Election Eve Analysis and Predictions (Updated Below)
Hello Bloggers, Senator Bulworth here
Thanks again to Steve for the invitation to post while he undergoes jury duty.
The Washington Post and the NY Times both have headlines today reporting that the so-called "generic ballot" shows the Democrat's edge shrinking. Two weeks ago, Democrats led among likely voters 51-39; Now that lead is down to 47-43, although the WashPost/ABC poll has the lead at 6%, just one below that enjoyed by Republicans in 1994.
Among the reasons to be guarded about tomorrow's outcome are of course the GOP's much vaunted turnout ground game and the continuing important--and some would say disproportionate--role played by rural voters, as discussed in this NY Times op-ed by Brian Mann (subscription required).
In addition, some races, particularly for the U.S. Senate, have been marked by the candidate's personalities and advertising battles, which of course the press tends to play up, over and beyond campaign issues. Harold Ford was probably a long shot at best in Tennessee, but the ad wars and debates over the candidate's personality and character have superceded (at least from the outside) issue like the Iraq war.
In New Jersey, new Governor Jon Corzine appointed Robert Menendez, a House member, to fill the remaining year of Corzine's Senate term. Menendez was a controversial choice as he has, shall we say, some political baggage, whether deserved or not. Menendez is popular with the state's large Hispanic population, however. Nonetheless, I think Rob Andrews, a House member from Southern New Jersey would have been a better pick. But to top it all off, the Republicans nominated former Governor and 911 Commission Member Tom Kean's son to run against Menendez. There are probably people in New Jersey who think the former governor is the one on the ballot. So the New Jersey race may play out closer than it would have normally under other circumstances.
In Maryland, voters chose a bland, white, centrist House member, Ben Cardin to replace retiring Senator Paul Sarbanes while Republicans nominated Michael Steele, the Lt. Governor. Steele is more charismatic and is black, a factor that led to his endorsement by several Black Democrats last week. If Steele maintains his share of the GOP vote and gains among Democratic voters, this race could last through the night.
So in New Jersey and Maryland, two traditionally Blue States, what should have been no-brainer Democratic gains in a bad year for the GOP may not turn out that way.
Nevertheless, the GOP hasn't had much go its way for the last year and in particular, in the last two months. Just as the Mark Foley scandal was subsiding, another one involving influential evangelist Ted Haggart heated up, leading to his resignation as head of the National Association of Evangelicals and his firing as Senior Pastor of the mega-church, New Life, in Colorado Springs. And of course, the news from Iraq has continued to be bad, despite the sentence declared yesterday in the trial of Saddam Hussein. Which leads to this point by conservative columnist George Will:
Passion drives turnout; anger is a passion; contentment is not. Is there anger at incumbents generally, or only at Republican incumbents?
For awhile it appeared that Senate Republican incumbents in Montana and Rhode Island looked about finished while one in Missouri appeared to be barely hanging on. Only in Ohio and Pennsylvania, though, did it appear Senate Republican incumbents were in significant, perhaps insurmountable, trouble. Now the Montana and Rhode Island races have tightened. At this point, Democrats might do well to gain Ohio and Pennsylvania while HOLDING Maryland and New Jersey.
The House side would normally be even more problematic given the role of rural voters noted above, as well as the effect of redistricting has had on marginalizing minority and other Democratic voters in states like Texas. Yet analysts such as Stuart Rothenberg are predicting a Democratic Party gain of between 25 and 30 seats. That estimate, however, was given presumably before the generic ballot tallies mentioned above were reported.
With all of this being said, here are my predictions:
U.S. Senate: Democrats +2
U.S. House: Democrats +6
Let's hope I'm being overly pessimistic.
UPDATE: Josh Marshall, Steve Benen at TAPPED, and others have documented that the new polls showing a much closer race between Democrats and Republicans nationally are offset either by concurrent or new polls still showing a stronger Democratic lead. So, not to panic just yet.
At the same time, so we're not totally flying in the dark here, this Stuart Rothenberg classification from last Thursday gives some structure to the way things might break down tomorrow. It identifies 20 races that are toss-ups, and they're all Republican-incumbent seats. Another 10 Republican seats are listed as toss-up/tilt GOP; another 10 are toss-up/tilt Dem, where seven of the seats are held by the GOP. So at this point, we're already up to 37 GOP seats in play. Next, there are seven seats identified as lean Democratic, with six of these being current GOP seats, making our total of GOP seats in play=43. Finally, there are four seats where the Democrat is favored, three of which are GOP incumbents, bringing our maximum total of GOP seats in play to 46. That appears to be the upper end of this thing, with no Democratic seats listed as toss-ups, tilt GOP, lean GOP or GOP favored. If we toss out the ten seats classified as toss-up/tilt GOP, that lowers it to 33. If you figure half of the pure-toss-ups breaking the Democrats' way, you get 23 seats, which would be sufficient for taking control of the House, albeit narrowly.