We’re in the home stretch now as we look at the final set of Senate races. Each of these contests are either complete tossups or utter blowouts.
Pennsylvania - Republican: Tom Smith. Democrat: Bob Casey (Incumbent).
This race had flown under the radar as it appeared that Casey was cruising to re-election. Smith started gaining momentum at a time when nearly every other Republican was losing it, and he has now narrowed the gap. Even when Casey was well ahead he was failing to poll at the magical 50% number. Casey’s problem is representative of the shift in the Pennsylvania Democratic party. While his father was a true social conservative, and therefore a good fit for the state, the younger Casey pays only lip service to abortion and other issues. I think that Casey will survive, but only barely, and for just one more term. Prediction: Democrat hold.
Rhode Island - Republican: Barry Hinckley. Democrat: Sheldon Whitehouse (Incumbent).
A Republican polling firm has this race in single digits. Until I see other polls showing it that close, it still looks to be a pretty safe seat for Whitehouse. Prediction: Democrat hold.
Tennessee - Republican: Bob Corker (Incumbent). Democrat: Mark Clayton.
Corker was just about the only Republican to win a close election in 2006. He won’t have to sweat this time. Prediction: Republican hold.
Texas (open R) - Republican: Ted Cruz. Democrat: Paul Sadler.
Democrats in Texas must feel like Republicans in New York and California. One would think in a state as big as Texas, as Republican-dominated as it is, Democrats would be able to field a semi-competitive candidate. As it is, the real election occurred over the summer when Cruz upset the state’s Lieutenant Governor in a primary runoff. The only question about this contest is how big Cruz’s margin of victory will be. Prediction: Republican hold.
Utah - Republican: Orrin Hatch (Incumbent). Democrat: Scott Howell.
For once Orrin Hatch had to battle for re-election, but it wasn’t the general election that he had to worry about. Hatch was able to avoid the fate of his former colleague, Bob Bennett, and successfully fended off a tea party challenge for the nomination. Hatch had a little more conservative credibility than Bennett, obtaining the support of figures like Mark Levin. Having won re-nomination, Hatch will cruise in the general. Prediction: Republican hold.
Vermont - Republican: John MacGover. Independent: Bernie Sanders (Incumbent).
If there is a silver lining for Republicans, it is that this will continue to be technically a non-Democrat seat. Yeah, I’m stretching. Prediction: Independent hold.
Virginia (open D) - Republican: George Allen. Democrat: Tim Kaine.
In a year of tossups, this might be the tossiest-up of them all. Allen is running to regain the seat that he macaca’d himself out of six years ago. Allen has done better than he did during the last campaign, when he spent the better part of the Fall running negative ads against Jim Webb in a desperate effort to deflect attention away from his macaca moment. The 2006 election was one where partisans on both sides wished both candidates would just go away. Now, in an election pitting two former, relatively popular governors, once again it seems there is surprisingly little enthusiasm. At times it appears that both candidates are kind of going through the motions to win a seat neither really desperately wants, but feel compelled to run for out of some sense of party loyalty. It is truly a strange dynamic, and the voters have expressed their own confusion by failing to break for either candidate. It’s almost impossible to pick a winner, but I’ll go with Allen to win back the seat. No matter who wins, I sense that this will be an open-seat contest again in 2018. Prediction: Republican pickup.
Washington - Republican: Michael Baumgartner. Democrat: Maria Cantwell (Incumbent).
Another seat that the Republicans had some hopes for at the beginning of the year, but this was never a race. Prediction: Democrat hold.
West Virginia - Republican: John Raese. Democrat: Joe Manchin (Democrat).
Manchin has done a masterful job of persuading Mountaineers that he’s a rogue independent while siding with his party when it really matters. Prediction: Democrat hold.
Wisconsin (open D) - Republican: Tommy Thompson. Democrat: Tammy Baldwin.
This race has followed a path unlike most of the others. When former governor Tommy Thompson won the nomination this seemed like a prime Republican pickup opportunity, and Thompson did hold a double digit lead over the summer. Baldwin received a nice post-convention bounce, and she and Thompson have swapped leads it seems with every other poll. Thompson may have seemed like the safe choice for many Republicans in the state, but this is a case where the other candidate’s relative youth may be too much to overcome. Prediction: Democrat hold.
Wyoming - Republican: John Barrasso (Incumbent). Democrat: Tim Chestnut.
I don’t anticipate we’ll be up late waiting to hear a winner announced here. Prediction: Republican hold.
FINAL ANALYSIS: I have the Republicans picking up Florida, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, and Virginia, while losing Maine. That would be a net gain of five seats for the GOP, giving them a 52-48 majority (assuming the independents caucus with Democrats). I’m starting to rethink my Florida and Missouri calls, though I can see Ohio, Pennsylvania, and especially Wisconsin breaking in their favor (though Massachusetts can also swing the other way). Whatever the case may be, my most fearless prediction is this: we will know the identity of the next president much earlier in the evening on election night than we will which party will control the Senate.
Minnesota - Republican: Kurt Bills. Democrat: Amy Klobuchar (Incumbent).
Minnesota feels like the mirror image of Arizona. It’s a state that a lot of people keep expecting to turn more purple, but it just never does. While Romney could eek out a victory here if the presidential election turns into a blowout, Klobuchar is quite safe. Prediction: Democrat hold.
Mississippi - Republican: Roger Wicker (Incumbent). Democrat: Albert N. Gore.
Yes, Gore is indeed a distant relative of the former Vice President. And he has about as much of a chance of winning here as the other Gore would. Prediction: Republican hold.
Missouri - Republican: Todd Akin. Democrat: Claire McCaskill (Incumbent).
Originally thought to be one of the Republican’s surest pickup opportunities, Akin had to go and open his mouth. Despite pleas to drop out of the race, Akin stubbornly stayed in and seemingly doomed the GOP here. Of course he had a secret weapon ready to deploy: his opponent. The fact is, McCaskill is a deeply unpopular Senator who is far too left-wing for her state. Throw in some corruption, and suddenly Mr. Legitimate Rape has a shot. With the polls narrowing, Republicans will have no choice but to throw some money Akin’s way. Looks like he’ll have the last laugh. Prediction: Republican pickup.
Montana - Republican: Danny Rehberg. Democrat: John Tester (Incumbent).
Tester defeated incumbent Conrad Burns by less than 3,000 votes in 2006, and it looks like this is turning out to be another nail-biter. With Montana and North Dakota having close Senate elections, we might be up late on election night wondering who has control of the Senate long after the presidential race has been decided. Rehberg is the at-large Representative for Montana, so he is as familiar face with the electorate as Tester. Considering that this is a more favorable year for Republicans than 2006, I think Rehberg will win a squeaker. Prediction: Republican pickup.
Nebraska (open D) - Republican: Deb Fischer. Democrat: Bob Kerrey.
This race was decided the day Ben Nelson decided to accept the “Cornhusker Kickback” in exchange for voting for Obamacare. The Democrats had to pluck Bob Kerrey out of retirement in New York in order to even pretend that they had a chance, but this is the one GOP layup for the evening. Prediction: Republican pickup.
Nevada - Republican: Dean Heller (Incumbent). Democrat: Shelley Berkley.
The polls have been narrow throughout, but Heller has maintained a consistent edge in the range of 2-5 percent. Most worrisome for Heller is that he has only cracked 50% in one poll, which is always a danger sign for incumbents. Once again the momentum of the presidential race might determine the ultimate outcome, but it looks like Heller should be able to hang on. Prediction: Republican hold.
New Jersey - Republican: Joe Kyrillos. Democrat: Bob Menendez (Incumbent).
Every now and then New Jersey tantalizes Republicans. Once a fairly strong suburban stronghold for the GOP, it has become a solid blue state since the Clinton years. Though Republicans have done well on the gubernatorial level, and though they do actually have an even split with Democrats in the House caucus, the GOP just has never been able to breakthrough in the Senate. That will not be changing this year. Prediction: Democrat hold.
New Mexico (open D) - Republican: Heather Wilson. Democrat: Martin Heinrich.
New Mexico has been the one semi-swing state that hasn’t turned towards the Republicans this cycle. President Obama seems safe here, and Heinrich has opened up a comfortable double-digit lead. Prediction: Democrat hold.
New York - Republican: Wendy Long. Democrat: Kirsten Gillenbrand (Incumbent).
Believe it or not, but when I was a kid growing up in New York the Republican party in the state wasn’t a joke. Prediction: Democrat hold.
North Dakota (open D) - Republican: Rick Berg. Democrat: Heidi Heitkamp.
For the second cycle in a row, a Democrat retirement has opened up an opportunity for the Republicans to pickup a Senate seat in North Dakota. Unlike last time, this will not be a cakewalk for the Republican candidate. Congressman Rick Berg is running against Attorney General Heitkamp. The polling here has been sparse, so it’s difficult to know how the race stacks up. Even though Romney will win here fairly comfortably, and even though the state trends pretty heavily towards the GOP, this is far from a lock for Berg. I predict he will pull it out, but this is going to be very close. Prediction: Republican pickup.
Ohio - Republican: Josh Mandel. Democrat: Sherrod Brown (Incumbent).
Mandel had this race close, but then Brown started to pull ahead after the Democratic convention. The race has tightened up again, but Brown has a decent-sized lead. Once again, though, Brown fails to poll above 50%. Since Ohio could be viewed as the Democrats’ firewall for both the presidency and the Senate, I do not envy anyone living in the state. My advice – turn off the television. At any rate, though Brown is far to the left of the majority of the state, he is a tough guy to beat. I think Brown will hold on, but this race could easily shift towards Mandel in the closing moments. Prediction: Democrat hold.
Perhaps it’s just me, but it seems that even the Senate races are getting less attention than usual this year. I live in proximity to one of the most hotly contested Senate races in the country, and it’s gotten relatively little attention. It’s all the more amazing considering that almost half of the races are fairly competitive, and the gap between the parties is small. Currently, Republicans hold 47 seats while Democrats have 53 (including two independents that caucus with them). If Mitt Romney is elected, Republicans will need to pickup a net of three seats in order to win effective control of the Senate. Considering recent Senatorial history, Republicans would do well to win a few extra seats.
Since Democrats have to defend two-thirds of the seats up for election this cycle, it would seem that Republicans should have a good chance of winning back control of the Senate. Unfortunately a couple of key retirements and several inopportune gaffes have made the Republican road to Senate control all the more difficult.
All that said, I will briefly analyze each of the Senate races. With 33 seats up for grabs, I will be splitting up these posts in batches of 11 each, working my way through them alphabetically. So let’s get to it. Continue reading
With it being a presidential election year, it is easy to lose track of the fact that there is an institution called Congress. You may not have heard, but as is the case every two years, approximately one-third of the Senate and all 435 House seats are up for election. I hope to look at the Senate races in the coming week, but this post is for the House of Representatives.
The least suspenseful aspect of the 2012 election are the House races. Certainly there is some drama within individual races, but in the aggregate, the Democratic chances of recapturing the House are somewhere between slim and are you kidding me. Real Clear Politics already has the GOP at 226 seats with lean-R and likely-R districts, with an additional 26 races listed as toss-ups. No matter what happens with the presidential election, Republican control of the House is a near certainty. The main question with regard to the House is how big will the Republican majority be? Even though the Republicans had an historic mid-term pickup, there were a number of close elections that Republicans lost in 2010, many of them in districts favorable to Republicans. Throw in post-census re-districting, and the GOP should retain a fairly strong majority.
I’m not going to go into detail into every tossup race. Consider this an open invitation for those of you either in swing districts or neighboring swing districts to inform us how things are shaping up in your neck of the woods.
I’ll kick things off by taking a look at the People’s Republic of Maryland. Currently two of Maryland’s eight House districts are held by Republicans, which is just too many for the overwhelming Democratic majority in the state. In attempt to knock off the longest-serving Republican – Roscoe Bartlett in the sixth district – the Democrats drew up a laughably gerrymandered map. This is actually a map of Maryland’s 8th district, currently served by Democrat and Nancy Pelosi lackey Chris Van Hollen (click on 2012 map). What they’ve done is place a part of heavily Reublican Frederick County in the northern part of the state and magically patched it with Maoist Montgomery County to the south. At one point the district basically just runs up I-270. The area to the west is the sixth district, which now combines portions of Montgomery County with the more conservative northwest section of the state. In other words, they’ve taken one heavily Democratic district and one Republican district and converted them into two Democratic-leaning districts. The gerrymander is so ridiculous that it is one of the five major state-wide ballot initiatives in Maryland. (Even if the voters decide to reject the altered districts, those elected will serve the districts as currently designed for the next term, and the Democrats just get to re-draw the lines).
Bartlett is facing challenger Joe Delaney, and things do not look good for Bartlett. It would be the ultimate justice if instead of ousting Bartlett, the re-drawn eight district winds up in the Republican column. Ken Timmerman is challenging Van Hollen, and has drawn the support of luminaries such as John Bolton. The district is now “only” 50% Democrat, which means that instead of this being a lock-solid Democrat district, it’s just a very strong Democrat district. Timmerman is going to have to pull a lot of independents to have any chance, but stranger things have happened. In the end, it looks like the state of Maryland will be a net pickup of one for the Democrats.
A couple of posts at Breitbart’s “Big Government” site have resulted in thousands of comments and intense debate between libertarians and conservatives, and between libertarians themselves over the merits of supporting a third-party/independent alternative to Mitt Romney. Having been involved in third-party politics myself at one point in my life, I am sympathetic to the cause. But given the stakes this November, I’ve decided to hold my nose and vote for Romney, as I’ve already posted here at TAC.
I must say, however, in response Kurt Schlichter (the author of the aforelinked pieces) that I regard this as a highly personal choice, and not one that I am willing to guilt others into making. On many of the issues that matter to me and other Ron Paul supporters, Romney is absolutely abysmal and nearly indistinguishable from Obama, whether we are talking about civil liberties, constitutional protection of the lives of American citizens (even the bad ones), foreign policy, monetary policy, and a host of related issues. Those who prioritize such issues cannot be expected to give Romney their vote. There was also the disgraceful treatment of Ron Paul and his delegates by the GOP at the RNC this year. Schlichter would have us basically forget all about it.
With that said, however, when Ron Paul stopped actively campaigning for the GOP nomination, his candidacy in effect came to an end. There certainly is something bizarre about a pledge to vote for a man who by the looks of things would like to settle into a well-deserved, hard-earned retirement from public life. I always suspected that Paul didn’t really want to be president. Some see this as a positive trait, and it can be in certain contexts, but men also need leaders. If that makes me sound fascistic, so be it. Human nature is what it is.
So people who accept the reality that Paul is unable or unwilling to capture the nomination and the Presidency are then faced with other options. I’ve explained my choice, but many others are considering Gary Johnson, and Schlichter is addressing them as well (as well as Virgil Goode, the Constitution Party candidate’s supporters). Aside from the fact that Johnson is pro-choice and therefore unsupportable for Catholics, I don’t begrudge anyone the right to support either of these men as an alternative to Romney.
We need to rewind a little bit before we address the madness engulfing the presidential primary season. During the runup to the 2010 midterm elections and in its immediate followup there has been some internal GOP strife between purists who want to select only the most ideologically pure candidates and those of a squishier stripe whose primary concern is electability. This has been an ongoing warfare, and has continued on into the GOP presidential primary.
So now Newt Gingrich is atop of the polls. A mere few months ago Newt had been written off as a candidate, especially by the purists. Gingrich reviled the base right at the start of his campaign by deriding Paul Ryan’s budget reform plan as right-wing social engineering. This was just the latest in the string of rhetorical and other slights against the right. He had endorsed Dede Scozafava, sat on the couch with Nancy Pelosi for that silly global warming PSA, and had otherwise served as a negative symbol of the establishment. But a few great debate performances – and I emphasize the word performance here – plus the flameout of various other non-Romney candidates managed to put Newt at the top of the polls.
So now the same establishment voices that urged moderation are attacking Gingrich in full voice. Pundits like Charles Krauthammer and others are questioning Gingrich’s bona fides. George Will went so far as to suggest that Newt is some kind of Marxist, and Mark Krikorian implied that Newt’s heart belonged to the French Revolution. This, in turn, has angered the conservative firebrands, who perceive that the establishment is attacking the new conservative hero. In other words, for questioning Gingrich’s conservatives purity these writers are basically being written off by purists who think that these commentators are manifesting a clear lack of purity. The anti-purists, meanwhile, are writing off a candidate because of his, umm, lack of purity. So the anti-purists are clearly RINOs because they think someone who the purists themselves thought was insufficiently pure not that long ago is not in fact pure. On the other hand the purists are upset that the non-purists are questioning the bona fides of a previously heretofore believed to be impure candidate, and in doing so are demonstrating that they are tools of the impure establishment.
I am convinced that if National Review wanted to derail the Gingrich campaign all it has to is endorse Gingrich. As I have written before there seems to be a contingent of the GOP electorate that is motivated by spite, and they will flock to any candidate that the establishment criticizes.
It’s an astoundingly insane situation. Frankly, I think that Gingrich is neither a Marxists-Leninist, nor is he the modern embodiment of Ronald Reagan. Gingrich is a conservative technocrat. He thinks that we can achieve conservative outcomes through just enough social and government tinkering. He’s not quite a big government conservative, but I think Jonah Goldberg has a pretty good feel for Gingrich’s political instincts.
Gingrich probably agrees with the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan more than any other leading conservative. “The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society,” Moynihan observed. “The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture and save it from itself.” A constant theme of Gingrich’s career is a desire to use government to fix the culture. Indeed, there’s no Republican in the field with a more robust faith in the power of government.
So in this crazy, upside down primary season the segment of the Republican party that agrees with Gingrich is trying to eliminate him from the race, and the segment that is turned off by this sentimentality is outraged that anyone could question Gingrich.
Personally, I am ambivalent about Newt. He’s a better candidate than most, and think that he’d ultimately make an adequate president. And while I don’t that it is unfair to dig deeper into a candidate’s philosophy and question his fitness for office, some of the assaults on Gingrich are a little absurd. When John Sununu is on the attack against a candidate and questioning his conservative record, well, let’s just say Sununu is probably not the best judge of conservative character.
But to me the race has come down to two men named Rick. Which one will I ultimately vote for? If it were purely about ideology it would be Santorum, but other factors – including executive experience – ultimately matter as well and weigh in Perry’s favor. I’d be perfectly content with either candidate. Neither is looking particularly strong in the polls right now, but considering all that has taken place over the past few months, we should expect either to be the party’s nominee.
In all seriousness, neither is as much of a longshot as they appear right now. You see, there’s this election that takes place in Iowa. Despite the fact that Iowa is a rather small state and has a method of voting that is one of the dumbest and most confusing methods of selecting a candidate known to man, the Iowa caucus is crucial. And so, this completely outmoded and overrated caucus may very well cause a darkhorse candidate to jump to the front of the line. Both Santorum and Perry appeal to the socially conservative element in the state, and victory is obtainable in a state where the election hinges on non-traditional forms of electioneering. I’m not suggesting that Perry or Santorum will in fact win, but if either does – especially in the case of Perry – then it will fundamentally alter the narrative of the campaign.
Of course, if either takes (or in Perry’s case, reclaims) the lead, then expect the establishment to get the knives out. But then at least the battle lines will make sense.
Herman Cain’s candidacy is effectively over.
“As of today, with a lot of prayer and soul searching, I am suspending my presidential campaign,” said Cain to boos of disappointment. “I am suspending my presidential campaign because of the continued distraction, the continued hurt caused on me and my family. Not because we are not fighters.”
Cain said he would endorse a Republican candidate soon, and announced his own “plan B” for public service, a policy web site called “The Cain Solutions.”
In the short term, I would imagine that most of Cain’s support will trickle to Gingrich. Then again, considering that Cain’s support is made up of anti-establishment types, it very well could go to a less popular candidate, say Santorum or, sigh, Bachmann. Either way, this hurts Romney as it eliminates a non-Romney with significant support. The fewer viable candidates, the less chance for Romney to eek out the nomination.
There is an effort underfoot in the Pennsylvania legislature to change the way the state awards its electoral votes.
PA Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi wants to allot Pennsylvania’s electoral college votes on a congressional district by district basis, rather than the current system of winner take all.
In a state like Pennsylvania, where Democratic candidates for President have won every election since 1988, it could be a way for Republicans to avoid a total loss.
For a number of reasons, I think this is a bad move.
I made a semi-serious New Year’s Resolution not to discuss or even read about the presidential campaign until Labor Day. I didn’t quite live up to that resolution, but I have managed to steer clear of the discussion far more than I would have thought possible. So tonight was the first of the presidential debates that I have seen. Below are my thoughts on how each of the candidates fared.
One general comment: the debate moderators were horrendous. It seemed that about half of the questions were addressed to Rick Perry, and just about less than half to Mitt Romney. In fact the first ten minutes were essentially just a sparring match between the two. The most embarrassing part of the evening was when they trotted out a newscaster from Telemundo just to ask a question about immigration. Just awful.
The Presidential election is still just over 15 months away, and much can change in that time. However, as of now the signs are ominous for President Obama:
1. The Unemployment Rate: Currently the unemployment rate is around 9.2. Since World War 2 no President has been re-elected when the unemployment rate was greater than 7.2. Roosevelt won re-election in 1936 with an unemployment rate of 16. 6 and again in 1940 with an unemployment rate of 14.4. However, FDR had inherited an unemployment rate of 19.8. Obama inherited an unemployment rate of 7.8. If, as increasingly looks likely, the economy remains stagnant or slips back into recession, I find it had to see how there will be much improvement in the unemployment rate prior to November 2012.
2. Electoral College Shift: The Republicans will see a probable gain of approximately 14 votes in their electoral college votes simply due to red states gaining population and blue states losing population.
3. 2012 ain’t 2008: In 2008 Obama took Virginia, Indiana and North Carolina, a total of 39 electoral votes. I do not believe he has a prayer of taking any of those states in 2012. Ohio with 18 electoral votes and Florida with 29 electoral votes went for Obama in 2008, and both went big for the Republicans in 2010. Unless Obama can take one of those states, the electoral math becomes hard for him, albeit not impossible.
4. Say Goodby to the Youth Vote: Obama benefited from a high level of support among young voters, precisely the category of voters suffering the highest level of unemployment. I doubt if a good many of them will be motivated by the promise of four more years of the same to leave Mom and/or Dad’s basement to pull the lever again for Obama, certainly not in the same high numbers.
5. Polls: Obama is beginning to show real weakness when matched against a generic Republican:
Registered voters by a significant margin now say they are more likely to vote for the “Republican Party’s candidate for president” than for President Barack Obama in the 2012 election, 47% to 39%. Preferences had been fairly evenly divided this year in this test of Obama’s re-election prospects.
The latest results are based on a July 7-10 poll, and show that the Republican has an edge for the second consecutive month. Obama held a slight edge in May, when his approval rating increased after the death of Osama bin Laden. As his rating has come back down during the last two months, so has his standing on the presidential “generic ballot.”
Gallup typically uses this question format when a president is seeking re-election but his likely opponent is unknown, as was the case in 1991-1992 and 2003-2004, when incumbents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, respectively, were seeking re-election.
The elder Bush held large leads over his generic Democratic opponent throughout 1991, but early 1992 preferences were more evenly divided and Bush eventually lost his re-election bid. The younger Bush also consistently maintained at least a small advantage over the Democrat throughout 2003, before winning re-election in a close contest in November 2004. Continue reading
The above video is the Republican parody launch video for the Obama campaign. Below is the real launch video for the Obama campaign. Which is funnier? Continue reading
I’m never going to be excited about major party politics. When we come to the finish line, I will hold my nose and vote for the lesser evil, since I don’t see the harm in using my vote. But I’m not going to sit around and speculate about which mainstream GOP or Democratic politician is going to be the frontrunner for 2012. I’ll let others worry about that.
I’d rather focus on the men of principle who sometimes get involved in these races, even though they have no chance of winning. Independent or “outsider” candidates and their campaigns serve a couple of vital functions: they bring viewpoints delegitimized and mocked by the main news sources on the left and right to the forefront, which in turn reminds us that we still live in a relatively free country and haven’t become a fascist dictatorship like China. They can also put some pressure on the major party candidates to take certain issues more seriously.
Recently Judge Andrew Napolitano, the only man on the major networks I can bear to listen to for more than a few minutes, invited Ron Paul and Ralph Nader on his show to discuss the issues and discover the extent to which “progressives” such as Nader and libertarians such as Paul can agree on them. I wasn’t surprised to discover that they agree on quite a bit, as you will see if you watch the video above.