Monthly Archives: October 2010

Predicting Tuesday’s Turnout

Political scientists are nothing if not devotees of deductive reasoning. We take bits of historical data, add in opinion research data and form hypotheses about the possible range of outcomes in an election. This year that fairly straightforward deductive process seems to be a bit more challenging than in many past years. This is true because one of the underlying theses upon which so many assumptions would otherwise be built may, in fact, be less dependable than before. This anomaly lies at the foundation upon which so many predictive models have been built in years past and may make the business of predicting the outcomes of this year’s Congressional elections more challenging than it has been in recent years.

Pollsters, who provide us with most of the opinion research data that is used in modern political campaigning, have developed their own historical models for predicting voter turnout. They base these models on historical trends, demographic data, voter registration data and other factors to construct “likely voter” models that they can use to get closer to the likely actual result on Election Day. So they hope.

This year’s volatile political climate seems palpably different to those of us who have been out on the campaign trail observing the ups and downs of various campaigns and more importantly trying to gauge the level of intensity of the electorate regarding their desire to participate in this election.

Voter participation trends had been in a state of decline for several decades until the start of this century. Just as the 2008 presidential election year saw some rather profound changes in recent voter history with high levels of voter turnout among African-Americans and young people compared to previous elections, this year we may see some different trends, which make predicting Tuesday night’s outcome very difficult.

This year’s intensity numbers and primary turnout raw vote totals might suggest the potential for a dramatic swing away from a good number of incumbents that would not normally be detected using typical historical models.

The survey data that is currently publicly available would suggest that the GOP is likely to pick up enough seats to secure a House majority but fall short of the number necessary to do so in the Senate. As we wrote in Wednesday’s PRIsm Information Network Election Analysis Report, “Extrapolating the final trends, it appears that Republicans are likely to see a net gain exceeding 43 seats, thus giving them a new House majority. Landing somewhere between the 221-226 range is likely where the GOP will end election night, if these final readings are correct. Volatility, however, still remains.”

Our important disclaimer here is that our extrapolation is just that, a projection of past and current trends less than a week into the future. One of the hazards of this is that the turnout model used by every pollster, pundit and political scientist in the country might be wrong this year. If one takes into account the fact that raw vote totals in this summer’s Michigan Republican primary were slightly more than twice the raw vote totals for the commensurate Michigan Democratic primary, one could make the case for a greatly altered turnout model which, when applied nationwide, might suggest far more seats for the House Republicans than any conventional voter turnout model might suggest.

This is how some prognosticators get from our very conservative suggestion of a 43+ seat GOP net gain to over 60 as suggested by those who have extrapolated primary turnout numbers for next Tuesday’s general election. Unfortunately, the science of gauging voter intensity and translating that into a reliable voter turnout model is still in its infancy. While the current data analysis supports a 43-48 seat GOP net gain in the House, a 2- to 5-point swing in those turnout numbers could exceed this result by a substantial amount.

A Look at the Trend Setters on Election Night

Today we’ll look at which races are the most important to watch in order to detect any sort of national trend as the votes begin streaming in on Election Night. The first states to report their votes are Indiana and Kentucky. Both are must-wins for Republicans at the Senate level. In the House, the GOP can begin their move toward along a majority track with wins in two of the four most hotly contested House campaigns in the Hoosier and Blue Grass States: IN-2 (Rep. Donnelly vs. Walorski), IN-8 (Bucshon vs. Van Plaaten), IN-9 (Rep. Hill vs. Young), and KY-6 (Rep. Chandler vs. Barr). So keep a careful eye out there.

Next, we look to Pennsylvania. Of the nine most competitive Keystone State congressional races, including two already held by Republicans, the GOP must win five to keep on pace to gain House seats somewhere in the mid-40s range. Former Rep. Pat Toomey (R-PA-15), now in a toss-up US Senate battle with Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA-7), must convert the seat for the GOP in order for the party to gain significant ground.

Though New York is an important state, their ballot counting tends to be very time consuming, so results there will be very late in coming. Florida, then, becomes a better point state in the Eastern Time Zone. Marco Rubio (R) must nail down his three-way race for the Senate, and the GOP must gain at least three seats in the House. Incumbent Democratic Reps. Allen Boyd (FL-2), Alan Grayson (FL-8), Ron Klein (FL-22), and Suzanne Kosmas (FL-24) all could lose, as each are fighting strong Republican candidates. The open FL-25 seat also is a Republican must hold.

Other bellwether states appear to be Virginia (where the GOP needs two seats), Ohio (GOP +3; and the Senate race), and Michigan (+2). Republicans also will need to grab two more states in the east, most probably somewhere among NH-1 (Rep. Shea-Porter vs. Guinta), GA-8 (Rep. Marshall vs. Scott), SC-5 (Rep. Spratt vs. Mulvaney), and NC-8 (Rep. Kissell vs. Johnson). And they must win Senate races in all four of these states, a very achievable goal with less than one week remaining.

Therefore, before exiting the Eastern Time Zone and moving west to other results, the Republicans must have a net gain of one Senate seat and 18 congressional districts to have any chance at taking the majority in either house next Tuesday night.

The Latest House Count

A new perusal of all 435 US House campaigns suggests that Republicans continue to be in a strong position to command a new House majority when the actual voting takes place on Tuesday.

Right now, it appears that GOP candidates in 205 seats appear headed to victory on November 2, including 35 districts that lean to the Republican candidate. Democrats are in similar position in 204 campaigns with 40 seats (inclusive) leaning their way. The “lean R” and “lean D” categories are significant because these particular contests can still change during this last week of campaigning. There are 26 races that are still too close to definitively call, and remain in the toss-up category.

What makes the landscape tilt rather drastically to the Republicans is that 27 of the “lean R” campaigns are Democratic seats. New entries to this category, meaning a race with a Democratic incumbent that is rather decidedly shifting to the GOP are: AZ-1 (Ann Kirkpatrick), MS-1 (Travis Childers), NH-1 (Carol Shea-Porter), NY-23 (Bill Owens), and the WI-7 open seat (David Obey). These campaigns join some other Democratic seats that, for some time, have appeared as key Republican conversion opportunities. Such races are: CO-4 (Betsy Markey), FL-8 (Alan Grayson), FL-24 (Suzanne Kosmas), IL-11 (Debbie Halvorson), open IN-8 (Brad Ellsworth), NM-2 (Harry Teague), NY-24 (Michael Arcuri), ND-AL (Earl Pomeroy), OH-1 (Steve Driehaus), TX-17 (Chet Edwards), and the WA-3 open seat (Brian Baird).

Conversely, only two Republican seats appeared headed to the Democrats: the open DE-AL (Mike Castle) district, and that of Louisiana freshman Rep. Ahn “Joseph” Cao (LA-2). The other 37 seats in the category of “lean D” all are currently in the Democratic party’s hands. This type of race includes AL-2 (Bobby Bright), AZ-8 (Gabrielle Giffords), CT-4 (Jim Himes), CT-5 (Chris Murphy), KY-6 (Ben Chandler), MO-4 (Ike Skelton), NY-20 (Scott Murphy), NC-8 (Larry Kissell), and WA-2 (Rick Larsen) among others.

The 74 “lean” races are still in play, but are definitely trending toward the particular party. There is still enough leeway to suggest these campaigns are still very close, but there is discernible polling and voting history reason to currently cast them as most likely electing either the Republican or the Democratic candidate.

There are still 27 races that are too close to call. Added to the 74 seats where competitive action still remains, means an incredible 101 districts still remain on the active list. This is the highest number in the modern political era.

Colorado’s Tancredo Is For Real

A new Public Policy Polling survey (10/21-23; 818 likely Colorado voters) reveals that former Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO-6), running for Governor on the Constitution Party ballot line, is making a major charge to overtake Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper (D) and is in serious contention to win the race. Republican businessman Dan Maes, who won the GOP gubernatorial nomination after former Rep. Scott McInnis self-destructed in the August primary, has now faded away to single digits with an unfavorable rating of 75%. Tancredo, beginning the race with a 27:50% positive to negative personal favorability score, has improved his standing among the Colorado electorate to 45:44%, a major feat for someone running as a minor third-party candidate. The PPP ballot test now shows Hickenlooper leading Tancredo 47-44%, with Maes taking only 5% as the official Republican nominee. All the momentum is with the former Congressman who ran for President in 2008 on an anti-illegal immigration platform. Hickenlooper has now dropped below 50% and clearly has not clinched the race, contrary to early belief that the race is over.

Interestingly, the Tancredo surge has apparently not helped GOP Senatorial candidate Ken Buck. His race with appointed Sen. Michael Bennet (D) continues as a dead heat. The new PPP data shows the two candidates tied at 47%. With one week to go until Election Day, the Colorado Governor’s race now moves from likely Democrat to toss-up.

The Senate: Some Races Are Done … And Some Aren’t

As we enter the final week of the campaign season, which are the races that appear to be finished and which are still undetermined at this late date?

For Republicans striving to cobble together enough wins to create a net gain of 10 seats in order to wrest the Senate majority away from the Democrats, these are among a following races are secure:

  • Alabama, where Sen. Richard Shelby has been running virtually uncontested for the entire election cycle
  • Arizona, where Sen. John McCain has already won the tougher of his two campaigns: the 2010 Arizona Republican primary
  • Arkansas, proving to be a virtual certain GOP conversion as Rep. John Boozman (R-AR-3) continues to outpace embattled incumbent Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D) by double digits
  • Florida, where former state House Speaker Marco Rubio generally runs about 10 points ahead of the multi-candidate field that includes Republican-turned-Independent Gov. Charlie Crist
  • Idaho, where Sen. Mike Crapo has also been running virtually unopposed
  • Indiana, another GOP conversion state as former Sen. Dan Coats (R) is poised to win again after a 12-year absence from elected politics
  • Iowa, where Sen. Chuck Grassley’s victory for a sixth term will make him the only remaining Senator to come into office with Ronald Reagan
  • New Hampshire, another key GOP open seat that former Attorney General Kelly Ayotte appears set to retain
  • North Dakota, another GOP conversion as Gov. John Hoeven will romp to victory and take retiring Sen. Byron Dorgan’s seat from the Democrats
  • South Dakota, where Sen. John Thune is running unopposed

There are other states where the GOP has a lock on a Senate seat as well: Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Utah.

Conversely, Democrats have nailed down the following states:

  • Delaware, as New Castle County Executive Chris Coons will easily defeat Republican Christine O’Donnell, who scored the big upset of Rep. MIke Castle (R-DE-AL) but will cost the party any chance at converting this seat
  • Hawaii, where Sen. Dan Inouye will again win the seat he has held since 1962
  • Maryland, as Sen. Barbara Mikulski has had little in the way of opposition this year
  • New York, as both Sen. Chuck Schumer and appointed Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand will easily retain their seats
  • Oregon, where Sen. Ron Wyden will win a relatively easy election in what is proving to be a difficult political climate for Democrats even in the Beaver State
  • Vermont, as Sen. Patrick Leahy, who first won his seat in the Watergate year of 1974, will again be re-elected

Now … here are the seats that are still competitive with just a week to go:

  • Colorado, as this race between appointed Sen. Michael Bennet (D) and Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck (R) has consistently been a pure toss-up since the August primary
  • Connecticut, where Attorney General Richard Blumenthal (D) appears set to put this seat away for the Democrats, but businesswoman Linda McMahon (R) is still showing signs of life
  • Illinois, as state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias (D) and Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL-10) continue to battle in what is becoming the state’s closest race
  • Kentucky, where both Republican Rand Paul (R) and Attorney General Jack Conway (D) are still flagging away against each other in a close campaign
  • Nevada, because Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D) simply can’t put away Tea Party-backed Republican Sharron Angle (R) in a race that has been in toss-up status since June
  • Wisconsin, where Sen. Russ Feingold (D) continues to trail businessman Ron Johnson (R) in his quest for a fourth term

Others up for grabs include Alaska, California, Pennsylvania, Washington and West Virginia.

If Republicans are to win control of the Senate, they must secure all races headed their way today, and win nine of the eleven seats that are still undetermined. With just one week to go, it looks like the GOP will make significant gains but fall short of winning absolute control of the chamber.

MA-6: An Upset in the Making?

There are many House districts around the country that could become part of what many are predicting will be a Republican wave, but the 6th district of Massachusetts was certainly not on anybody’s GOP conversion list even as late as September. Developments are unfolding in the suburban region between metropolitan Boston and New Hampshire, however, that makes GOP challenger Bill Hudak’s bid against seven-term Rep. John Tierney (D) among the campaigns that could conceivably transform into a “sleeper.”

Rep. John Tierney

About two weeks ago, Tierney’s wife pled guilty in federal court to tax fraud charges. Many incumbents have survived worse, especially in a district that routinely elects members of the dominant political party to which they belong, but Patrice Tierney’s situation appears a bit more serious. Though she claims not to have known her brother’s online gambling operation located off the shores of Antigua was illegal when she prepared the company’s tax returns, she pled guilty to the felony tax charges involving amounts upwards of $7 million, nonetheless, and will be sentenced in January. What raises eyebrows further, and certainly makes Rep. Tierney more vulnerable to the Hudak challenge, is his support for the online gambling bill when it came before the House. Though the Congressman was not personally implicated in any of his wife’s legal dealings, the two possibly unrelated events do bring ethical questions to the forefront.

As we have seen throughout the country during primary season this year, voters have little tolerance for political scandals or patience for office holders abusing their offices. Businessmen like Bill Hudak who have never before sought political office have shown strong win percentages in the intra-party preliminary races and now we’ll see if such a pattern continues through the general election. Most political pundits believe it will.

October internal and independent polls do suggest a weakening of Tierney’s image and increasing vulnerability. Though the survey results have not been publicly released, it is known that the data show a tightening of the race to single digits, while Hudak scores much better among the most intensely interested voters, and even leads among those who have been closely following the Tierney scandal.

With 12 days remaining in the election cycle, it is apparent that Rep. Tierney has not yet secured re-election. The more attention his personal situation attracts, the greater his vulnerability and the stronger Hudak becomes. With the open 10th district being in toss-up mode and even Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA-4) to the southwest facing credible opposition, it is now reasonable to add MA-6 to the competitive Bay State congressional race list.

Is Sanchez in a Sleeper?

In an election cycle where arguably 150 House races are at least moderately competitive and 90 campaigns are legitimately in play, sleeper contests are few and far between. One such situation may be in Anaheim, Calif., however, where seven-term Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA-47) has apparently fallen into a dead heat with her GOP opponent, Assemblyman Van Tran, according to a new Public Opinion Strategies poll (for the Tran campaign, 10/11-13; 300 likely CA-47 voters; Sanchez and Tran tied at 39%).

Though Tran’s challenge to Sanchez has been on the board for more than a year, few believed it would become hotly contested. The district is decidedly Democratic and the Congresswoman normally wins with percentages right around 60%. What makes the seat a potential GOP conversion opportunity is the turnout history here – CA-47 has the lowest voter participation rate of any in the Golden State – and its demographic complexion. Though the seat is more than 65% Hispanic, it is also 14% Asian and features an extremely large Vietnamese community, of which Tran is a member. He’s won three elections to the state Assembly, in a political division more than half the size of CA-47, proving that he has a strong political base. In a seat that routinely records fewer votes than most members receive by themselves, anything can happen, particularly in an election year that may evolve into a political wave. This is definitely a race to watch.

For more details, insights, to sign up for my daily email updates, or to sign up to track specific issues or industries, please email me @PRIsm@performanceandresults.com.

Pennsylvania Tightens

Public Policy Polling (PPP), the national survey research firm based in Raleigh, N.C., yesterday released a new study (10/17-18, 718 likely PA voters) that gives Democratic Rep. Joe Sestak (PA-7) a bare 46-45% lead over former Rep. Pat Toomey (R-PA-15) in their battle for Pennsylvania’s open U.S. Senate seat. This represents a significant change from all other recently released polls, including ones from PPP, that have previously posted Toomey to leads of between two and 10 points.

The revelation that the Sestak-Toomey campaign is closing is not particularly surprising for various reasons. First, Pennsylvania is a Democratic state, so seeing the Senate race and several House campaigns begin to move back toward the majority party meets expectations. Private polling suggests that the contests in PA-7 (open Sestak), ex-US Attorney Pat Meehan (R) vs. state Rep. Bryan Lentz (D); PA-8, Rep. Patrick Murphy (D) vs. former Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R); and PA-10, Rep. Chris Carney (D) vs. ex-US Attorney Tom Marino (R); also are tightening in favor of the Democratic candidate after the GOP contestant maintained discernible, if not considerable, previous advantages. Conversely, the PA-3, Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper (D) vs. Mike Kelly (R); and PA-11, Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D) vs. Lou Barletta (R); races still appear to be going the way of the GOP challenger. Polling now detects that Democratic voters are expressing greater interest in voting, thus suggesting better electoral participation rates.

Second, Sestak’s strategy for the general election is similar to that of his primary: wait to spend the campaign treasury until people are paying attention much closer to the election. During the Democratic primary, the Congressman trailed party-switching Sen. Arlen Specter by as much as 10 points early, but caught and passed the veteran politician as voting day approached and finally arrived. Sestak is implementing a replay of such an expenditure timing plan against Toomey, thus his recent polling upswing tracks with him now coming to the forefront of the advertising campaign.

The latest poll tells us that the Senate race, despite a continued strong GOP lead in the Governor’s race, is coming back into toss-up range. The final outcome will likely be determined upon which party better motivates its supporters to actually cast their ballots, thus the end result is still very much in doubt.

For more details, insights, to sign up for my daily email updates, or to sign up to track specific issues or industries, please email me @PRIsm@performanceandresults.com.

Quayle in Trouble

With national pollsters providing consistently good news for Republicans, at least one seat normally viewed as relatively safe for the party is now in play for the Democrats. Arizona’s 3rd congressional district, a place where Rep. John Shadegg (R) has racked up strong victories over the past 16 years, is now highly competitive according to a new Public Policy Polling survey. The study, conducted October 16-17 (655 likely AZ-3 voters) for the Daily Kos, a national liberal blog, gives Democratic attorney Jon Hulburd a 46-44% lead over Republican nominee Ben Quayle, son of former Vice President Dan Quayle. According to the data, the younger Quayle has a personal approval ratio of only 34-52% favorable to unfavorable and trails 36-50% within the crucial Independent voter sector.

Quayle defeated nine other candidates in the August 24 Republican primary, but captured only 22% of the vote in doing so. Controversy arose during the summer about his involvement with a non-traditional website, charges that were answered with his own unusual and off-beat response advertisements. With the currently intense and fractured Grand Canyon State political climate, and virtually every congressional district in the state seeing robust competition, it is clear that anything can happen in the many races to be decided there on November 2.

An Eclectic Collection of Mid-October Polls: Reliable?

More mid-October polls are now public from races across the nation, many from unfamiliar survey firms or sources. Below are several of the most notable with an analysis as to the believability of the results:

GA-2: Lester & Associates (10/7-10; 500 GA-2 voters for the Sanford Bishop campaign)

Rep. Sanford Bishop (D) …… 50%
Mike Keown (R) ………………. 40%

Rep. Bishop released his internal poll after GOP challenger Keown’s late September Public Opinion Strategies survey posted him to within one point. This is a heavy African-American district, meaning a loyal Democratic base. A low black turnout is Keown’s only chance to come through on Election Day.

IL-10: We Ask America (10/15; 1,148 likely voters; automated)

Bob Dold (R) ……….. 50%
Dan Seals (D) ………. 39%

This race has been a bit of a mystery ever since the February 2nd primary. Just last week another poll (Penn Schoen – 10/2-7) went public showing Democratic nominee Seals to be holding a similar 49-37% advantage. We Ask America has conducted sporadic polls in several states. Their reliability track record is virtually unknown. Best guess: the race is a toss-up. Dold must have a favorable turnout model to achieve victory. Though the district has elected a Republican congressman for more than 30 consecutive years, the voting trends here lean Democratic in other races.

MN-1: Survey USA (10/12-14; 584 likely voters; automated from a pool of 800 registered MN-1 voters)

Rep. Tim Walz (D) ……….. 47%
Randy Demmer (R) ………. 42%

Survey USA has reported many polls this election cycle that have been out of the mainstream, and tending to favor Republicans. In this case, however, the poll results seem reasonable. Though state Rep. Randy Demmer is being heavily outspent by two-term incumbent Tim Walz, the district can certainly elect a Republican. Former Rep. Gil Gutknecht, for example, held the seat for twelve years, winning in the GOP landslide year of 1994 and losing in the 2006 Democratic sweep. If 2010 becomes a wave, this district could yield another surprise.

PA-7: Franklin & Marshall College (10/5-11; 471 likely PA-7 voters; live telephone interviews)

Pat Meehan (R) ………… 34%
Bryan Lentz (D) ……….. 31%

PA-8: Monmouth University (10/11-13; 646 likely PA-8 voters; automated)

Mike Fitzpatrick (R) ……………. 51%
Rep. Patrick Murphy (D) ……… 46%

Two college polls with differing degrees of reliability. The Franklin & Marshall survey period is extended, thus making the results less accurate. The fact that the undecided factor is still so high as the race becomes better defined also raises questions. The spread – Meehan leading, but his margin tightening – is consistent with many other surveys.

The Monmouth poll appears to be tighter, even with the automated format. This result is very consistent with other data that shows former Rep. Fitzpatrick to be leading beyond the margin of error in his attempt to regain the seat he lost to Congressman Murphy four years ago.

Upsets? Possible or Not?

Every day, new seats pop up as upset possibilities. Yesterday, for example, a new poll was publicized showing even Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ-12) dropping to a single-digit lead. If the election becomes a Republican wave as many believe will happen, which “out of nowhere” races will actually come home?

With so many campaigns on the board, which are legitimate upset possibilities, and which are fool’s gold? The following are contests that have surfaced in recent days as potential upset picks. Our analysis:

AK-Senate: The theory is that Lisa Murkowski’s write-in bid takes enough votes away from GOP nominee Joe Miller to either elect herself or throw the race to Democratic nominee Scott McAdams. Polling regarding write-in candidates is one thing; translating support into write-in votes is quite another. Had Sen. Murkowski operated a strong grassroots organization, she wouldn’t have lost her primary. The key to running a successful write-in effort is a strong ground operation. That doesn’t happen overnight, and especially not in a place as spread out as Alaska. Likely outcome: Miller wins.

Rep. Raul Grijalva (D, AZ-7)

AZ-7: Now the upset possibilities are even creeping into Voting Rights districts. Rep. Raul Grijalva (D) has undeniably dropped to the low single digits in his battle with GOP scientist Ruth McClung. This one actually might have some legs. Grijalva is leading the charge to economically boycott his own state because of the immigration law, a position not well received by his constituents in a largely rural area experiencing tough times. Grijalva shouldn’t lose, but leading the charge to inflict economic pain upon one’s own constituents could be the catalyst that causes the seismic political shift that leads to a McClung upset.

DE-Senate: It’s wishful thinking to believe that Christine O’Donnell can still win the seat because of the Tea Party surge. She can’t. This one is done. Democrats win.

MA-4: Rep. Barney Frank (D) is in trouble. While true opponent Sean Bielat is raising a great deal of national small-dollar money and is Frank’s toughest-ever re-election opponent, the House Financial Services chairman will survive. No poll has dropped him below 50% and the district is just too Democratic in nature. Frank wins again.

Rep. John Dingell (D, MI-15)

MI-15: In December, Rep. John Dingell (D-MI-15) will have been in Congress for 55 years. Though at least one poll shows the Dean of the House falling behind opponent Dr. Rob Steele, it will be extremely difficult for this trend to continue. Back in 2001, the 15th district was designed to pair two Democratic incumbents, Dingell and then-Rep. Lynn Rivers, into one district. The Democratic primary would be a difficult fight for both, but the winner would get a seat for the rest of the decade. The seat will still remain intact for the Ds. Rep. Dingell wins a 29th term.

These are just a few examples of races that I detail in my daily newsletter, the PRIsm Political Update. For all the details, insights, to sign up for my daily email updates, or to sign up to track specific issues or industries, please email me @PRIsm-us.com.

Will Delaware Save the Senate for Democrats?

In the Senate, the latest Delaware polls continue to show Democrat Chris Coons leading controversial Republican nominee Christine O’Donnell in a race that may well save the Democratic majority. With California (Barbara Boxer) and West Virginia (Gov. Joe Manchin vs. John Raese) now trending better for Democrats, and Colorado, Illinois, and Washington in pure toss-up mode, it will be very difficult for the GOP to claim the Senate majority largely because they have so many of their own seats to defend.

Thus, entering the final phase of campaign 2010, it is more than conceivable that the Republicans will secure enough Democratic conversion seats to secure a working House majority and end the Senate cycle with between 47-49 members.

Turning to the states, the GOP is in position to command 30+ Governors, and could possibly gain a record number of state legislative chambers. This, in a redistricting year that will have a major influence over the political landscape in the ensuing decade.

Though 2010 is shaping up to be an election of historic proportions, it’s only the beginning of a series of major political events. Right after the election Congress will return for an important lame duck session, apportionment numbers will be released before the end of the year – meaning we will know for sure which states will be gaining and losing congressional districts and exactly how many – followed by 2011 redistricting where battles in all 50 states will soon begin (43 with multiple congressional districts are naturally of the highest importance), and, of course, the 2012 presidential election campaign commences in earnest.

The fluidity in our contemporary political time rivals that of any point in American history. It is an exciting time to be involved.

Georgia is No California

With several Democrats publicly saying they would prefer to vote for individuals other than House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to lead the next House of Representatives, Congressman Jim Marshall (D-GA-8) just launched the strongest of anti-Pelosi ads in his own difficult run for re-election. Attacking not only Speaker Pelosi, but also her home town of San Francisco and portraying the old California hippie culture as “being a long way from Georgia,” Marshall goes on to say that he is a “long way from Pelosi.” He also claims not to support Pelosi and that he votes with Republican leaders “65% of the time.” According to the Politico newspaper, Marshall’s Democratic Party support figure is actually 88%, a number that is difficult to comprehend when he says he votes with the GOP almost two-thirds of the time. The Marshall ad ends with the announcer saying the Congressman has been endorsed by The NRA, Chamber of Commerce and “Right to Life.” The tag line at the end of the ad, referring to the three organizations, says “… and they wouldn’t have anything to do with a Nancy Pelosi supporter.”

The Marshall approach is the most brazen to come from any Democrat so far in this election cycle. It is an extraordinary attack on a leader of his own party, and a person who he twice voted for Speaker and once as Minority Leader. It will be interesting to see how GOP nominee Austin Scott responds to his opponent’s latest attempt at neutralizing what is probably his most glaring negative.

When Will it End?

As we pull to within less than three weeks of the election, the Democrats appear to be in a free-fall. Nevada GOP Senatorial candidate Sharron Angle, opposing unpopular Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, raised a huge amount of money –– $14 million from July 1st to September 30th — an impressive haul for any candidate, but especially so for one from a small state. It’s even more stunning when you note that 94% of the money came from contributions of less than $100. In Florida, Senate GOP candidate Marco Rubio brought in more than $5 million for the quarter. In liberal Washington, Republican Dino Rossi locked in a tight battle with Sen. Patty Murray (D), exceeded $4.5 million.

In the House races, Reps. Gene Taylor (D-MS-4), Heath Shuler (D-NC-11), Walt Minnick (D-ID-1) and Bobby Bright (D-AL-2) are publicly saying they will vote for someone other than embattled House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA-8), when the new Congress convenes. Reps. Chet Edwards (D-TX-17), Jason Altmire (D-PA-4) and Joe Donnelly (D-IN-2) have ads expressing their independence from Pelosi and President Obama. Rep. Bill Owens (D-NY-23), in serious trouble because the split among local Republicans and Conservatives has ostensibly healed and Matt Doheny now has virtually united support from the right-of-center, launched a rather desperate new ad saying that he “votes with the Republican leader 63% of the time.” These are obvious signs of a party in trouble.

And new competitive congressional races are popping up every day. Now the list is even reaching protected voting rights districts like AZ-7 (Rep. Raul Grijalva in a close contest with scientist Ruth McClung), and TX-27 (Rep. Solomon Ortiz actually trailing Republican opponent Blake Farenthold in both a campaign-released survey and a private independent poll).

All of these anecdotes are similar to what we were seeing for Democrats in both 2006 and 2008, and the results, as we all know, were landslide elections. Right now, it appears that Republican House candidates are likely to win in the neighborhood of 35 Democratically-held seats, with another 30 or so in range to win. The Democrats will at least pick up two GOP seats, and maybe as many as five. Thus, the GOP approaching or exceeding a 50-seat gain is not out of the question, and reclaiming the majority appears to be on the horizon.

Government Image Dragging Down Dems

The Democrats are clearly headed for a rough mid-term election, and one of the fundamental reasons for their downturn was uncovered by a late September Gallup study released just yesterday. According to their survey of 981 adults on Sept. 20-21, 72% of the respondents answered with a negative term when asked to describe their impression of the federal government. Only 10% reported having a positive view of our national institutions. (See Gallup poll)

The four topical areas of discontent centered around the government’s perceived inefficiency, its expanding size, ineptness, and corruption stemming from within, according to the Gallup analysis. This poor image of government, at a time when Democrats have widely expanded its institutions and authority, is contributing mightily to the majority party now being perilously close to losing control of the House and facing diminishing numbers in the Senate.

Gallup also found that the federal government came in ahead of only oil and gas companies on their list of industry preference rankings, and behind lawyers and pharmaceutical companies, in addition to the real estate, healthcare, and banking industries which helped make up the most negative sector of their chart. The computer and food industries dominated the top of the graph, with the two industries securing all five of the most positive positions.