My Midterm Musings November 2, 2010Posted by Sean Varner in Democracy, Politics, Republican Party, Uncategorized.
No election day would be complete without my underqualified analysis and predictions on the day’s outcome. I have been a poll-junkie over the past several months, and have read up on as many House and Senate races as I could. It will be no surprise that Republicans will have a very good night, the question has just become how much of one it will be. The GOP will almost certainly retake the House, and pick up a minimum of 7 Senate seats, possibly as many as 9. So without further ado, here are some of my predictions and races to watch:
Final Senate Tally: Net gain of 8 seats
Final House Tally: Net gain of 57 seats
Critical GOP Gains: Illinois, Colorado, Nevada - If Republicans can pick off President Obama’s old Senate seat, it will be a huge morale victory and portend big gains in the Great Lakes region. GOP candidates are already doing very well in every state bordering Illinois (WI, IA, IN, KY, and MO), so Mark Kirk has a better than even shot of pulling this off. Colorado’s GOP candidate, Ken Buck, has seen his margin in the polls tighten over the past month, but his lead has been consistent. Assuming the Colorado gubernatorial debacle does not peel away votes from him, he should pull off a narrow victory. Few Senate races have gotten as much media attention, or outside money, as Sharron Angle’s bid to upset Senator Harry Reid in Nevada. Although this race has been within the margin of error for months, expect Reid to be narrowly defeated by night’s end.
Longest Wait: Alaska - In all likelihood, the final results of the Alaska Senate race will not be known for days, or even weeks, after voting ends tonight. The 3-way contest between Republican Joe Miller, Democrat Scott McAdams, and Republican-running-as-an-independent-write-in Lisa Murkowski (the current senator who lost her primary), has been a roller coaster. Miller, who enjoyed a lead for months, has seen his support slip as moderates and Republicans flock to Murkowski. My prediction is that Murkowski will come in first, Miller in second, and McAdams in third. However, many of her write-in votes may be invalidated by the courts, so this could be a replay of the Minnesota senate contest two years ago.
Biggest Open-Seat Blowout for Democrat: Delaware – Delaware Republicans nominated an unelectable conservative in their deep blue state. Democrat Chris Coons will walk away with this one by at least 15 points.
Biggest Open-Seat Blowout for Republican: North Dakota - Next to only the Kansas and Utah races, this one has the best chance of the Republican, the popular governor John Hoeven, crossing the 70% threshold.
Biggest Surprise of the Night: Republican John Rease wins in West Virginia - The Mountaineers are traditionally Democratic but have backed Republicans in the past several presidential elections. The Democrat running to fill Robert Byrd’s old seat, Governor Joe Manchin, boasts a popularity rate above 60%. His GOP rival is a successful businessman, but he has a favorable rating far below the governor. If West Virginians elect Raese, it will clearly be a signal that they are deeply dissatisfied with President Obama’s agenda. If they elect Manchin, it will also be a signal that they are deeply dissatisfied with the ruling party (witness his ad where he shoots a copy of the Cap and Trade bill). Expect Manchin to be the most conservative Democrat in the chamber.
Don’t Count Them Out: Fiorina in CA and Rossi in WA – Although both of these candidates are down in the polls, their challenges have become the toughest incumbents Barbara Boxer (CA) and Patty Murray (WA) have yet faced. California’s contest will hinge on turnout (Democratic likely to be higher here than in the rest of the country due to the marijuana initiative) and the fallout from the tumultuous governor’s race. While Rossi has come within striking distance of Murray, it may be too little too late. Almost all of Washington votes by absentee ballot or early voting, so the contest was likely decided over the past couple weeks.
Bellweather for Anti-Incumbency: Barletta Beats Kanjorski in PA - In 2008, Democrat Paul Kanjorski (PA-11) was reelected to his 13th term with just 52% of the vote. President Obama carried the district by a much wider margin. If Republican Lou Barletta pulls off the upset, it could well be a signal that voters across the country are willing to vote out their own long-serving representatives, even though their seniority often brings influence and federal dollars to the district.
Bellweather for Northeast Comeback: Hanna Knocks Off Arcuri in NY - Democrat Michael Arcuri (NY-24) won his second term in 2008 with just 52%. The district he represents has a slight Republican registration advantage. Currently only 2 members of New York’s 29 House districts are Republicans. If the GOP is to have any hope of establishing a firm foothold in the majority, it will have to wrest away seats like this in the northeast that flipped in 2006 and 2008 to Democrats. Republicans cannot hope to have a lasting majority if they are locked out of the 3rd biggest state in the country (Texas by contrast has 12 Democrats to 20 Republicans).
Campaign Strategy: Perriello vs. Hurt in VA - In 2008, Democrat Tom Perriello (VA-5) was elected to an open seat by a margin in the hundreds of votes. Since then he has become a vocal and consistent supporter of President Obama’s agenda. This has hurt him in a district where Republicans have a 5-point registration advantage. In 2008 he was able to draw on the support of UVA students and Charlottesville liberals. If they do not turn out this year, he is sunk. He has become the only representative to bring President Obama to campaign specifically for his district. While most Democrats are running away from their leader, Perriello is embracing him. If he wins, Democrats will be emboldened to run strongly on their record in 2012. If he loses, they may become more timid in their support of the President’s agenda.
Biggest Surprise of the Night: Charles Djou Holds on in HI - While Republicans have occasionally held the governorship in Hawaii, they have been virtually locked out of the congressional delegations. When Neil Abercrombie retired to run for governor, Republican Charles Djou won his seat in a special election, helped by the fact that two Democrats remained in the race. Although at the time many assumed he would serve a short stint in Congress, polls have him within the margin of error to his one opponent this time. Either for lack of Democratic enthusiasm, or just Hawaiians wanting to give him a shot at a full term, there is a slight chance Djou may pull this race off.