Where They Stand: Senate

With five days until election day, I decided to take a close look at each of the Senate races, and to offer some prognostications about how I think each will end up.

First, the lock-solid holds for each party:
*: Indicates Incumbent

Republican: Alabama (Richard Shelby*), Arizona (John McCain*), Georgia (Isakson*), Idaho (Mike Crapo*), Iowa (Chuck Grassley*), Kansas (Jerry Moran), Louisiana (David Vitter*), Ohio (Rob Portman), Oklahoma (Tom Coburn*), South Carolina (Jim DeMint*), South Dakota (John Thune*), Utah (Mike Lee).

Democrats: Hawaii (Daniel Inouye*), Maryland (Barbara Mikulski*), New York (Kristen Gillebrand* – special election), New York (Charles Schumer*), Oregon (Ron Wyden*), Vermont (Patrick Leahy*).

None of these races are particularly close.  Portman has consistently held a double-digit lead over Lee Fisher in Ohio, disappointing one of the once hoped-for Democrat pick-up opportunities.  For about ten seconds Joe DioGuardi looked to have something resembling a hope against Kristen Gillebrand, but like the rest of the GOP in state-wide elections, the only question is can he crack 40 percent.  Gillebrand does have to run again in two years, so this could be a pick-up opportunity in 2012 if the state party gets its act together – oh, who am I kidding?  And it looks like I’ve got another six years of Babs Mikulski here in Maryland.  Oh lucky me.

Likely holds:

Republicans: Alaska (Joe Miller or Lisa M.*), Florida (Marco Rubio), Kentucky (Rand Paul), Missouri (Roy Blunt), New Hampshire (Kelly Ayotte), North Carolina (Richard Burr*).

Democrats: Connecticut (Richard Blumenthal), Delaware (Chris Coons).

Alaska and Florida are two of the more fascinating races, both involving third party runs by erstwhile Republicans who could not believe that primary voters had the gall to reject them.  Lisa M (I use only her initial in order to protect the innocent) is running neck and neck with Miller.  In either case, the Democrat in this race – Scott McAdams – doesn’t appear to be making any traction with a split GOP electorate, so in either case the GOP will be returning a Senator from our Nation’s largest state as Lisa M will probably reward the party leadership’s cowardice reluctance to strip her of her committee assignments by aligning with the caucus were she to win.

Marco Rubio appears to be sailing towards a double digit victory.  Poor, poor Charlie.  He tried, but even the residents of Florida seemed turned off by his duplicity.  Nothing shows the contrast between the two candidates more than their respective final advertising pushes.  Gee,  I thought Charlie was pro-life.  Huh – I guess we know what his word is worth.

Jack Conway’s “Acqua Buddha” gambit appears to have failed miserably, and Rand Paul looks to be comfortably ahead now.  Richard Burr is having a closer race than he’d probably care for, but he’s still up by double digits in every poll.

Christine O’Donnell never made this a single digit race, and now it looks like the “Bearded Marxist” is set for victory.  Now if only conservative pundits would forget about this race and concentrate on candidates that actually do stand a chance of victory.  Linda McMahon, meanwhile, may have actually spent too much money, saturating the Connecticut electorate to the point where they can’t stand her anymore.

And now for the pick-up opportunities.  There are 11 Democratic-held seats that are up for grabs.  As it stands now, no Republican-held seats appear to be in serious jeopardy.  Republicans would need to win ten in order to achieve an absolute majority.

Arkansas: John Boozman (R) vs. Blanche Lincoln* (D).  This was never a race.  The unpopular Lincoln sealed her fate when she cast her vote in favor of Obamacare.  She survived a tough primary, but she’s toast this coming Tuesday.
Prediction: Definite Republican pickup.

California: Carly Fiorina (R) vs. Barbara Boxer* (D). California is one of the few states where President Obama remains fairly popular.  Republican dreams of turning the tide here this year appear to have been as chimerical as in New York.  Though Fiorina has been close throughout, Boxer is finally hitting the magic 50-percent mark in some polls. Fiorina still has a chance, but it looks like Senator “Don’t call me ma’am” survives.
Prediction: Likely Democrat hold.

Colorado: Ken Buck (R)vs. Michael Bennet* (D).  Buck has held on to a slight lead throughout, and in the past week his lead has widened to some degree.  The RealClear Politics average shows a 1.6% Buck lead, but Rasmussen has a wider disparity at +4 for Buck.  The momentum seems to be with Buck, and it looks like he will add to the Republican pick-up column on Tuesday.
Prediction: Likely Republican pickup.

Illinois: Mark Kirk (R) vs. Alexi Giannoulias (D).  This is truly a case where voters are choosing between the lesser of two evils as neither candidate has emerged as particularly likable among the electorate.  Once again, though, the trend has been in favor of the moderate Republican over the past week or so, and it looks like Kirk is starting to separate himself a bit.  He’s still not quite close to 50 percent in any poll, and in a state with a heavy Democratic party registration advantage to go along with the sentimental fact that this is the President’s old seat, that could be a deal breaker.  But for now it looks like Kirk is going to win a squeaker.
Prediction: Republican pickup.

Indiana: Dan Coats (R) vs. Brad Ellsworth (D).  There has been some concern expressed within GOP circles that Coats hasn’t gotten much higher than the low 50s, but there’s really nothing to suggest that this race is particularly close.
Prediction: Definite Republican pickup.

Nevada: Sharon Angle (R) vs. Harry Reid* (D).  Another race that has started trending in the Republican’s favor over the past week or so.  Reid pounced on Angle right out of the gate in order to paint her as a wild-eyed extremist.  The messaging worked, but the fact of the matter is that the Nevada electorate cannot stand Harry Reid, and many would prefer to elect a “crazy” person rather than an incompetent idiot.
Prediction: Likely Republican pickup.

North Dakota: John Hoeven (R) vs. Tracy Potter (D).  This was one was over as soon as Hoeven announced his candidacy.
Prediction: Definite Republican pickup.

Pennsylvania: Pat Toomey (R) vs Joe Sestak (D).  Most polls had had Toomey up comfortably until about two weeks ago when a PPP poll of Sestak’s immediate family pegged this race as a tie.  Polls again show Toomey breaking away, though it’s a bit closer than the GOP would like.
Prediction: Likely Republican pickup.

Washington: Dino Rossi (R) vs. Patty Murray* (D).  It wouldn’t be an election season without Dino Rossi in a tight race in the state of Washington.  This race has been all over the place, but Murray seems to have settled into a very slight lead.  She still hasn’t reached the magic 50% mark, which is a good sign for Rossi. Unfortunately for Rossi, winning by just a few thousand votes on election day would be of small comfort, if history is any indication.
Prediction: Democratic hold.

West Virginia: John Raese (R) vs. Joe Manchin (D).  Unlike the North Dakota race, the entre of the popular Governor did not make this a lock.  Instead voters in the state have tied Manchin to the administration.  Manchin has done a commendable job effectively distancing himself from President Obama, to the point where he is now completely repudiating Obamacare – a complete 180 from his support when the bill passed.  Will West Virginians buy the transformation?  Manchin is up slightly, but the polls seem to be relying on a likely voter model predicting a far heavier Democratic edge than one would suppose in the state.  It’s a tossup, but I think the President’s unpopularity is going to be more powerful a force than the Governor’s popularity.
Prediction: Republican pickup.

Wisconsin: Ron Johnson (R) vs. Russ Feingold* (D).  This one hasn’t been particularly close considering that Feingold has been a fairly popular Senator in a relatively Democratic-leaning state.  But Johnson took an early lead, and has now started polling well into the 50s.  One-half of McCain-Feingold is going back to the Senate, but it won’t be the guy who didn’t lose the last presidential election.
Prediction: Likely Republican pickup.

Final Analysis: At a minimum the Republicans are set to pick up seven Senate seats, and my final call is for a total pick-up of nine (one less than my prediction earlier this week).  That would leave the Senate dead-locked at 50 votes each, with Joe Biden casting the tie-breaking vote in favor of the Democrats.  Can the Republicans eke out a victory in one of the states I’m calling for the Democrats?  Of the states that I am predicting the Democrats to hold, Washington is the most tenuous.  Rossi needs to get busy over the weekend.  And of the Republican pickups, I’d say West Virginia is going to be the closest race.  Now if the Republicans fall one seat short of a majority, there are Senators that might be persuaded to jump ship, though personally I don’t see it.  They might be able to work with Senators like Nelson, Lieberman, and even Gillebrand (as I said, she has to run again in 2012) to form de facto legislative majorities, but otherwise whatever the party breakdown is after Tuesday is the way it will remain for the 112th Congress.

19 Responses to Where They Stand: Senate

  • Paul,
    I have been following the Senate races fairly carefully, and I agree 100% with your predictions and caveats.

  • Good analysis Paul. I differ from you in regard to California and Washington. I think the huge anti-Democrat tide will carry Fiorina to victory in the formerly Golden State, and Rossi to victory beyond the margin of fraud often used by Washington Democrats to steal state wide elections in that state. I recall in 2006 that the Democrats won all the close Senate races and I expect the Republicans to do the same this year. However, I suspect that even I underestimate the true power of the anti-Democrat tide running in this country right now, which is something unprecedented in living memory.

  • I hope you’re right Don, but my gut says Boxer hangs on. The problem is Fiorina doesn’t seem to be getting any help from the top of the ticket. And even in wave elections like this one, there are always a few races that the surging party leaves on the table, and I have a feeling this will be one. As for Rossi, he’s starting to seem like one of those perpetual candidates who always just loses. (Well, the first time around he arguably didn’t really lose, but that’s a topic for another time.)

  • An interesting look at the polls in the Rossi-Murray race.

    http://crosscut.com/blog/crosscut/19875/Murray-Rossi:-Why-the-polls-are-a-coin-flip/

    I think most pollsters are understating Republican strength at the polls by around 3% this year, because they are dealing with an unprecedented situation as to the anti-Democrat wave, the enthusiasm gap between the parties and the fact that independents around the country are breaking hard for the Republicans. We will soon find out, and the accuracy of the polls will be a subject I will be intensely interested in post-election. Watch many polls this weekend showing a mini-surge to the Republicans in the Senate races as pollsters hedge their bets.

  • Great analysis and predictions Paul!

    There may even be a surprise in Delaware ( I realize it is unlikely though) – http://weaselzippers.us/2010/10/27/dnc-at-defcon-1-is-christine-o%E2%80%99donnell-now-leading-in-dem-internal-polls/

  • “… there are always a few races that the surging party leaves on the table …”

    Not in 2006. Every close Senate race broke to the Dems(see, e.g, Missouri, Montana, Rhode Island, Virginia).

  • On the ground here in WA… Murray holding on to her seat is the likely scenario from my perspective. First and foremost, we are a blue state. King, Snohomish and Pierce counties make it so. The corruption in King County (think Seattle) elections makes it even more so (as you alluded to the gubernatorial race of 2004).

    What’s more, there are two different feelings among tea party folks around here. One, which is more aligned to the GOP is that we must defeat Murray at all costs. You heard this all over local talk radio after the primary when Clint Didier withheld his endorsement of Rossi (based on a lack of support for some key GOP platform issues).

    The second element in the tea party is the more libertarian leaning group, one that strongly identifies with the ideas put forth by Ron Paul (and strongly behind Didier). They feel rather disgruntled about the primary, where Rossi was a late comer, and ran something of a non-campaign saving his war chest for the general.

    We’ll see… will the third time (for a state-wide election) be the charm for Rossi? If he loses, blame will be placed squarely on the Didier die-hards for with holding their vote. One thing is for sure, if Rossi loses, it will be one more tick mark in a long string of losses by moderate Republicans in state-wide elections. This begs the question… should the WSRP court more conservative candidates?

  • I’d love to see Her Royal Senator Highness overthrown, but CA is one of those states where getting rid of an incumbent liberal is akin to Hell freezing over.

    If you wish to disagree with that assessment, fine, but don’t call me sir or RL. Call me Beloved General Field Marshall of the L homestead; I worked hard for that.

  • The just released Rasmussen poll on the Washington Senate race has Rossi up by one 48-47. Murray still being under 50% this close to election day is trouble for her.

    http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/elections/election_2010/election_2010_senate_elections/washington/election_2010_washington_senate

  • A sign of the public mood:

    “According to pollster Doug Schoen, whose new poll shows vast support for the Tea Party movement among voters, the president is still liked by about half the nation. In fact, more like him personally than like his policies. Some 48 percent think he’s a nice guy, while just 42 percent approve of his job performance.
    But that personal favorability doesn’t translate into re-election support when voters are asked if Obama deserves a second term. Says Schoen: “Despite voters feelings toward Obama personally, 56 percent say he does not deserve to be re-elected, while 38 percent say he does deserve to be re-elected president.” Worse, Schoen adds, “43 percent say that Barack Obama has been a better president than George W. Bush, while 48 percent say Bush was a better president than Obama has been.”

    http://hotair.com/archives/2010/10/28/shocker-bush-beats-obama-4843-in-poll/

  • In Wisconsin, I wouldn’t count Feingold out. While Johnson has been ahead in most polls, the gap’s been closing in recent weeks and Johnson hasn’t fared well in the debates. Feingold, with three terms under his belt and being a smooth debater, is still pretty popular in a purple state. Johnson may still win, but his lead is shrinking.

  • New York is a sad case. Less than a year old it looked like both Gillibrand’s seat and the governorship would easily go to Republicans. Unfortunately for Republicans, Paterson decided not to run and the GOP basically conceded the senate seat without a fight.

  • Joe, you probably have a better sense of what’s going on in Wisconsin than I do, but the polls seem to have flattened out over the past week. Feingold certainly can make it interesting, but with Johnson now consistently polling in the low 50s, I’d be surprised if he lost.

    As for 2006, there was one race the Dems lost that was considered something of a toss-up. It was the TN Senate race that Harold Ford (call me) lost to Corker by about 3 points. That said, I can’t really think of any other close race over the past 2 cycles that the Dems have lost.

  • RR -

    New York is just an embarrassment for the GOP. Rudy Giuliani could certainly have won any of the statewide races had he decided to run, but evidently he is under the delusion that he could still be President one day. And as bad as Pataki is, he certainly could have been competitive with Gillebrand. The same is true for Lazio if he had set his sights on the Senate instead of the Governor’s Mansion.

  • “whatever the party breakdown is after Tuesday is the way it will remain for the 112th Congress”

    Maybe, maybe not. If the Republicans get to 50, they’ll be throwing every deal they can think of at the most nervous-looking Democratic senator they can find. If Sestak loses badly, that could be Bob Casey.

  • New York is just an embarrassment for the GOP

    The candidate for Comptroller and the candidate for Attorney-General have both shivved the Gubernatorial candidate, refusing to endorse him and (in the latter case) even to appear at public events with him. The Onondaga County executive endorsed Andrew Cuomo. The state party chairman (Richard Nixon’s corporate lawyer son-in-law) has been a pillar of Jell-O. I keep telling you: these people lose and lose and lose because of their irredeemable inadequacies.

  • Re Kirk vs. Giannoulias in IL: I voted early a couple of weeks ago. If either candidate had been ahead by a comfortable margin (meaning my vote would probably not make any difference), or if either party were pretty much assured of taking (or keeping) control of the Senate, I would have skipped this race and not voted for either candidate.

    Kirk is about as RINO as one can be — pro-abort, pro-ESCR, voted for cap and trade before he was against it, etc. However, I went ahead and voted for him, very reluctantly, ONLY because the race is so close AND because control of the Senate may hinge on the outcome. I am not going to sit back and allow a liberal Democrat to win under those circumstances.

  • On a side note: there are some prognosticators who believe that if Harry Reid loses his seat but the Dems hold on to the Senate, the next Majority Leader will be none other than Illinois’ other (ahem) esteemed Senator, Dick Durbin, who comes up for reelection in 2014. Now THAT is a race I am looking forward to. Hopefully the GOP will come up with a much better candidate than they have had the last three Senate election cycles. Lord knows they can’t do much worse.

  • Paul, I wouldn’t disagree that Johnson looks like the winner by a nose. Interestingly, more TV spots have been run in Wisconsin than any other state. Spending at $10.8 million in the Badger state, according to the Wesleyan Media Project, which tracks federal races.

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