Thursday, August 26, 2010

Changing Senate Races After Labor Day

 In many states across the country, Democrats are looking at losing Senate seats. Fortunately, most pundits including myself believe that the Republicans will not pick up enough seats to gain a majority in the Senate. Still, many people believe the Republicans will pick up about 6-7 seats and the trend is more for the Republicans. Some races though are not as solidly Republican as you may think though. It may be because the Democrat is not well known to voters or has not spent enough time to define him/herself and the opponent. Since Labor Day is not here yet, the real campaign season is not here either (unless your name is Meg Whitman and you are spending money nonstop.) That is a good example (and probably the most famous) one of the races where the Democrat has not kicked the campaign into high gear. Not all races where one candidate will start doing better after Labor Day are races where Democrats will improve. For example, Ohio has a tied race with Rob Portman (R) and Lee Fisher (D). Portman has raised a large amount of money and when he starts spending it, he should open a lead. Now here is a list of the races which should change after Labor Day:

Delaware: Michael Castle (R) vs. Chris Coons (D)
Chris Coons is the County Supervisor for New Castle County (Wilmington) which is known as the state's  bellwether. Castle is the At-Large Representative for Delaware, he is a moderate and he has represented it for awhile. Also, his moderate views make him appealing to independents. Most polling also shows Castle with about a 10 point lead. Although Coons at first appears to be in trouble, he has a good shot at making this close. Coons needs to introduce himself to voters and the Democratic lean of Delaware should help him close in on castle. Still, this race looks like Castle's to lose.

Indiana: Dan Coats (R) vs. Brad Ellsworth (D)
Coats is a former Indiana Senator and a former lobbyist. Ellsworth has been a U.S House member in southwestern Indiana for four years. Coats is definitely more of the incumbent but this race will tell us whether it is really an anti incumbent year or just an anti Democratic year. Most polls show Coats with a solid lead over Ellsworth. Do not expect the lead to be so large soon. Ellsworth won by 24 points in 2006, knocking out Republican John Hosteletter (R) and he is extremely popular in that district. Once Ellsworth starts introducing himself to rural voters outside of his district, he should get closer to Coats because Ellsworth pro gun stances and other views popular in rural areas should help him. Coats voted for the Brady Bill so it is even possible Ellsworth will get the NRA endorsement. Although I expect a Coats win by 5 points, Coats's big lead in the polls now is due to Ellsworth not being well known.

Missouri: Roy Blunt (R) vs. Robin Carnahan (D)
Carnahan is the Secretary of State and she won by 26 points in 2008 and won the important rural areas of Missouri. For a Democrat to win an election here, he/she must keep Republican margins in rural areas down enough so they do not offset Democratic votes in St. Louis/Kansas City areas. Also, Carnahan's opponent is Roy Blunt who is from conservative southwest Missouri where Democrats never make big inroads (so no hometown advantage for him.) Blunt also is the former Majority Whip under the Bush Administration. You would think Carnahan would have this race in the bag but most polls show Blunt leading Carnahan by a few points. The likely explanation is that since Obama is unpopular in Missouri (he did not even win here in 2008,) the unpopularity is spilling over to Carnahan. Still, she has a better shot once she starts defining Roy Blunt and reminding 61% of Missouri voters why they supported her. This race should get closer but I expect a Blunt win.

Ohio: Rob Portman (R) vs. Lee Fisher (D)
So far, races that I am saying will change are races which should shift toward the Democratic candiate. This race though should shift towards the Republicans. Portman (R) is the former U.S Trade Representative under the Bush Administration and Bush is still unpopular in Ohio. Lee Fisher (D), the Lieutenant Governor is a solid candidate from Northeast Ohio where Democrats need big turnout to win. Most polls show a close race but after Labor Day, Portman should get a bigger lead. His advantage is that he has much more money than Fisher so he will be able to blanket the state with ads while Fisher will not. Although Fisher has the backing of the state's strong unions, it will probably not be enough for him to win.

Pennsylvania: Pat Toomey (R) vs. Joe Sestak (D)
If one race will see a big shift in polls after Labor Day, it will be this one. Joe Sestak surprised everyone by beating Arlen Specter (D) by 8 points, thanks to an ad blitz at the end with Sestak defining himself as a populist which played really well in West Pennsylvania. Also, there was a clear contrast when Specter gave a not so exciting concession speech while Sestak was very energetic. Now Sestak needs to use his energy against Toomey, a former big Club For Growth conservative. In 2004, Toomey ran as the conservative when he primaried Specter but Toomey is now running to the center. Although most polls show Sestak behind, Sestak has not kicked in his campaign yet. If there is one race that will see a big shift, it will be this one. Sestak will probably wait until the last minute to do an ad blitz but as we saw with Martha Coakley (D) in Massachusetts, waiting until the last minute is not a good idea. Still, it worked for Sestak in the primary so it might work again. This race will end up being really close.

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