Saturday, March 9, 2013

Midterm Senate Prospects

*Note: This article was written two weeks ago.  Since then, Carl Levin has said he'll retire (as I predict in the article), Norm Coleman has announced that he will not run in Minnesota and Dick Durbin of Illinois is strongly hinting that he will run again.

Midterms are tough on the President’s party.  Almost without exception, the opposition makes gains in the House and the Senate, which can dramatically alter the balance of power and the effectiveness of the Chief Executive.   For different reasons (war, economic problems, personal scandal), the President’s party usually suffers in midterms.  In 1862 the GOP lost ground in national and state elections because of public disapproval in President Lincoln’s management of the Civil War.  In 1918 Republicans won control of the Senate just days before the armistice that brought about the end of hostilities in World War I.  While it is questionable whether President Wilson would have been able to ratify the League of Nations if the Democrats would have kept control, with the GOP in power in the Upper Chamber for the first time in eight years there was virtually no chance of it passing afterwards and left Wilson politically feeble during his last two years of his presidency.  Even popular presidents like FDR and IKE took a beating during the midterm elections halfway through their second terms: In 1938 Democrats lost 6 seats in the Senate and a whopping 72 in the House.  Republicans got blown out in 1958, losing 12 Senate seats and 48 in the House.   

In our modern political era, Republicans lost control of the Senate in 1986 and, as a result, could not overcome Democratic opposition to Robert Bork the next year to elevate him from the DC Circuit Court of Appeals (which the Senate had unanimously consented to in 1981) to the Supreme Court.  In 1994 the Republicans devastated the Democrats in a stunning rebuke of Bill Clinton’s first two years in office, making a GOP Speaker for the first time since 1954 and bringing back Bob Dole as Majority Leader in the Senate.  In 2006 George W. Bush’s unpopularity decimated Republican ranks losing 6 Senate seats and 31 House seats passing control to the Democrats in the midst of what was (then) considered a quagmire in Iraq.  In 2010, President Obama’s unpopular health care initiative lead to a crushing defeat in Congress; a loss of 7 Senate seats and 63 House seats.  While Republicans didn’t gain control in the Senate they did in the House, a minor miracle considering how far in the wilderness the GOP House caucus was in 2009-1010.

What will this mean for the upcoming 2014 midterms?  If history is a guide, the Democrats should lose seats in both chambers.  Of course, if the Republicans nominate more Todd Akins than all bets are off.  The GOP has made some colossal blunders in recent races (Missouri and Indiana in 2012, Delaware and Nevada in 2010), had near misses (Colorado and Washington in 2010, North Dakota in 2012), and just some rotten luck against strong Democratic GOTV efforts (Wisconsin, Montana and Massachusetts 2012).  To gain control the GOP would have to pick up 6 seats; a big number but one that is possible for three reasons, weak first term Senators brought in through the Obama wave, retirements and red state Democrats. 

There are four red state Democrats that are particularly vulnerable with a possible fifth if the right candidate is selected.  They all voted for ObamaCare, they all supported the stimulus, and have been reliable Democratic votes for the last six years.  That’s going to be a tough sell in states that didn’t vote for Obama in 2012.   Kay Hagan of North Carolina benefitted from a tremendous Obama GOTV effort in North Carolina in 2008, beating Elizabeth Dole by eight points.  She won’t have that advantage in 2014; in the last two elections Republicans have done extremely well in the Tar Heel State, winning the state legislature in 2010 and easily winning the governorship in 2012.  The Congressional delegation in 2009 was 8 Democrats and 5 Republicans, now its 9 Republicans and 4 Democrats.  North Carolina has been tough on senators; incumbents lost in 1992, 1998 and 2008 and in 2004 the open seat turned over as well. 

Tim Johnson of South Dakota may be in the most jeopardy.  The three-term Democrat beat incumbent Larry Pressler by 2% in 1996 and squeaked by John Thune in 2002 (among allegations of voter fraud).  In 2008 Johnson won easily as the GOP didn’t seem serious about mounting a strong challenger and many Dakotans felt sorry for Johnson after his long recovery from a major stroke the year before.  This year, however, former Governor Mike Rounds has announced his intention to run.  The popular Republican will probably give Johnson reason to retire.  Facing Rounds in the sixth year of President Obama’s term would almost certainly spell the end of Johnson’s Senate career.  I predict Johnson will retire and Rounds will easily walk into the Senate.

Mark Begich of Alaska got a big break in 2008 when he ran against scandal-tarred incumbent Republican Ted Stevens.  With Stevens’ trial lasting until just a few days before the 2008 election, Begich was able to squeak by him as voters in this GOP state turned away from him after almost thirty years of service.  There are plenty of Republicans who would be competitive in 2014 but Begich is running and should be competitive.  I suspect he’ll try to replicate what Jon Tester did in Montana.  Tester, elected by a slim margin in 2006 against another scandal plagued GOP opponent, was able to pull off a victory against a well-known Republican politician by appearing as a moderate in a conservative state.  Even though Tester won with less than 49% of the vote he still won by a comfortable four-point margin. 

Mary Landrieu is an interesting case.  A Louisiana politician, she was first elected by an eyelash in 1996 in a fraudulent election against Woody Jenkins (who eventually took his case to the US Senate but it was dismissed and Landrieu was seated.)  She won with 52% in 2002 and 2008 but should be in for the fight of her life.  Almost the entire Louisiana congressional delegation and all of the elected statewide officers are Republicans.  Her only hope is if whomever comes out of a tough primary is so bloodied that he’ll be unable to compete in the general election.  Elections are different if Louisiana, anyone can run in the first round (on the regular election day) and if no one gets 50% then the top two will run off.  The easiest option for the GOP would be to simply have one major candidate run against Landrieu and try to topple her in the first round by getting a majority of the votes.  It will be tough to convince aspiring Republicans who would like to ascend to the Senate to sit out in favor of one candidate. 

Perhaps the most interesting case is in Arkansas.  Mark Pryor is a popular Democrat who bested a GOP incumbent in 2002 and was unopposed in 2008.  Surely he’ll have opposition this time as the winds of change have blown through the Natural State.  The other Democratic incumbent, Blanche Lincoln, was crushed by 21% in 2010.  In 2009, the Arkansas congressional delegation had 3 Democrats and 1 Republican.  Now, all four seats are in GOP hands providing a bench for possible candidates.  


Iowa and West Virginia rarely throw out incumbents.  In Iowa, the last time an incumbent was beaten was 1984 when Tom Harkin first entered the Senate.  Now that he’s retiring it will be the first open seat in the Hawkeye State in more than three decades.  If he would have run again he’d be tough to beat, but with him out of the picture the GOP will have an even shot against him.   In West Virginia the last time there was an open seat election was 1984 when Jay Rockefeller squeaked in after pouring millions of dollars into this small state.  Since then he’s had no credible opposition but decided to announce his retirement after internal polling showed Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito even with him. 

Carl Levin of Michigan hasn’t announced yet if he’s retiring but he hasn’t been hitting the fund raising circuit and I’d bet he’ll call it quits after six terms.  If so, that will leave a bit of an opening for the GOP.  The Republicans did well in Michigan in 2010 and should be able to put up a strong candidate if Levin throws in the towel. 


Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire should be vulnerable in 2008.  Riding a Democratic wave in the state, it has gone from red to blue to red and now back to blue with remarkable speed.  Once a reliable Republican state, the GOP hasn’t elected a governor in a decade and got clobbered in 2006 and 2008 in state and federal elections.  In 2010 the GOP did very well up and down the ticket but got hammered again in 2012.  It remains to be seen if the GOP will mount a credible challenger.  Shaheen would be tough to beat but if there was ever a time to beat a Democrat in a light blue state it would be in the sixth year of a Democratic administration. 

Mark Udall of Colorado should be vulnerable but the state hasn’t been kind to Republicans lately.  The GOP ran a bad candidate for governor in 2010 and Ken Buck lost the Senate election that year by less than 2% after being ahead for weeks.  Republicans had thought they had a great chance to deliver the state to Mitt Romney only to be greatly disappointed on election night.  It remains to be seen whether the GOP can put the right candidate and the right message together to win in the Centennial State. 

Perhaps New Mexico, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Delaware (and perhaps even Illinois if Dick Durbin retires) will be in play but the GOP would have to field the right candidates under the right conditions.  Again, the sixth year of any modern president’s administration is usually a tough one electorally.  As we head into yet another campaign season we’ll have to see what conditions (especially the economy) are like in 2014 as that will most likely be the biggest reason someone votes Republican or Democrat in 2014.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Final Talley

Sorry I couldn't get this on the board until now.  Can't blog at work.

Here's what I think:
Romney 295 EVs
Obama   243 EVs

Romney wins Ohio, New Hampshire, Colorado, Iowa, Wisconsin, Florida and Virginia.
Obama wins Pennsylvania and Nevada.

GOP +3 in the Senate  (The GOP candidate for the Senate will win in PA)
GOP +3 in the House

Romney 50.4
Obama   48.5
Other       1.1


The Snitch

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Fundamentals still favor Romney

What a crazy season!  Nobody really knows where we are with early voting, partisan polling, etc.  But I'd like to post what I think might be one of the most accurate summaries of what should happen courtesy of the website Baseball Crank:

We can't know until Election Day who is right. I stand by my view that Obama is losing independent voters decisively, because the national and state polls both support that thesis. I stand by my view that Republicanturnout will be up significantly from recent-historic lows in 2008 in the key swing states (Ohio, Wisconsin, Colorado) and nationally, because the post-2008 elections, the party registration data, the early-voting and absentee-ballot numbers, and the Rasmussen and Gallup national party-ID surveys (both of which have solid track records) all point to this conclusion. I stand by my view that no countervailing evidence outside of poll samples shows a similar surge above 2008 levels in Democratic voter turnout, as would be needed to offset Romney's advantage with independents and increased GOP voter turnout. And I stand by the view that a mechanical reading of polling averages is an inadequate basis to project an event unprecedented in American history: the re-election of a sitting president without a clear-cut victory in the national popular vote.
Perhaps, despite the paucity of evidence to the contrary, these assumptions are wrong. But if they are correct, no mathematical model can provide a convincing explanation of how Obama is going to win re-election. He remains toast.


The Snitch

Thursday, November 1, 2012

View on the races for the US Senate

What should have been an easy GOP win a few months ago is turning out to be much closer than anticipated.  Two seats in Missouri and Indiana should have been easy GOP pickups but both candidates have stepped on their tongues and (at least in Missouri) will probably cost the Republicans a seat.  As in 2010 when the GOP should have picked up seats in Delaware and Nevada, they insisted on   nominating candidates that were unacceptable to the general public.  Here's how I see it working out today:

Seats the Dems will most likely pick up:

Maine:  Almost certainly won by the Independent candidate in the race who will caucus with the Democrats

Massachusetts: Scott Brown has to pick up so many independents and a few Democrats in the state that it is almost impossible to win; even against an absolutely terrible candidate like Elizabeth Warren.

Indiana: Had the GOP decided to renominate Richard Lugar this wouldn't even be a discussion but since Richard Mourdock made his unfortunate comments about rape he may end up losing a seat he should have won.  He did win easily statewide in 2010 as the Treasurer of Indiana so he is a proven vote getter but it remains to be seen if he can ride the Republican wave that is powered by Mitt Romney at the top of the ticket.

Arizona: Jeff Flake could lose this seat but I give him about an 80% chance of beating his Democratic challenger.

Nevada: It looks like Dean Heller will retain his seat.  This election looks to be over.

Seats the GOP should pick up:

Nebraska: This is much closer now than two months ago.  Deb Fischer is only a few points ahead of Bob Kerrey, the former governor and senator.  Mitt Romney should carry the state by more than 30 points and that should put Fisher over the top.

North Dakota:  Rick Berg should beat the Democratic Attorney General in the battle for the open seat.

Wisconsin:  I know this seat is close but Tommy Thompson should prevail over the ultra-liberal Tammy Baldwin.

Montana:  Jon Tester should lose to Republican challenger Denny Rehberg.  It is close but in the end Rehberg wins.

Toss Ups:

Ohio:  A race going right down to the wire.  Josh Mandel has been trailing the incumbent Democrat but with the Republican GOTV effort he'll prevail if Mitt Romney wins the state.  If Romney wins Mandel probably does to, and vice versa.

Virginia: George Allen should be helped by a massive Mitt Romney GOTV effort.  I suspect Romney will win the state by 4-5 points and that might be enough to pull Allen over the finish line to replace Jim Webb.

Pennsylvania: Republican Tom Smith is tied with incumbent Bob Casey.  I think this may be the biggest surprise on election night.  My gut tells me Smith will win this race.

Leaning Democrat:

Connecticut: Chris Murphy should beat Linda McMahon in this heavily Democratic state.

Florida: Bill Nelson should be able to prevail against a terrible GOP candidate in what should be a Republican win against a very liberal Democrat.

Missouri:  See the first paragraph.


Hawaii:  If Mitt Romney sweeps Florida, Ohio and Virginia early enough in the evening enough dejected Democrats may stay home.  That's her only chance of winning.

Probably not a contest:

Michigan, New Mexico and Minnesota.  The Democrats should retain these three seats.

Simply put, there's simply too many variables so we won't know until probably Wednesday how the Senate will look.  If the GOP runs the table they max out at 55 seats but if they don't do well on Tuesday they'll be somewhere (probably in the high 40s).  It is simply too hard to tell.


The Snitch

Sunday, October 28, 2012

It is all about Independents now

Mitt Romney will win political independents by at least eight points (and probably a lot more) nationally but we simply don't know how much he'll capture that all important group.  It is clear that the late breaking undecided voters are clearly disillusioned with the President and are drifting slowly toward the GOP in the late stages.  This explains Democratic numbers collapsing in safe states like Pennsylvania and Minnesota and the GOP drawing even in Ohio and Wisconsin.  If Romney ends up winning indies by more than ten points he's going to end up winning nationally by five points so you'll see an Electoral College victory for the Republican of somewhere above 300 Electoral Votes.  If he does end up taking Pennsylvania he could max out at 321.  If somehow he takes Maine's 2nd Congressional District (that state parcels out its electors by district) and Minnesota that would bring it up to 332-something not seen for the GOP since 1988 when G.H.W. Bush got over 400 Electoral Votes in an eight point win over Michael Dukakis.


The Snitch

Look for a wipeout in Florida

In the latest tracks in Florida the President can't seem to crack 47%.  With latebreakers almost always voting in large numbers for the challenger I believe Mitt Romney will win the Sunshine State by at least five and as many as eight points.  In 2004 George Bush won by 5% and I believe Romney will win by a bigger margin.  It remains to be seen if Connie Mack, the Republican Senate candidate, can use that kind of momentum to beat the Democratic incumbent, Bill Nelson.

Looking at the early returns in places like Hillsborough County (near Tampa) will give us a great idea of what will happen on election night.  Bush won it in 2004 and Obama flipped it in 2008.  If Romney gets a big win there early we can expect a good night for the former Massachusetts governor.


The Snitch

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A Couple of Final Thoughts

If I noticed anything from last night's debate it is that it seems to be that Obama almost seemed like the challenger.  It could be that he might have felt that a more aggressive performance was what he needed to best Romney in the debate.  However, I think there is a simpler reason: a tough Obama livens up his base.  He's busy fundraising with rappers and he's hanging out at a ton of college campuses in the last two weeks of the election which begs the question; why isn't he making speeches to independents?  Simply put, he must feel from his internals that his base isn't yet where he wants them to be to win the election and knows that without maximum support from these core constituencies he'll come up short.

It seems, for the most part, that Obama has given up on whole segments of political independents, especially white indpendents (right now he's getting less than 40% of the white vote, which is very dangerous for a Democrat in a national election), so he's going to spend most of the rest of his time trying to squeeze out every last vote from his base.  It is hard to imagine him getting the support from African Americans and college-age voters that he did in 2008 but he'll need them all to win.  If he doesn't get that massive turnout from these groups he'll probably lose the election.  That explains his aggressiveness and the last two weeks of his campaign schedule.


The Snitch