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.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Washington Baselines: Murray v. Rossi

 Until Chris Christie was elected, New Jersey was the state where Republicans were Charlie Brown trying to kick the football from Lucy. The Republicans kept nominating candidates there who kept losing. Finally in 2009, they nominated Christie who beat Corzine. Since Christie was elected, he has run his approval ratings to the ground, especially among teachers and other people who value education. The Christie debacle is another story for another post. This post will focus on the other state where Republicans keep attempting to kick the football. Washington State is that state. Interestingly, Washington and New Jersey voted 53% and 57% for the Democratic Presidential nominee in 2004 and 2008 respectively. Washington State was a big state for Republican gains in 1994 where an 8-1 Democratic delegation turned into a 7-2 Republican delegation. Now the delegation is at 6-3 Democratic. Since 1994 though, Republicans have not been winning too many statewide races. Democrats hold the Governorship and both Senate seats. The holders of these seats are interestingly all woman, the only state with the Governorship and both Senate seats held by women. Republicans could not beat the Senators Patti Murray (D) in 2004 and Maria Cantwell (D) in 2006. Still, Republicans have come dangerously close to winning. In 2004, a certain "moderate" Republican named Dino Rossi almost beat Christine Greigoire (D) for the Governorship but lost after a lengthy recount. He returned for a rematch in 2008 but lost by 6 points. Republicans now believe he is their candidate who can grab Murray's seat.

With the anti incumbent climate, Murray is facing a close race with Dino Rossi. He did lose one advantage in the general election though. In 2004, he was able to eat into Greigoire's margin in King County (Seattle) because he was moderate. Now he is more conservative so he can win the teabagger wing of the party. This is important for him because Washington has an interesting way of conducting elections. Instead of holding primaries for each party, the state has a jungle primary. This means that any Republican or Democrat can run in the election. If no one gets 50% or more of the vote, the top two vote getters will face each other in a runoff. If Rossi cannot win the teabaggers' approval, a teabagger may jump into the race. Most polls show Murray leading Rossi in the jungle primary but she is not winning 50% of the vote yet. Still, other polls show her winning the runoff. This will be a close election so I have here a map of the baselines for the runoff assuming it happens. This map shows how the counties will vote if the candidates tied (actually, my vote count had Rossi winning by 72 votes but a lead that small out of almost 2 million votes is close enough.) I found the baseline percentages by adding the percentages by county from the 2008 Presidential, 2004 Senatorial and 2004 Gubernatorial elections. I then divided by three. For the votes, I had turnout be 65% of the 2008 level. I used the 2008 Presidential election for current trends, the 2004 Senatorial election for Murray and the 2004 Gubernatorial election for Rossi. First, you will see a map of the baselines, then a list of the counties and their votes. Next, you will see a list of the regions which are Seattle & Vicinity, Coastal Washington and Eastern Washington. Enough chatter about baselines, here is the map (click for a better view:)


Dark Red: Rossi 65% +
Red: Rossi 55%-64%
Light Red: Rossi 50%-54%
Light Blue: Murray 50%-54%
Blue: Murray 55%-64%
Dark Blue: Murray 65%+

Here is a better quality map of Washington:

List of counties:

County Names Murray Rossi Percentages

Adams 853 2,305 27%-73%

Asotin 2,416 3,941 38%-62%

Benton 14,301 33,369 30%-70%

Chelan 7,568 13,337 36%-64%

Clallam 11,142 13,896 45%-55%

Clark 53,080 66,470 44%-56%

Columbia 415 1,052 28%-72%

Cowlitz 14,377 15,206 49%-51%

Douglas 3,178 6,754 32%-68%

Ferry 848 1,450 37%-63%

Franklin 4,027 8,839 31%-69%

Garfield 237 655 27%-73%

Grant 5,226 12,735 29%-71%

Grays Harbor 9,580 9,390 51%-49%

Island 12,414 14,990 45%-55%

Jefferson 7,690 5,389 59%-41%

King 366,136 236,061 61%-39%

Kitsap 39,653 41,604 49%-51%

Kittitas 4,545 7,140 39%-61%

Klickitat 2,821 3,785 43%-57%

Lewis 7,251 15,478 32%-68%

Lincoln 1,152 2,753 30%-70%

Mason 8,840 9,692 48%-52%

Okanogan 4,173 6,879 38%-62%

Pacific 3,672 3,513 51%-49%

Pend Oreille 1,640 2,653 38%-62%

Pierce 103,807 111,561 48%-52%

San Juan 4,245 2,635 62%-38%

Skagit 16,819 19,745 46%-54%

Skamina 1,634 1,934 46%-54%

Snohomish 104,923 104,505 50%-50%

Spokane 61,628 82,026 43%-57%

Stevens 4,904 9,780 33%-67%

Thurston 44,051 38,752 53%-47%

Wahkiakum 672 825 45%-55%

Walla Walla 5,805 10,365 36%-64%

Whatcom 33,054 32,530 50%-50%

Whitman 4,984 6,448 44%-56%

Yakima 17,919 31,310 36%-64%

Total 991,680 991,752 50%-50%

Here is how the baselines break down regionally:
Seattle & Vicinity
Counties   Murray Rossi

King 366,136  236,061 61%-39%

Snohomish 104,923  104,505 50%-50%

Pierce 103,807  111,561 48%-52%

Kitsap 39,653  41,604 49%-51%

Thurston 44,051  38,752 53%-47%

Total 658,570  532,483 55%-45%

Coastal Washington Murray Rossi

Whatcom 33,054 32,530 50%-50%

Skagit 16,819 19,745 46%-54%

San Juan 4,245 2,635 62%-38%

Island 12,414 14,990 45%-55%

Clallam 11,142 13,896 45%-55%

Jefferson 7,690 5,389 59%-41%

Mason 8,840 9,692 48%-52%

Grays Harbor 9,580 9,390 51%-49%

Pacific 3,672 3,513 51%-49%

Lewis 7,251 15,478 32%-68%

Wahkiakum 672 825 45%-55%

Cowlitz 14,377 15,206 49%-51%

Clark 53,080 66,470 44%-56%

Skamina 1,634 1,934 46%-54%

Total 184,470 211,693 47%-53%

Rest of the State

            Murray Rossi
Total 148,640 247,576 38%-62%

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Senate Race Rankings: August Edition: Republican Pickups but how many?

 Welcome to the Dog Days of August everyone. Besides many people enjoying themselves on vacation, we also have many races enjoying vacations too. Therefore, there will not be too many Senate Ranking changes least in the Senate races higher up the list. Although this is definitely a Republican year (at least for the House of Representatives,) Republicans may be picking up less seats in the Senate than they hoped. In my opinion, the chance of the Republicans picking up the Senate is an absolute no no. It is not because they will not steal ten seats from the Democrats, it is because Democrats may obtain some seats previously held by Republicans. The rhetoric this year is anti incumbent. For some places though, it is just anti Democratic Party (or Democrat party as conservatives will say.) For example, Delaware is looking to elect Michael Castle (R) who has served as Governor and U.S House Representative in Delaware for a very long time.

Also, Republicans are losing chances for pickups due to strong Democratic candidates or Republican candidate imploding. Nevada is the most famous example with Sharron Angle. First she thought we should get rid of social security and the Department of Education. She will not stop making gaffes either. She said she will only take questions from people who like her. Even on Fox News, she faced some trouble answering their questions. Another example of Republicans falling into problems is the Colorado Senate race. Ken Buck (R) has gone to the right to beat Jane Norton (R) as he says women do not have the right to an abortion even in cases of rape and incest. In a state that rejected a measure by 46 points to "define life from the moment of conception," these views should not play too well. Also, many of the Democratic candidates are good campaigners but have managed to close gaps or take leads because campaign season has not started yet. If you are looking for a race where a Democrat has a shot at making it close due to campaign skills, look at races like Indiana or Delaware. I expect Republicans to win those races but if the Democrats make them close, do not be surprised.

Now off to the rankings:

1. North Dakota OPEN Byron Dorgan (D)
North Dakota is known for electing candidates who are well known to voters like Democrats Kent Conrad, Earl Pomeroy and Byron Dorgan. Apparently, this applies even more strongly to Republican Governors who are named John Hoeven who are running for Senate in 2010.

Ranking: Safe Republican

2. Arkansas Blanche Lincoln (D)
Blanche Lincoln held off the unions (which were never powerful in Arkansas,) the progressives and Bill Halter (D) when she won the Democratic primary with the help of Bill Clinton. Although Blanche Lincoln came from behind to win, that should not happen this time. Rep John Boozmen (R) from the northwest portion of the state (where Wal Mart was started) is running. All indications clearly show that Boozmen is ahead by double digits. Barring a major gaffe or a big burst of luck, Boozmen will be Arkansas's next Senator.

Ranking: Likely Republican

3. Florida OPEN George LeMieux (R)
Mel Martinez (R) resigned so then popular Governor Charlie Crist (R) appointed LeMieux to hold Martinez's Senate seat. Now Crist wants the seat so he ran for it. Unfortunately, he learned that saying something positive about Obama's stimulus is suicide for a Republican stimulus. Marco Rubio (R) ran as the teabagger and kicked Crist out of the primary. At the beginning of the race though, a poll showed Rubio down by 53 points. Now Crist is running as an independent and most polls show him ahead of Rubio by the mid single digits. The Democratic primary is a big circus too. Kendrick Meek (D) from Miami is running against Jeff Greene, a corrupt billionaire. As Meek's chance of winning shrinks, many Democrats like me are switching to Crist because he may decide to caucus with the Democrats. The race might get closer but expect Crist to win.

Ranking: Lean Independent

4. Delaware OPEN Ted Kaufman (D)
At first, this seat looked like an easy hold for the Democrats. Beau Biden, Joe Biden's son would run and that would be that. When popular Rep. Michael Castle (R) decided to run, Beau Biden decided not to. Now Democrats nominated New Castle County (Wilmington) executive, Chris Coons (D) to run for Senate. It should be noted that New Castle County is a bellwether in Presidential so Coons already has an advantage. Michael Castle though is a moderate and is well known throughout the state but if people get fed up with all the incumbents...Still, expect a Michael Castle win.

Ranking: Lean Republican
5. Indiana OPEN Evan Bayh (D)
Bye Bayh, after being a popular Governor and Senator, Bayh left open a seat the Democrats should have held. Dan Coats (R) is a former Republican Senator and lobbyist who won the primary with only 40% of the vote. He faces Brad Ellsworth (D), the moderate and popular Congressman from southern Indiana, filled with rural swing voters. Although Ellsworth is moderate and should do well with rural voters, Dan Coats has a strong lead. Ellsworth just got out an effective ad attacking lobbyists (not explicitly mentioning the one running against him.) This is helpful but he also needs to appeal to urban voters who were key to Obama's winning coalition in 2008. If Ellsworth does not start closing the gap in September when voters get to know him, then he is toast.

Ranking: Lean Republican

6. Ohio OPEN George Voinovich (R)
Voinovich is another reasonable Republican who is retiring. After a bruising primary against Jennifer Brunner (D), Lieutenant Governor Lee Fisher (D) won. He is facing Rob Portman (R) who is a former congressman and official during the Bush Administration. Almost every poll since March that is not Rasmussen shows Fisher with a lead although most of the leads are by a few points. Fisher's main jobs will be to tie Portman to Bush, remind people how bad Bush was (because everyone is blaming Bush's problems on Obama) and Fisher should highlight how he will create jobs. Also, Fisher needs to step up the fundraising. Also, Portman is from southern Ohio while Fisher is from Northeast Ohio. In many races, I believe it will get better once the Democrat starts campaigning. In this race though, Portman will be able to spend his money but the unions will be able to help Fisher due to their power here. On election night, you should expect a map similar to 2004 except Fisher may get a few Ohio river counties. I still believe that if one race leads to a recount, it will be this one.

Ranking: Toss Up

7. Pennsylvania OPEN Arlen Specter (D)
This race is another shape shifter that finally seems to have settled. First, Specter was a Republican who would face a primary against closeted conservative Pat Toomey (R) from Allentown. Specter switched parties and got another primary challenge, this time from Joe Sestak (D) from Delaware County. Specter lost the primary and gave a not so stirring concession speech. Sestak however was excited and energetic in his speech. He should be able to transfer that energy into the general election campaign. The issue is that Toomey is running to the center so he does not get Santorumed for being too conservative. Being more of an economic conservative, Toomey should have a shot at picking up suburban Philadelphia voters which Democrats must have to win in Pennsylvania. There is just one little problem: Sestak's base is in suburban Philadelphia. This is one of those races that will be very close and to win, Sestak must hold on to the suburbs.
Ranking: Toss Up

8. Colorado Michael Bennett (D)
Bennett is facing a tough primary from the not so stellar fundraiser Andrew Romanoff (D). At first, I thought this was a race the Republicans would eventually win. Then like Virginia 2006, Montana 2006 and Nevada 2010, the Republicans made some mistakes. Ken Buck (R) is facing Jane Norton (R) in the primary. He called birthers (in case you do not know, birthers are people who believe Obama was not born in this country even if a newspaper announces Obama's birth in Honolulu, Hawaii when Obama was born) dumba*ses which should play well in the general election (but not in the primary.) Also, the Governor's race has imploded for the Republicans too. Tom Tancredo (R) is running as an Independent because Scott McInnis (R) plagiarized and this should split the Republican vote. The implosion may spread to the Senate race too so stand by for further developments.
Ranking: Toss Up/Tilt Democratic

9. Missouri OPEN Christopher Bond (R)
 In a year like 2006 or 2008, this seat would be an easy pickup for the Democrats. Even in a neutral year, the Democrats would probably win this seat. The Democrats nominated Robin Carnahan (D), Missouri's Secretary of State who won by 26 points in 2008 (she also received the largest number of votes for a candidate in Missouri history.) She did well in rural areas in that election and she has rural roots. If a Democrat wants to win in Missouri, he/she must keep down Republican margins in rural areas so urban areas allow Democrats to pull through in Missouri. Also, Carnahan is a good campaigner so it appears she is the best candidate the Democrats can find. She is the best candidate but the Republicans nominated Roy Blunt from conservative southwest Missouri. Yes, the Roy Blunt who was the Majority Whip during the Bush Administration. Most polls though show Blunt leading by a few points and this is probably because of Missouri's conservative trend. Even Obama did not win the state while winning big in the St. Louis area and doing well near Kansas City too. Also, the recent statewide primary showed high Republican turnout and low Democratic turnout. Although Carnahan should make the race closer once she starts campaigning, this race looks more and more like a Republican hold.

Ranking: Toss Up/Tilt Republican

10. Kentucky OPEN Jim Bunning (R)
I considered taking this race off the list but I have decided to keep it here because the race could shift toward the Democrats quickly (although this seems less and less likely.) After winning a bruising primary against Daniel Mongirado (D), progressive Jack Conway (D) hopes to beat Rand Paul (R) who soundly beat the establishment's favorite Trey Grayson (R). At first, Paul resembled a gaffe machine by saying he hopes to repeal part of the Civil Rights Act. Kentucky is a conservative state (Obama only won 41% of the vote here) but even here, Conway has been able to make the race close. Paul however has zipped his lips and is not making anymore gaffes. Conway is a strong candidate but he seems to have difficulties winning in the eastern Kentucky coal counties. For a Democrat to win in Kentucky, he/she must do extremely well in eastern Kentucky and carry the 5th Congressional district to offset Republican margins in western Kentucky. Overall, this appears to be just the wrong year for Conway. If Rand Paul makes a few more gaffes though...

Ranking: Toss Up/Tilt Republican

Overall, expect Republicans to pick up 2-5 seats in the Senate. Also, do you agree or disagree with the rankings? Do you have any rankings you want to share? Please feel free to comment and share your thoughts.