Category Archives: Senate

A Quick Look at Election Day Trends

On Election morn, the Senate now appears to be the body with the most question marks. With the House trending toward a Republican majority, the Senate GOP races are now apparently closing in upon majority status, too. Throughout electoral history there has never been an election where the House flipped to a different party without the Senate. Thus, if the Republicans do gain control of the House and not the Senate, 2010 will make history because this will be the first time such a configuration has occurred.

The latest trends suggest that Nevada (Majority Leader Harry Reid), Illinois (Burris open), Pennsylvania (Specter open), and Colorado (appointed Sen. Michael Bennet), are all tilting the GOP’s way. Add those to the Democratic states of Arkansas, Indiana, North Dakota, and Wisconsin, all of which that secure in the Republican column, and that would mean the party is realistically approaching 49 seats. Thus, one of the following states would have to vote Republican to force a 50-50 tie: California, Connecticut, Washington, or West Virginia. Two wins in these four states would mean a companion Senate Republican majority.

In the final day, California looks to be tightening but incumbent Sen. Barbara Boxer still has a slight lead. In Connecticut, Democratic Attorney General Richard Blumenthal looks to have a lead beyond the margin of error. The race in Washington is approaching dead heat status; and in West Virginia, Gov. Joe Manchin has a slight lead, but is by no means secure. The Republicans need to throw a perfect political game tonight, and though attaining the majority in the Senate is still unlikely, one can at least see the goal from the current Republican perch.

The Last Re-Cap

As you know, tomorrow is Election Day and the 2010 cycle will soon be at a close, more than likely entering the history books as a defining vote to alter direction in public policy. While Democrats will likely hold onto the Senate by a vote or two, Republicans do appear positioned to regain control of the House of Representatives – but the size of the assumed new majority remains a question. The GOP also looks to hit or break the number 30 in gubernatorial offices held. The party may also control a record number of state legislative chambers when the sun rises on November 3rd.

In the Senate, the late trends favor Democrats in Connecticut (Richard Blumenthal) and West Virginia (Joe Manchin). Illinois remains too close to call between Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL-10) and state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias (D). Incumbent Democrats appear to be headed for close victories in California (Sen. Boxer) and Washington (Sen. Murray), but neither can be rated as secure just one day before the final voting.

Republicans look strong in all of their open seats, especially with Rand Paul pulling away from Attorney General Jack Conway in Kentucky. Alaska has turned into a debacle, with GOP nominee Joe Miller’s campaign deteriorating daily. The question remains as to whether Sen. Lisa Murkowski can win re-election as a write-in candidate. It is unlikely that Democrat Scott McAdams will benefit from enough of a GOP split and pull through with a win. Late trends appear to favor the Republican candidates in Pennsylvania (Pat Toomey), Colorado (Ken Buck), and Nevada (Sharron Angle). Four Democratic states are headed the Republicans’ way: Arkansas (Rep. John Boozman defeating Sen. Blanche Lincoln), Indiana (former Sen. Dan Coats returning), North Dakota (Gov. John Hoeven succeeding Sen. Byron Dorgan), and Wisconsin (Ron Johnson unseating Sen. Russ Feingold).

In the House, Republicans look to have a net gain of 35 seats nailed down with another 22 trending their way or simply being too close to call. Upsets are definitely possible in CA-47 (Loretta Sanchez), CT-5 (Chris Murphy), FL-22 (Ron Klein), IL-17 (Phil Hare), MS-4 (Gene Taylor), NY-20 (Scott Murphy), OH-6 (Charlie Wilson), OH-18 (Zack Space), PA-8 (Patrick Murphy), PA-10 (Chris Carney), PA-12 (Mark Critz), TX-23 (Ciro Rodriguez), TX-27 (Solomon Ortiz), and VA-11 (Gerry Connolly).

Eight races in the Democratic column still appear too close to call: AZ-5 (Harry Mitchell), AZ-7 (Raul Grijalva), AR-1 (Open-Marion Berry), GA-8 (Jim Marshall), NJ-3 (John Adler), NM-1 (Martin Heinrich), SD-AL (Stephanie Herseth Sandlin), and WV-1 (Open-Alan Mollohan). Two GOP seats, IL-10 (Open-Mark Kirk) and HI-1 (Charles Djou) also remain as Toss-ups with one day remaining.

New entries to the Republican conversion list based upon late breaking data include CO-3 (John Salazar), FL-2 (Allen Boyd), MI-7 (Mark Schauer), and SC-5 (John Spratt). Spratt, Paul Kanjorski (PA-11) and Chet Edwards (TX-17) appear to be the most senior members heading for apparent defeat. Most of the others are freshmen and sophomores.
Though the 22 seats in our Upset and Toss-up categories are not over, the GOP will likely win the preponderance of these campaigns. Thus, a GOP gain number in the low 50s is quite possible tomorrow night.

In the Governors races, the Republicans are poised to end the night with approximately 30 state houses in their column; a gain of six or more. Of the campaigns still rated as too close to call, only Florida has major national redistricting implications. If Democrat Alex Sink can score a victory in the Sunshine State, the map will likely be drawn by a federal three-judge panel, the normal course of action when the political parties divide a state’s executive and legislative branches of government. The other toss-ups, Massachusetts, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont have little or no affect upon congressional redistricting. The big conversion prizes apparently headed the GOP’s way are Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, and Wisconsin. All are key in the next redistricting fight.

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.

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.

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.