the GOP won't pick up more than 2 seats.

Democrats to pickup CA, CT, HI, MN, FL and VT.
to pickup IA, KS, ME, MI, OH, OK, NM, PA, TN and WI.
Independent to pickup RI.

Notes: The races in Florida, Oregon and Vermont are all extremely close, but I'm making the same call as Nate Silver of the New York Times on all three, so I'm probably in good shape. The controversial pick here is that Governor Quinn will hold on in Illinois. I just don't believe that the Illinois GOP has a strong enough get-out-the-vote machine to win.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

2012 Presidential Diary: #3 - The Republican Field

I want to wrap up this first series on the 2012 Presidential contenders, so that I can get on with making my final predictions for the mid-terms and writing about the subsequent fallout.

Here's the current gallup poll on preferences for the Republican nomination in 2012:

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney: 19%
Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin: 16%
Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee: 12%
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich: 9%
Texas Congressman Ron Paul: 7%
Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty: 3%
Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour: 3%
Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels: 2%
Indiana Congressman Mike Pence: 1%

Since I don't think Sarah Palin will run, I'm guessing that one of these men will be the Republican nominee. Here are the strengths and weaknesses of each candidate.

Mitt Romney
PRO: Romney finished second in the 2008 primaries. This means that he already has a nationwide network of supporters set up if he wants to run again. Also, the Republican nomination has traditionally gone to whichever candidate seems to be "next in line." For example, Ford got the nomination in 1976 by narrowly defeating Reagan who got the nomination in 1980 by narrowly defeating Bush who got the nomination in 1988 etc. Romney looks great on tv.
CON: Being the former one-term Governor of "Taxachusetts" does not resonate with a lot of today's Republican faithful. He holds a number of moderate positions on the issues that are an anathema to the dogmatic Tea Party of today. Also, Christian conservatives are cool on Mormons.

Mike Huckabee
PRO: Huckabee is the only candidate who has already run for President and who identifies strongly with the white, southern, evangelical Christians who most despise President Obama.
CON: Huckabee is old news. He really did surprisingly badly in his 2008 run for the nomination. He's also developed a taste for making controversial comments that seem "un-Presidential," and he has some skeletons in his closet from his days as Governor of Arkansas.

Newt Gingrich
PRO: He is considered to be some kind of intellectual leading light by many on the right. God knows why. He has a knack for giving fiery speeches.
CON: Where to begin? His rock-bottom popularity among the general public? That fact that he was driven out of Congress in 1998 by fellow Republicans? His three marriages? His many, many scandals?

Ron Paul
PRO: Paul is beloved by millions of libertarians and tea-baggers.
CON: Paul will be 77 in 2012; that's too old for comfort. He is also despised by party big-wigs who aren't too pleased by Paul's stunts like holding a "rival" convention for himself while the Republican convention was going on in 2008.

Tim Pawlenty
PRO: Pawlenty is intelligent. He is scandal-free.
CON: Pawlenty is very boring. Conservatives consider Minnesota to be the "land of 10,000 taxes." He has zero identity with the Christian right.

Haley Barbour
PRO: Barbour is a very smart fellow who has brought many good jobs to the impoverished state of Mississippi.
CON: Americans expect their presidential candidates to look good on tv. Barbour has what we call "a face made for radio."

Mitch Daniels
PRO: A quiet but effective executive leader.
CON: Did I mention that Daniels is quiet? Few people know who he is. Also, he has a comb-over that Newsweek has described as "borderline delusional."

Mike Pence
PRO: Well, let's look at the Republican check list. Is he a gray-haired, white male over 50? Yes. Is he of northern European descent and Protestant religion? Yes. Does he live 1,000 miles from an ocean? Yes. Ok, he's qualified to be the nominee.
CON: Mike who?

Good luck, gentlemen (but not too good).

Saturday, October 16, 2010

2012 Presidential Diary: #2 - Sarah Palin

"She is not going to be president and will not be the Republican nominee unless the party wants to lose at least 44 states." - George Will of the Washington Post, writing about Sarah Palin earlier this year.

There is much about the life of former Governor Sarah Palin that makes me jealous. To be able to make or break the careers of both entrenched and budding politicians merely by offering or withholding an endorsement of their campaigns. To have one's political views ghostwritten into bestselling books. To make speeches to adoring fans. To appear, or choose not to appear, on any tv network at any time. And to make more than a million dollars a month without actually working for a living. Now there's a life that I would love.

And if I had that life, would I abandon it to run for President? To spend 18 hours a day on the campaign trail? Just so I can get the toughest job in the world, being President of the United States? No, I don't think I would. And what if I get the nomination, then lose the election? Then I'd be the object of scorn and the butt of jokes, and I'd probably languish into obscurity. No, I wouldn't be interested in that.

Nor do I don't think Sarah Palin will give up the life she has to run for President. Yes, she's been teasing conservative leaders about running, but I don't think she's serious. And not just because she'd be giving up her gravy train life to run for the nation's highest office.

Sarah Palin may never have read a newspaper, but I'm confident that she has some idea what her popularity numbers look like. What they look like, in fact, are the approval numbers of someone who couldn't win a national election if her opponent was a flu virus.

In November of 2009, Palin had an public favorability rating of 43%, unchanged from a year earlier when she'd been the Republican nominee for Vice President. But jumping forward another year, we find that today her approval rating has plummeted to just 22%.

It's a strange contrast. With just a wave of her hand, Sarah Palin destroyed the career of fellow Alaskan Senator Lisa Murkowski by endorsing her obscure primary opponent Joe Miller. Yet at the same time, Palin has the approval of only 44% of voters who identify as Republicans.

Palin may not enjoy widespread approval among conservatives, but what she does have is the support of the Republican party's most devout activists. This means that she could probably get the nomination in 2012 if she wants it. The nomination doesn't go to the candidate who people think is the most electable, or even the most popular. It goes to the candidate whose supporters show up to vote in the primaries and caucuses.

And in 2010 at least, the Republican primaries are being dominated by Tea Party activists, a group with which Palin is closely aligned. And one thing's for sure: the Tea Party decides which candidate to back based on orthodoxy, not on electability. Case in point: this year's Senate race in Delaware, where popular Republican Congressman Mike Castle appeared to be lock for the GOP nomination and victory in November. That was until an endorsement by Sarah Palin secured the nomination for crazy wing-nut Christine O'Donnell. Palin and the Tea Party would rather lose the seat to the Democrats than see a Republican who might not be 100% conservative win. Perhaps they'll take the same approach to the Presidential race in 2012. We can hope so.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

2012 Presidential Diary: #1 - How Obama Would Lose

The 2012 Presidential race will begin to unfold as soon as the 2010 mid-terms are concluded. I've decided to jump the gun a little and write my first 2012 diary. It's going to be a long time before we know who Obama's opponent will be. But one thing we do know: the 2012 race will probably be decided by the same swing states that decided each of the past three Presidential elections.

So if Obama were to lose, what would it look like? Let's begin by looking at the 2008 electoral map of Obama's 365 to 173 victory over McCain.
Next, we consider the 2010 census, which will shift some electoral votes, principally to the sunbelt and Republican-friendly territory. Texas, for example, may gain 4 more votes. If Obama carries exactly the same states and districts that he did in 2008, he's likely to win 6 fewer votes overall, for a 359 to 179 victory.

That means that the Republicans have to find 91 more electoral votes among the blue areas in the map above. So how would they manage to accomplish this?

First of all, if the Republicans are going to win, it means that they're going to carry all the serious red-state territory that Obama narrowly won in 2008. That means Indiana, North Carolina, Virginia and Nebraska's 2nd district, which Obama carried by 1.0%, 0.3%, 6.3%, and 1.2% respectively.
That boots the GOP tally by 40 to 219. They need 51 more.

They can get half of that by winning Florida, which Obama carried by 2.8%. If the Republicans carry Florida, then it gets easy. They just need to carry one more large swing state and one smaller one. For instance, adding Ohio and New Mexico would give them exactly 270.

Without Florida, it gets harder for the GOP, but not impossible. They following combinations would do it: The states they won in 2008, plus IN, NC, VA, NE-2 and,

"Revenge of the rust belt scenario:" The GOP carries Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan, winning 273 to 265.
"Looks like 2000 scenario:" The GOP carries Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada out west, while also carrying two of Obama's rust belt states (OH, PA and MI).

Of course the Republicans need to do all this without losing any states they won in 2008. I'm inclined to think that Obama would have carried Arizona had not favorite-son John McCain been the GOP nominee. Hopefully the Republicans will just make it easy for Obama by nominating Sarah Palin. But that's a topic for another day.