Dems May Fall Short Of 60 Senators
It’s really amazing that it’s becoming a strong possibility that we could even talk about, much less actually see something on the order of 7-11 seat gains by the Democrats in the U.S. Senate, depending on the accuracy of the polls. But based on my formula – accounting for financial data, polling averages, and the Obama vs. McCain coattails, I’m projecting that the Democrats will fall just short of their goal of 60 seats. My formula tells me they will win 8, and end up with 59 senators in the next Congress. Here’s some writeups on the individual races:
19. Kansas (Roberts vs. Slattery) – Safe Republican
18. Idaho (Risch vs. LaRocco) – Safe Republican
17. Nebraska (Johanns vs. Kleeb) – Safe Republican
16. Oklahoma (Inhofe vs. Rice) – Safe Republican
15. Texas (Cornyn vs. Noriega) – Likely Republican
None of these races have changed their order since my October 20th update, although Andrew Rice seems to have slipped out of any semblance of competition. Kleeb ran an entirely positive race, and we haven’t seen an independent poll here at all, but frankly the news in Nebraska will be in Omaha’s House race and the electoral votes there, and not where Kleeb wins. Idaho and Nebraska are notable as they will have freshman Senators being elected into a much reduced GOP caucus. And Noriega proves that in the big states, money is required even against the unlikable incumbents.
14. Mississippi (Wicker vs. Musgrove) – Lean Republican
This race slips down 2 notches as polling shows a partisan and racial polarization going on in Mississippi. Maybe Obama’s turnout can deliver a miracle, but I don’t see it.
13. Kentucky (McConnell vs. Lunsford) – Lean Republican
Well, McConnell didn’t slip into desperation like some incumbents, but has instead hit back hard against Lunsford. And Lunsford is resorting to ads featuring Hillary Clinton. Perhaps something will happen here, and we may know early, but it will likely depend on how badly Obama is beaten here.
12. Maine (Collins vs. Allen) – Lean Republican
Collins has shown up on an Obama list for possible Cabinet appointees, which is a bit of a surprise, given the DSCC is still wanting her to lose Tuesday. But this race moves up my Line mostly because my formula now accounts for presidential coattails, which will help Allen more than Collins.
11. Georgia (Chambliss vs. Martin) – Lean Republican
Georgia remains the Dems’ best chance for an upset, and part of that is because Obama is starting to run ads here as the race tightens on the presidential level. Another quirk is the Georgia law requiring a run-off if no candidate wins 50%. It was a legacy of the Dixiecrats that was removed recently, but restored when the GOP took hold of the state – a law that may now bite them in the ass if Chambliss’ reelection is the last race of 2008.
10. North Carolina (Dole vs. Hagan) – Lean Democrat
Liddy Dole has fallen behind in all the recent polls, although they differ on the margins. So she throws a sucker punch about Hagan supporting a “godless” agenda – not a smart attack on a Sunday School teacher, and it’s rightfully backfiring on Dole. This moved down the lines on presidential coattails, but I feel safer about this one than Minnesota.
9. Minnesota (Coleman vs. Franken) – Lean Democrat
A three-way race has developed, although the Independent party nominee is a distant third (in the mid-teens). That’s thrown a monkey wrench into polling, as no one can quite tell which party is hurt more by his candidacy. The race is almost a tossup, but I have to think Obama’s landslide numbers here puts a thumb on the scales for Franken. Could be a nailbiter on Election Night.
8. Oregon (Smith vs. Merkely) – Lean Democratic
Hurt by Obamania and a scandal involving illegal immigrants, Gordon Smith has fallen behind his Democratic challenger in both the polls and the inferences gleamed from data on early voters (whose registrations lean heavily Democratic). As this is a mail-in election, Smith looks like his goose his cooked, despite being somewhat moderate and not unliked. Probably the Mike DeWine of this cycle.
7. Alaska (Stevens vs. Begich) – Lean Democratic
Senator Stevens was convicted (although his 84-year-old mind is of the belief that he wasn’t convicted because he still has to be sentenced and has an appeal pending). But the NRSC has left town, and a new poll puts Stevens down 22 points (even as Sarah Palin leads by almost as much in the VP stakes). My rating of “Lean” is rather generous, I think.
6. New Hampshire (Sununu vs. Shaheen) – Likely Democrat
5. Colorado (Schaffer vs. Udall) – Likely Democrat
4. Louisiana (Kennedy vs. Landrieu) – Likely Democrat
3. New Jersey (Zimmer vs. Lautenberg) – Safe Democrat
2. New Mexico (Pearce vs. Udall) – Safe Democrat
1. Virginia (Gilmore vs. Warner) – Safe Democrat
In this bunch, only Louisiana and New Jersey switched places, which makes sense given how the Obama vs. McCain battle is going. And actually, Shaheen and Mark Udall have strengthened their hand, as has Lautenberg, since the last ratings update.
If we had a bad night, we’d win all 6 of these plus Alaska (although New Hampshire would be close) for a caucus of 56 instead of 51. However, the only way that will happen is if the polls have been way off in guessing the mood of the country. I think we’ll end up with the Top 10 on this list, with Minnesota (#9) and Georgia (#11) being the ones to reall watch to see if we can get up to 60, or if we fall short of that.