Down To The Wire

The national Senate outlook just keeps changing in the final sprint to the finish line. Conrad Burns is neck-and-neck with Jon Tester in Montana. Mason-Dixon has Lincoln Chaffee just ahead of Whitehouse in Rhode Island — which could be a major statistical outlier, or Mason-Dixon could be picking up on something the others aren’t. Mason-Dixon also has Bob Corker up by 12 points, which suggests that either Mason-Dixon is systematically oversampling Republicans or the other polls are undersampling them.

Right now, it looks like the Republicans will lose Ohio and Pennsylvania. Neither DeWine nor Santorum are even close to victory. The loss of Santorum is especially troubling — when it comes to issues such as fighting AIDS in Africa, Santorum has been one of this nation’s strongest voices. To have him lose, especially to a schlub like Bob Casey, Jr., is a tragedy.

Allen is neck-and-neck with Jim Webb, which shouldn’t have happened. Allen had all the advantages going in, but the VA race has become one of the dirtiest races in the country. Allen torpedoed any chances for him to be viable in 2008, and is in danger of losing what should be a safe seat. I don’t particularly see him losing at this point, but it’s going to become a lot closer than it should have been had Allen run a stronger campaign and kept his mouth shut.

Kean is down, but not out. He’s run a strong campaign, he’s a smart guy, and he should win, but New Jersey is as Democratic as they come. No doubt this will be one of the states where the usual Democratic army of the undead rise from their graves on Election Day to pull the level for Democratic candidates. The New Jersey Democratic Party makes the Sopranos look like the Flanders, and until that rat’s nest is cleared no Republican has a chance.

Jim Talent is hanging on for dear life against Claire McCaskill, with Mason-Dixon showing McCaskill up by 1 against Talent. Talent needs to be ahead to counteract the usual voter fraud in St. Louis (another place where hoards of zombies rise to vote Democrat every two years). Talent may yet win, but this one is going to be a nail-biter, and will depend on GOP turnout being great enough to outweigh voter fraud.

Cardin should win in Maryland by the polls, but I’m not so sure the charismatic Michael Steele can’t pull it off. All Steele needs to do is get 25% of the African-American vote, and he wins. With the Democrats having taken Kweisi Mfume out of the race and Cardin’s weakness, that’s quite possible. I think Steele might just pull it off, but it’s going to be down to the wire, and could come down to the distribution of African-American votes and GOP turnout.

If I were to guess at the moment, I’d say that the Republicans very narrowly keep the Senate. Corker’s as sure a bet as there is right now. DeWine and Santorum are out (although I’m still praying for a miracle in Pennsylvania…). Allen, Talent, and Burns are on the fence. Kean and Steele provide the wild cards. The Democrats are going to have to do very well in key races to take the Senate, which remains possible, but less possible than it was before. If Mason-Dixon is right, and both Burns and Chafee are back from the political dead, that means that the Democrats are losing ground. Many of these races will be down to the wire, but the overall trendline looks somewhat positive for the GOP.

UPDATE: Jim Geraghty also notes that ABC has the GOP down by only 6 on the generic ballot question. Now, the generic ballot question is not an accurate predictor of actual electoral results, but it does show that the GOP’s turnout may be as strong as expected, if not stronger. Certainly an energized GOP will help GOP incumbents in red states — I’m looking at Conrad Burns here.

UPDATE: It looks like the GOP surge may be real — Gallup has the Democrats up by 7 in the generic ballot question. Remember that the generic ballot almost always favors the Democrats, and the Democrats have had a double-digit lead for almost this entire electoral cycle. If it’s closing to single-digit territory, that means that the Republicans seem to be closing the sale. The Democrats are still radically out of phase with the American mainstream, so it’s not all that surprising that the American electorate are starting to think about what the consequences of a Democratic takeover would really be.

It’s still going to take every GOP voter getting to the polls, but the GOP’s turnout machine is the best it’s ever been.

6 thoughts on “Down To The Wire

  1. The Chafee-Whitehouse poll is most likely an outlier, but I still think there will plenty of center-left Rhode Island voters who plan to vote for Whitehouse, but will not be able to bring themselves to vote against the admirable Chafee once they get to the polls. I’m leaning Whitehouse on this one, but would not be blown away if Chafee hangs on.

    Ohio and Pennsylvania are sure bets for the Democrats. I would have never thought even two months ago that Brown could pull off Ohio because of his leftist tendencies and the messy early start to his campaign complete with the awkward Paul Hackett primary challenge. This is the most pleasant surprise of the Senate races as Brown is one of only truly worthy Democrats poised to win a Senate seat.

    The Casey-Santorum battle is pure comedy gold. Here’s Casey, an absolutely awful candidate, coasting on a huge lead and holding only two campaign events per week, provoking the already loony Santorum into an unhinged monthlong temper tantrum that has only reinforced to Pennsylvania voters why they despise this guy so much. My only question is how Santorum intends to support himself after his blistering defeat on Tuesday since he refuses to allow his wife to work.

    You can’t see Allen losing at this point? Are you insane? He’s behind in EVERY poll! All of the momentum is with Webb while Allen’s thugs are throwing college kids into plate-glass windows on camera. He’s gone the same trajectory as GOP gubernatorial candidate Jerry Kilgore did last year, and we all know how that ended. He would have probably hung on were it not for the miscalculation of swiftboating Jim Webb’s widely-celebrated war novels in the final 10 days of the campaign. Good riddance to this chunk of GOP feces.

    Kean is toast. I never believed a Republican would win this seat with control of the Senate on the line just as I never believed Harold Ford ever had a real chance in Tennessee. Even though the mob ad the RNC ran against Menendez struck me as the funniest campaign ad of the cycle, New Jersey Italians apparently aren’t laughing. Kean’s death spiral began when that ad reached their airwaves. And his new ad talks about how Bush should fire Rumsfeld even with Bush says Rumsfeld is here to stay. Bad timing, Tom. You’re finished.

    My gut says Talent hangs on in Missouri. It just seems like Talent’s GOTV operation is gonna be more reliable than McCaskill’s. This was one of the best races in the country with two of the smartest and most competent candidates. It remains the toughest call of all the races because there’s no clear momentum on either side.

    Maryland is where I’m expecting an upset. Cardin has run a really weak campaign and his defeat of Mfume in the primary has left some raw nerves among black voters. It was a perfect storm, and I’m not sure the late rallies by Bill Clinton and Barack Obama will be enough to counteract the multiple endorsements Steele has gotten from prominent D.C. area blacks. Steele will be a PR disaster for the GOP, evidenced by his loose lips and multiple gaffes early in the campaign, but his affable personality is perfect towards endearing him to independent blacks and making him acceptable to rural whites. It will likely to be enough to pull him across the finish line on election day assuming a quarter of black cast a default vote based on race instead of party. Sure hoping I’m wrong here.

    Harold Ford is finished in Tennessee, done in by the media’s handling of the Playboy ad which worked out exactly as the Republicans had hoped, triggering cries of racism that most Tennesseeans couldn’t see. The result: undecided white voters leaning towards Ford
    had one of their biggest concerns about Ford reinforced….that every perceived slight against him would result in the race card being played by the media and Washington Democrats. Ford tried to distance himself from the cries of racism in the Playboy ad, but it didn’t matter as the Washington establishment piled on. Rove knows what he’s doing. Ford has since dug himself into a deeper hole by bringing Clinton to the state to campaign for him. Stick a fork in him. He won’t lose by 12 points, but I expect it’ll be seven or eight.

    Burns’ momentum is undeniable, but I’m still narrowly favoring Tester here. Early voting numbers, for whatever they’re worth, show Tester with a 21-point lead. Burns already has a lot to overcome. It’s also kind of interesting how Republicans stand by their criminals no matter what. I expect that if Bob Ney was still in the race in OH-18, Jay Reding would be cheering for Ney’s victory from his prison cell.

    You’re probably right that the Democrats are losing ground in the Senate. I’ve been sensing it since the middle of the week, particularly in Montana, Maryland and Tennessee. Mason-Dixon does seem to tilt GOP, however (if Mason-Dixon’s Minnesota poll was right two days before the 2004 election, Bush would have won Minnesota by one point), and they always produce huge numbers of undecideds, thus making the entire poll all but irrelevant two days before the election. Still, I don’t think the Democrats have a prayer of winning the Senate right now and will probably be lucky to gain a net of four seats.

  2. On “Face the Nation”, Stu Rothenberg cited an oversampling of Republicans in the Washington Post poll that has the GOP within 6 points in generic ballot preference. Obviously, Newsweek, CBS, AP and other major media pollsters have oversampled Democrats by outrageous margins, but it seems like even the mainstream pollsters are projecting 10-13 point generic Dem advantages. Margins that huge are unlikely to come to fruition, but even 8-9 points would be a Democratic bloodbath in the House. Tomorrow’s tracking polls should tell the tale whether ABC/WP’s an outlier or the start of a nasty trend for Dems.

  3. Dem pickups: MO, MT, VA, OH, PA
    Dem holds: NJ, MD
    GOP holds TN.

    AZ is getting too close for comfort if you’re a Republican. Could be some fireworks there.

  4. Seth, there is precedent for your rosy predictions in that the battleground races all seem to break one way or the other on election night….to the Democrats in 1998 and 2000, and to the Republicans in 2002 and 2004. Still, I can’t see the Dems sweeping every race but Tennessee. My gut says it ain’t gonna happen.

  5. “The Democrats are still radically out of phase with the American mainstream, so it’s not all that surprising that the American electorate are starting to think about what the consequences of a Democratic takeover would really be”

    Don’t get too cocky because the same Gallup poll shows Dems doing much better race-by-race in the Senate than Mason-Dixon did. McCaskill up by 4, Tester up by 9, Whitehouse up by 3, Menendez up by 10, Ford only down by 3. The only rosy Gallup poll for the GOP shows Allen up by 3 in VA.

    But if the single-digit margin holds up in the House races, the Dems are definitely losing ground. Gallup has been all over the map with generic ballot advantage in the past few months, but theirs makes two polls in a row with the Dems down substantially, so it’s definitely worth sweating over.

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