Saturday, September 25, 2010

Joe Sestak and Campaign Surges

 In mid May, the whole pundit world was shocked as the "powerhouse" Arlen Specter (D) was knocked out of his Senate seat in the primary. Specter had previously held that Senate seat since 1980 as a Republican until 2009 but he still had the backing of Governor Ed Rendell (D). The successful challenger to Specter was former Admiral Joe Sestak (D) who represented PA-7, a district in the Philadelphia suburbs. In Pennsylvania races, it is nearly impossible for any Democrat to win unless he/she wins in the Philadelphia suburbs. In the primary, Sestak did just that, winning by 8% statewide with large margins in the Philadelphia suburbs. Although Specter won in Philadelphia with Rendell's help, the support did not carry into the Philadelphia suburbs. Sestak crushed Specter there and Sestak also won west Pennsylvania where Specter was never popular. At first, Sestak was losing in the polls because he had barely campaigned. Then close to the election, he started an ad blitz including some ads attacking Specter's party switch. Sestak learned that negative ads do work. Michael Castle's (R) negative ad blitz in Delaware was not so sucessful but that's another story.  I watched Sestak's acceptance speech and noticed how energetic he was. I watched Specter's concession speech and noticed how he had none of Sestak's energy. Sestak now faces former Allentown Rep. Pat Toomey (R). Conventional wisdom suggests that Republicans are shifting to the right to motivate the teabaggers like John McCain (R) but Toomey is not one of those Republicans. He has become a moderate (at least until November 2nd at 8pm) and keeps "forgetting" to mention how friendly he is with the Club for Growth.

So is Sestak barnstorming Pennsylvania like he was before the primary? Is Sestak out there addressing crowds, running ads everywhere telling voters how Toomey is too conservative for Pennsylvania? No, Sestak is running almost no ads except for a few in the Philadelphia media market. Is Sestak low on cash? Not exactly, Sestak has some money. So why is Sestak not using it so he can erase Toomey's 7 point lead that recent polls are showing? The answer is that he is hoping for a late surge. Most pundits believe that once the election gets closer, he will launch an ad blitz which will give him momentum in the polls. If the surge is close enough to election day, the voters will cast their votes before Sestak loses his surge. Also, Toomey will not have much time to respond to Sestak's surge and Toomey will have already spent most of his money. Yes, a surge does seem to be a comeback option for Sestak. The surge worked for him in the primaries where he won by 8 points. The question is will the surge work for Sestak again?

This year is a year filled with upsets and surges. In Delaware on September 14th, Christine O'Donnell (R) received a money surge and won by 6 points when most pundits expected her to lose. This surge though came only a few days before the election before Castle had enough time to respond. The difference though is that the Delaware election was a primary where surges happen more often. In primaries, many voters look for information themselves but in a general election, candidates need to give information to voters. Also, surges can happen when a new candidate jumps on the scene and initially excites everyone. If the candidate has been around for awhile, most people will have an opinion of the candidate so a big surge might not happen. A good example of how late surges do not work in general elections. In the Massachusetts Senatorial election in January, Martha Coakley (D) did not campaign for a couple of weeks while Scott Brown (R) was out on the air campaigning. A week before the election, Coakley realized the election was close so she started campaigning immediately. Unfortunately, she could not surge and lost by 5 points. The reason is probably that since voters knew both candidates, they had already made up their minds. Brown had an earlier surge which lasted long enough which helped make Brown's support deep.

Sestak though is starting to campaign a bit. He is running some ads in the Philadelphia media market. With the Governor's race looking like a loss for the Democrats, Sestak cannot rely on coattails and he needs to increase Democratic turnout in Philadelphia which often votes heavily Democratic. Still, he cannot wait until the last minute for a surge. Early voting starts very soon in Pennsylvania. Although many early voters are strong supporters of one of the parties, some Independents will vote early too and if they vote for Toomey, Sestak's not so early surge will be to blame. He needs to start campaigning now instead of waiting until most voters have made up their minds.

Monday, September 20, 2010

California U.S House Rankings

 As Michael Barone put it, "Between 1995 and 2005, politics was trench warfare where each side tried to have stronger enthusiasm. Now we are in an open field." Barone is correct because of all the voter shifts right now. 1995 to 2005 were years with 50-50 divides (except for Clinton's win in 1996 where although he had 49% of the vote, he probably would have received a few more percentage points had Ross Perot not run.) The open field politics are clearly showing themselves now with the independents running to the Democrats in 2006 and 2008, giving Democrats a 15 seat Senate pickup, a 54 seat House pickup and the Presidency. Unfortunately, the open field politics did not stop when the Democrats had the independents. The Republicans are now gaining momentum and it is not just because of lethargic Democrats. Many independents are shifting and the anti status quo view is showing itself in primaries. Incumbents in both parties like Arlen Specter (D) in Pennsylvania and Bob Bennett (R) in Utah are losing their primaries. Republicans are looking to flip more than 40 house seats, taking the House from the Democrats.

One place you may expect to see all the upheaval is California. The statewide offices are definitely contested where fired HP CEO Carly Fiorina hopes to end Barbara Boxer's (D) hard work in the Senate. Also, Republicans are contesting the Lieutenant Governorship and the Attorney General spot. One place though in California where there is not much upheaval is the U.S House districts in California. There are a few slightly competitive races like CA-45 where Mary Bono (R) faces the openly gay Palm Springs mayor. In a Democratic year, the Democrats would have more opportunities. Most of the Democrats now are in safe districts so the Republicans cannot win those seats. An exception is CA-11 where Jerry McNerney (D) won in 2006 against corrupt corporate puppet Richard Pombo (R). The district is growing more Democratic but Republicans are seeing an opportunity in Mormon David Harmer (R) who ran unsucessfully in 2009 for CA-10 against John Garamendi (D). Here are the rankings:

32 Safe D
1 Likely D
0 Lean D
1 Tossup
2 Lean R
3 Likely R
14 Safe R

Link for map of California's congressional districts:

CA-1 Mike Thompson (D) Safe D
Great representative in a great district. What else can I say?

CA-2 Wally Herger (R) Likely R
Saying someone is a great American for calling himself, "A right wing terrorist," really goes against the tea party idea of respecting the country and the Constitution. Still, this district is too conservative and this is a Republican year.

CA-3 Dan Lungren (R) Lean R
Lungren won by 5 points last year so Democrats are now actively contesting this race. Although Democrats have a strong candidate, this is the wrong year and Obama did only win this district by 2 points. Although it is trending Democratic, if Lungren cannot be knocked off in a Democratic year, when can he lose?

CA-4 Tom McClintock (R) Solid R
Although he is a carpetbagger and extreme conservative, enough voters here do not mind.

CA-5 Doris Matsui (D) Safe D
One of the only safe places for Democrats in the Central Valley

CA-6 Lynn Woolsey (D) Safe D
My home district!

CA-7 George Miller (D) Safe D
Takes all the really Democratic areas in Contra Costa/Solano Counties.

CA-8 Nancy Pelosi (D) Safe D
No Republican wins here. The contest is the primary if Pelosi retires next year.

CA-9 Barbara Lee (D) Safe D
Most Democratic district in California and most liberal in the country.

CA-10 John Garamendi (D) Safe D
Won 53% of the vote in a 65% Obama district in 2009. David Harmer (R), the challenger from last year is not running here again. Garamendi should be fine.

CA-11 Jerry McNerney (D) Toss Up/Tilt Democratic
Democrats have been moving into this district from the Bay Area and they helped topple corrupt Richard Pombo (R) in 2006. McNerney won again by 10 points in 2008, not the best margin in a Democratic year. David Harmer (R) is now moving into the 11th to run there. This is the right year for Republicans and Harmer also lives in the San Ramon Valley, cutting away McNerney's advantage there. This is one of the races that will decide control of the House.

CA-12 Jackie Speier (D) Safe D
Great congresswoman in a great district.

CA-13 Pete Stark (D) Safe D
Not much else to say

CA-14 Anna Eshoo (D) Safe D
Eshoo is a great congresswoman and she is not leaving soon!

CA-15 Mike Honda (D) Safe D
Tom Campbell's (R) old district but its Republican tradition is gone.

CA-16 Zoe Lofgren (D) Safe D
Another easy win for the Democrats.

CA-17 Sam Farr (D) Safe D
The district with Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties is not changing hands.

CA-18 Dennis Cardoza (D) Likely D
This is Gary Condit's (D) old district. Condit is famous for having an affair in 2001. Cardoza has been safe the last few elections but Republicans found Mike Berryhill (R) from the Turlock Irrigation Board. Although this is a Republican year, the district's large Hispanic population makes this district too Democratic.

CA-19 OPEN George Radanovich (R) Solid R
There was a big primary here on the Republican side with corrupt former CA-11 congressman Richard Pombo (R) losing to Jeff Denham (R) from California's 12th State Senate district. Despite McCain only winning 52% of the vote here, it should be no contest in the general election.

CA-20 Jim Costa (D) Likely D
This is another district with a strong Republican challenger but due to its even larger Hispanic population than the 18th, Costa should win.

CA-21 Devin Nunes (R) Safe R
Pluarity Hispanic but still a safe Republican district.

CA-22 Kevin McCarthy (R) Safe R
Bakersfield's district and the most Republican district in California. No surprise.

CA-23 Lois Capps (D) Safe D
Capps is a great congresswoman in a great district. What can beat the California coast? Her district is safe.

CA-24 Elton Gallegy (R) Safe R
Once he retires, this district will have a big fight but for now, Gallegy has a hold on it.

CA-25 Buck McKeon (R) Safe R
Obama won 50% of the vote here but until McKeon retires, this district is staying Republican.

CA-26 David Dreier (R) Solid R
The district is trending Democratic quickly but Dreier is moderate and entrenched.

CA-27 Brad Sherman (D) Solid D
The San Fernando Valley used to be marginal but not anymore.

CA-28 Howard Berman (D) Solid D
Another heavily Democratic district

CA-29 Adam Schiff (D) Solid D
Pasadena used to be Republican but it is now Democratic.

CA-30 Henry Waxman (D) Solid D
Right in Westside LA, Waxman is not going anywhere.

CA-31 Xavier Beccara (D) Solid D
Solidly Democratic.

CA-32 Judy Chu (D) Solid D
Chu should worry about a Hispanic primary challenger but not a Republican.

CA-33 OPEN Diane Watson (D) Solid D
Karen Bass (D) should be elected here easily.

CA-34 Lucille Roybal Allard (D) Solid D
The first Hispanic congresswoman will have no trouble.

CA-35 Maxine Waters (D) Solid D
Waters may have ethical problems but this is one of the most Democratic districts in the country.

CA-36 Jane Harman (D) Safe D
Despite her moderate views, Harman's money will keep away any primary challenge.

CA-37 Laura Richardson (D) Safe D
No problems here for Richardson

CA-38 Grace Napolitano (D) Safe D
Another safe Democratic district.

CA-39 Linda Sanchez (D) Safe D
This district used to be marginal but it is now safely Democratic.

CA-40 Ed Royce (R) Safe R
Although McCain barely won here, Royce is still safe.

CA-41 Jerry Lewis (R) Safe R
Longtime Representative Lewis is going nowhere.

CA-42 Gary Miller (R) Safe R
The district may be competitive in the future but it is Republican now.

CA-43 Joe Baca (D) Safe D
If you were wondering why there are so many Republican districts are in the Inland Empire, it is because the Democrats are here.

CA-44 Ken Calvert (R) Likely R
Calvert's district with Riverside in it is trending Democratic with Obama winning by 2 points after a Kerry loss of 19 points in 2004. In 2008, Calvert was caught off guard and nearly lost to Bill Hedrick (D). Hedrick is back again but he has had problems raising money and Calvert is ready for a challenge. Also, this is the wrong year for Hedrick but in 2012, Democrats will have a better shot.

CA-45 Mary Bono Mack (R) Lean R
Mack was elected in 2002 after her husband Sonny Bono (R) passed away. She has kept a somewhat moderate voting record and has been reelected easily. Some factors are making it harder for her though because the district is trending Democratic quickly with areas like Palm Springs and Moreno Valley. The openly gay mayor of Palm Springs, Steve Pougnet is challenging her. Although he is a strong candidate, this is the wrong year.

CA-46 Dana Rohrabacher (R) Safe R
Another SoCal district trending Democratic but still strong for Rohrabacher.

CA-47 Loretta Sanchez (D) Likely D
Sanchez has been reelected easily in the past but she is facing Van Tran (R), a Vietnamese State Assemblyman. Although he is popular with the Vietnamese community, Sanchez is also popular with them and is expected to do well with the district's large Hispanic population. Although this is a Republican year and Bush won this district by one point, the district is still too Democratic for Van Tran.

CA-48 John Campbell (R) Safe R
Yes, Irvine is in this district but the rest of the district is Republican.

CA-49 Darrell Issa (R) Safe R
One of the more Republican district in SoCal.

CA-50 Brian Bilbray (R) Likely R
Francine Busby (D), two time challenger for this seat is running again. Bilbray (R) beat her in a 2006 special election 49%-46% and general election in a Democratic year 53%-43%. In this Republican year, it is even more difficult for Busby.

CA-51 Bob Filner (D) Safe D
So this is where many of the San Diego Democrats live.

CA-52 Duncan Hunter Jr. (R) Safe R
Yes, this is the son of Duncan Hunter (R) who was here since 1980.

CA-53 Susan Davis (D) Safe D
Davis beat Bilbray in 2000 but her district is too Democratic now for a successful Republican challenge.

Do you agree or disagree with the rankings? Do you have any rankings you want to share? Do you want more information? Please comment and share your thoughts.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Why Michael Castle IS the Next Lisa Murkowski

 You may have seen my recent post titled  Why Michael Castle is not the Next Lisa Murkowskiwhere I proceeded to talk about why Michael Castle (R) would win the Delaware Senatorial primary. Lisa Murkowski (R) was the establishment candidate in Alaska and Joe Miller (R) came from behind with Palin's endorsement to win. Castle has never lost an election in Delaware and he has held statewide office for 30 years including holding  Delaware's U.S House seat since 1992. He was running for Ted Kaufman's (D) open Senate seat. The Democratic candidate, Chris Coons (D) from Newcastle county is a strong candidate but was losing to Castle in the polls. Most pundits predicted Castle would just have a small primary against teabagger Christine O' Donnell (R) and then continue holding statewide office. Most pundits also believed that Delaware was too moderate. O' Donnell had already run statewide and lost to Joe Biden (D) in 2008 by about 30 points, losing every county including conservative Sussex County.  Even last Friday when Sarah Palin, Jim DeMint (R) and the Tea Party Express endorsed O' Donnell, most pundits predicted a Castle win. The PPP poll last Sunday showed O' Donnell ahead by 3, the only sign of the future results. PPP has a reputation for being nearly spot on in the primaries. Most Democrats are overjoyed with O' Donnell's 53%-47% win, not because they like her positions (she is extremely conservative.) Most polls show her losing to Coons and a recent Rasmussen poll showed her down by 11. Unless Coons makes a major gaffe or has a major scandal, this race is basically his to lose. Although it is pretty clear who will win, the question I will answer is why did all the tea party figures and organizations succeed in Delaware which is supposed to be a moderate state?

Surges happen often in politics. In the 2008 primary between Clinton and Obama, surges happened in almost every state. The pattern was that Clinton would lead until two weeks before the election when Obama tied the race. Then four days before the election, the tide would turn and Clinton would get the lead. This was due to voters who went to one candidate after a big momentum bounce but as the momentum faded, the voters shifted back to the original candidate. I have seen too many races this year that prove the coming home factor is not strong. For example, the establishment candidate in Kentucky Trey Grayson (R) was down in the polls and voters did not come home to him. For Castle, pundits thought it would be different because he is so entrenched in Delaware. They predicted voters would realize they were actually saying no to Castle so they change their minds quickly. O' Donnell's surge though happened four days before the election which was late enough before voters would realize they were voting against Castle. Besides the money from the teabaggers, O'Donnell also won over voters by portraying herself as an outsider so voters viewed her as the candidate who will "take our country back" instead of the candidate who will "take our country back to the extremists."

The second reason is that Delaware is a closed primary which means only Republicans can vote in it, instead of Independents and Democrats. Although most voters in the Republican primaries are Republicans, Independents can make a big difference often. When McCain ran for President in 2000, he stayed in the race for awhile because he attracted Independents in the Republican Primaries. In the 2008 Republican primaries, McCain's appeal to Independents gave him the early momentum which gave him the nomination. In Delaware, Castle was leading the polls against Coons because Castle appealed to Independents. If Castle had realized O'Donnell would be a formidable challenger, he could have run a campaign to get Independents to register as Republicans before the registration deadline. However, Castle did not and may have believed he would win because he has never lost an election before. Even if Delaware's Republicans were more moderate, he may have won which leads to the third reason he lost.

Delaware's Republicans are too conservative for Castle. Wait, Delaware is a Northeast State so the Republicans are supposed to be moderates, right? Although there are definitely are moderate Republicans in northeastern states like New Jersey and Connecticut, Delaware is a little different. Yes, Newcastle County (Wilmington) is basically a suburb of Philadelphia and the Philadelphia suburbs are known for moderate Republicans. Delaware though also is culturally a southern state outside of the Philadelphia suburbs. It is on the Delmarva peninsula which has very conservative whites and most of them are religious. The two southern counties in Delaware are Kent and Sussex Counties which are also fast growing. Sussex County is infamous for not letting a Jewish girl speak about her religion at her graduation speech. Although Newcastle County has about 62% of Delaware's population, Newcastle County is more Democratic than the rest of the state. Therefore, Newcastle County cast about half of the Republican primary votes last Tuesday. Even if the Republicans in southern Delaware were conservative, how did O'Donnell pick up enough votes in Newcastle County to prevent Castle's margin  there from carrying him to victory? In 2006 and 2008, Democrats made major gains in the Northeast with elected offices but also convinced many moderate Republicans to become Democrats because of Bush's unpopularity and the Republican image of extreme evangelical Christians. With many moderate Republicans gone, the Republican party has become more conservative. Yes, Castle had the votes to win but those voters could not vote in his primary.

Overall, Castle lost because this was a real surge, Independents could not cross over and the Republican party in Delaware has become too conservative. Many pundits have suggested that the Republican party was becoming more conservative because of all the Independents moving to the Democrats two years ago. This could explain why the Independents now are leaning more towards the Republicans because those voters are going back to their original voting habits. They just have not changed their registration yet. The Republican party needs to convince these voters to return to the Republican party or the Republicans will continue to nominate extremists candidates like Christine O'Donnell.

What do you think about the recent events in the Delaware Senate race? Please feel free to share your thoughts.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Why Michael Castle is not the Next Lisa Murkowski

 On August 24th in Alaska, pundits like me witnessed a large political upset. Everyone expected Lisa Murkowski (R) to beat back the primary challenge from lawyer Joe Miller (R) but instead he won by 51%-49%. Miller was not a high profile candidate challenging Murkowski but this is the year of the political upsets. In Utah, incumbent Bob Bennett (R) lost the primary for Senate and so did establishment candidate Trey Grayson (R) in Kentucky for Senate. Still, Murkowksi did not lose merely because she was a member of the establishment. Six years ago, Murkowski was not considered moderate but by today's standards, she is due to her pro choice views. This definitely affected her standing among voters. Then Palin came along and endorsed Miller. In past primaries, once Palin gives her endrosement, the candidate surges in the Republican primary. A classic example is when Palin endorsed Nikki Haley (R) who is running for South Carolina's Governorship. After that primary, Palin's endorsement seemed to not be the magic touch. In Georgia, her endorsed Gubernatorial candidate Karen Handel (R) lost to Nathan Deal (R). Still, her endorsement is powerful in Alaska, her home state. Also, the tea party pumped money into Alaska with a relatively cheap media market. The Palin factor, the tea party factor, the anti incumbent year and Murkowski's moderate views all together caused her to lose.

Some Republicans are hoping they can pull off another upset in Delaware. Ted Kaufman (D) is vacating his Senate seat so moderate and longtime U.S House member Michael Castle (R) is running for it. Castle is also a former Governor. Most polls show him beating Chris Coons (D) from New Castle County. Castle though is facing an obstacle that can potentially become big. Christine O'Donnell (R) is running far to the right of Castle in the primary. A Rasmussen poll shows Coons beating O'Donnell by 11 points so if she wins the primary, the Republicans lose a pickup chance. Recently, O'Donnell has been grabbing momentum. About a week ago, the tea party express decided to shift to Delaware to bring down Castle. Last Friday, O'Donnell picked up Palin's endorsement, tea party king Jim De Mint's endorsement and the NRA. Castle fits every definition of an incumbent and most pundits have said this is an anti incumbent year. Still, I think Castle will win for three important reasons:

    This is strong momentum for O'Donnell but is coming too late for her. In Alaska, Joe Miller had received Palin's endorsment much earlier than four days before the primary. In political races, momentum can change quickly but it takes time for it to change into actual votes. Most voters do not change their minds every time they see one positive news story about the opponent. If the endorsements had happened a week earlier, it will have given more voters time to change their minds and help O' Donnell. Many voters though have already made up their minds.

    Michael Castle and Lisa Murkowski were both incumbents but different kinds. Michael Castle has served in statewide office since 1981 when he became Lieutenant Governor. He has been reelected easily as a U.S House member. In 2008, he won 61% of the vote even as Delaware trends toward the left and voted 62% for Obama. Lisa Murkowski though served in statewide office since 2002 and her father Frank Murkowski (R) appointed her to the Senate seat. Many voters viewed this as nepotism and Murkowski won by only three points in 2004. She never truly connected with Alaska voters while Castle has never lost an election in Delaware. Yes Castle is a true incumbent but since he is so well known and liked, it may be too difficult for enough voters to say no to him.

   The final and most important reason is that Delaware's Republicans are different from Alaska's. Alaska is a state with many rural conservative Republicans who like teabaggers like Jim De Mint and Sarah Palin. Hunting is very prominent in Alaska too. Delaware though is a very different state. It is divided into New Castle County with Wilmington and Philadelphia suburbs. Sussex County which is rural and conservative and Kent County which is a mix of the two. Most of the state's votes are cast in New Castle County. Delaware is a state where the teabaggers are unpopular and Palin definitely made McCain lose some votes here in 2008. Delaware is not a big hunting state either. Republicans in Delaware are moderate and more urban, not like extremist conservatives. If O' Donnell wanted to win, she should have received Governor of New Jersey Chris Christie's (R) endorsement. He is popular in northeastern suburbs. Christie already endorsed Castle though. The endorsements may help O' Donnell in Sussex County but may hurt more in the Wilmington area where she needs votes.

Overall, the Delaware race does have some similarities to the Alaska primary because of the anti establishment candidate getting the endorsements from the teabaggers. The differences though are that the endorsements came too late, Castle is more popular and Delaware is a state where the teabaggers are just too extreme for most voters. Remember that even with the momentum in Alaska, Miller won by only two points.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Senate Rankings: August is never good for Democrats

 Another August come and gone with Labor Day leaving too. This means that summer is officially over and if you live in the East Coast, you will agree. Everyone knows August as the month where people go on vacation and/or want to install air conditioners. August also has another name on it that not many people mention: the bad month for Democrats and/or Obama. In August of 2004, Kerry was down in the polls due to the swift boat ads. In August of 2006, the generic ballot was tied. In August of 2007, Hillary was crushing Obama. In August of 2008, Palin was nominated and tied the race (until she crashed of course but that comes later.) In August of 2009, people came to town hall meetings to parrot talking points by Republicans that denounced the healthcare bill and spread lies about death panels. Now August of 2010 is a month where Obama's poll numbers are low because the economy was supposed to recover in a day. Rome was built in a day too. Also, this August showed bad polling numbers for many of the Senate candidates.

Yes, I am finally getting to the subject of this post: Senate races. August is always a bad month people so we should not be too worried about losing the Senate because it always gets a little better. Still, my Senate rankings are going in the Republicans' favor because my rankings show the way the races stand now. Many races though will start seeing action soon but were quiet in August. Alaska is an exception where Lisa Murkowski (R) was primaried out by Joe Miller (R), a teabagger who makes the race closer. It is not close enough to put in the rankings though. Other races that are shifting are Florida Senate with Kendrick Meek (D) taking votes from Charlie Crist (I) who may caucus with the Democrats if he wins. Other races with movement include Pennsylvania and Ohio. I am not keeping Nevada on the list although some pundits suggested Republicans will vote for extremist Sharron Angle (R) holding their nose. As I see Republicans like Nevada's first lady Dawn Gibbons endorse Harry Reid (D), I just cannot put this race on the line. I have also removed Missouri from the list although Carnahan can make it closer once she reminds Missouri why 61% of the voters supported her in 2008. I am predicting a 6 seat pickup for the Republicans. Enough talk about the races though, here are the rankings with a description on each race:

1. North Dakota OPEN Bryon Dorgan (D)
North Dakota is known for electing personally popular politicians regardless of the party. Governor John Hoeven (R) is anything but an exception to this rule.
Ranking: Safe Republican
Previous Ranking: 1

2. Arkansas Blanche Lincoln (D)
One of the Democrats' last holdouts in statewide offices was Arkansas. Lincoln won a primary against Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter (D) when most pundits thought he would win. She will definitely not have the same luck while running against Rep. John Boozemen (R).
Ranking: Likely Republican
Previous Ranking: 2

3. Indiana OPEN Evan Bayh (D)
Bayh jumped out of the race as Dan Coats (R) jumped into the race. Coats is known as a former incumbent, a lobbyist and this is supposed to be anti incumbent year, right? Actually, it is an anti Democratic incumbent year. The Democrats nominated sheriff Brad Ellsworth (D) from Evansville in southern Indiana, a critical area for Democrats to win so they can win statewide. The campaign has not gotten into full mode. Although Ellsworth should narrow the margin a bit, it is the wrong year and he is not doing well enough in the urban areas.
Ranking: Likely Republican
Previous Ranking: 5

4. Delaware OPEN Ted Kaufman (D)
Rep. Michael Castle (R) is running against New Castle County Exec. Chris Coons (D) and due to Castle's  popularity, it looked like an easy win for him. Now the race suddenly got more interesting. The Tea Party Express which kicked out Lisa Murkowski (R) in Alaska now is supporting Christine O'Donnell (R) in the primary against Castle. They are going to pour in their money. Most polls show Coons winning against O'Donnell so if she wins the primary, expect the race to fall down the list. If Castle wins, Coons is still in trouble.
Ranking: Lean Republican
Previous Ranking: 4

5. Pennsylvania OPEN Arlen Specter (D)
First, the Senate race that kept changing was Florida. Although Florida does keep shifting, so does Pennsylvania. First, Specter switched parties and became a Democrat. Then congressman Joe Sestak (D) from the Philadelphia suburbs challenged him. Sestak won by 8 points, shocking the Philadelphia establishment. Sestak won by using an ad blitz but now he is sinking the polls against Pat Toomey (R). Toomey primaried Specter in 2004, ran as a conservative and lost. Toomey is now running to the center and Sestak is doing...nothing. He plans to do an ad blitz really close to election day. I do not think it will work this time though because most voters will have made up their minds.
Ranking: Lean Republican

6. Colorado Michael Bennett (D)
Bennett (D) faced a challenge from the left and Bill Clinton in Andrew Romanoff (D) in the primary. Bennett survived, defying a late surge for Romanoff. Now Bennett faces Ken Buck (R). Although Buck is leading by a few points, he is a prone gaffe machine who rivals Sharron Angle. Buck said that the difference between Jane Norton (his primary opponent) and him was that he did not wear high heels. Also, Buck said he liked the education system of the 1950's. He did not say which part of the country's education system. Did he mean the South? Bennett has not spent much time defining Buck yet which Bennett needs to do if he wants to win.
Previous Ranking: 8
Status: Toss Up/Tilt Republican

7. Illinois OPEN Roland Burris (D)
This race is another one where the leader in the polls keeps switching. First, Mark Kirk (R) from the Chicago suburbs was winning against Alexi Giannoulis (D). Then Kirk lied about his military credentials...more than once. Giannoulis though has problems with his family's bank. Therefore, both candidates are tied. Kirk is a moderate and it is a Republican year. Giannoulis though will get the support of the strong Democratic party in Chicago and Illinois's Democratic lean. This is a race that should have a recount if there is one but I expect Giannoulis to win by 1-2 points.
Status: Pure Toss Up
Previous Ranking: Not on top 10

8. Florida OPEN George LeMieux (R)
This race used to be much higher up in the rankings. Now with Kendrick Meek's (D) primary win, this race is shifting in Marco Rubio's (R) favor. Charlie Crist (I) used to be leading in the polls but Meek received a post primary bounce. It also though could be a permanent boost. Whatever it was, Crist lost his lead in the polls and is now a few points behind Rubio. It may be a temporary bounce for Meek but even so, Crist is getting squeezed from both sides of the aisle.
Status: Toss Up/Tilt Republican
Previous Ranking: 4

9. Washington Patti Murray (D)
I had a diary on the county baselines of Washington recently where I mentioned how Washington State is the New Jersey of the west. Here, Republicans always think they finally have the candidate but the voters always side with the Democrat. In New Jersey though, that trend broke with Chris Christie (R) winning the Governorship last year. Now former moderate Dino Rossi (R) is vying for statewide office for the third time. Rossi first ran for Governor and lost after a long recount in 2004. He ran for Governor again in 2008 and lost by a not so recountable margin, 53%-47%. Washington State has an interesting primary system where all candidates regardless of party run and the top two vote getters advance to the general election. Murray got 46% in that election and since it was not a high turnout election for Democrats, this looks like a close race.
Status: Toss Up/Tilt Democratic
Previous Ranking: Not on Top 10

10. Kentucky OPEN Jim Bunning (R)
I was going to put a race like Wisconsin in for this spot but this morning, I saw a poll showing the two candidates Rand Paul (R) and Jack Conway (D) tied. Although Conway is not from the crucial coal counties in east Kentucky, he is a strong candidate from Louisville which Democrats rely on now to win in Kentucky. Paul is well known for outrageous comments like suggesting businesses should decide whether African Americans can come and that Kentucky has no drug problem. Although Paul is a poor candidate and Conway is a good one, the year and Kentucky's Republican lean is probably too strong for Conway to beat.
Status: Toss Up/Tilt Republican
Previous Ranking: 10

Do you agree or disagree with the rankings? Do you have any you want to share? Do you want more information on a certain race? Please feel free to comment on this post.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

California Baselines

  With Arnold Schwarzenegger retiring, Democrats thought they would have a great shot at picking up California's Governorship. Then, they ran into problems. Jerry Brown who is the Attorney General and former Governor decided to run. He has material to attack and he knocked other candidates out of the primary who would have won the general election more easily like Antonio Villaraigosa. Then Meg Whitman, former CEO of ebay from Silicon Valley decided to run and brought all her money with her. The worst part is that this is a Republican year, putting the national mood against Democrats. Now Jerry Brown is running a tight race with Meg Whitman but since California is so Democratic, Whitman's $104 million in ads have only been able to tie the race. Once Jerry Brown starts campaigning and the unions supporting him spend more money too, he should be able to pick up a few points. Meg Whitman though can just write herself another check so she can buy the election instead of winning it. Anyway, this is going to be a close race. This is why I created the baselines for the race. I factored in Presidential results from 2008 and Attorney General results from 2006.

The baselines are predictions for county percentages if the race is tied. The baselines show Brown doing well in the Bay Area but getting crushed in the Central Valley. He also carries two of three bellwether counties. He wins Lake and San Benito counties but loses Santa Barbara County. He also does poorly in Southern California except for LA County which he wins by 16 points. Also, I have the vote totals for each county below too. I had the turnout levels be 65% of 2008. I did not take into account the fact that some parts of the state might have 55% turnout of 2008 or 75%. For Jerry Brown to win, he will have to either increase turnout in the Bay Area or increase his vote percentage there. Okay, here are the baselines and a few links:

(click for whole image)

Dark Red: Whitman 70%+
Red: Whitman 56%-69%
Light Red: Whitman 50%-55%
Light Blue: Brown 50%-55%
Blue: Brown 56%-69%
Dark Blue: Brown 70%+
County Names, Brown, Meg Whitman, Percentages

Alameda 281,992 122,008 70%-30%

Alpine 228 223 51%-49%

Amador 4,056 8,215 33%-67%

Butte 25,182 38,977 39%-61%

Calaveras 5,175 10,045 34%-66%

Colusa 1,249 2,942 30%-70%

Contra Costa 173,524 121,084 59%-41%

Del Norte 2,407 3,788 39%-61%

El Dorado 20,174 40,197 33%-67%

Fresno 59,988 117,755 34%-66%

Glenn 1,766 4,655 28%-72%

Humboldt 22,494 19,085 54%-46%

Imperial 12,844 12,389 51%-49%

Inyo 1,999 3,547 36%-64%

Kern 41,243 110,109 27%-73%

Kings 6,561 16,259 29%-71%

Lake 8,346 8,312 50%-50%

Lassen 1,801 5,624 24%-76%

Los Angeles 1,246,840 888,300 58%-42%

Madera 7,606 20,002 28%-72%

Marin 62,269 29,101 68%-32%

Mariposa 1,975 4,315 31%-69%

Mendocino 16,088 10,029 62%-38%

Merced 16,694 24,938 40%-60%

Modoc 664 2,209 23%-77%

Mono 1,593 2,027 44%-56%

Monterey 49,391 34,965 59%-41%

Napa 21,903 16,864 57%-43%

Nevada 14,975 21,196 41%-59%

Orange 267,713 482,183 36%-64%

Placer 36,548 76,429 32%-68%

Plumas 2,412 4,756 34%-66%

Riverside 165,563 255,181 39%-61%

Sacramento 163,902 188,955 46%-54%

San Benito 6,553 6,309 51%-49%

San Bernadino 161,731 223,802 42%-58%

San Diego 342,077 458,103 43%-57%

San Francisco 188,722 60,745 76%-24%

San Joaquin 58,303 78,398 43%-57%

San Luis Obisbo 34,966 51,584 40%-60%

San Mateo 125,577 71,561 64%-36%

Santa Barbara 55,411 58,603 49%-51%

Santa Clara 245,302 187,329 57%-43%

Santa Cruz 56,957 26,071 69%-31%

Shasta 13,847 38,406 27%-73%

Sierra 381 913 29%-71%

Siskiyou 4,703 9,314 34%-66%

Solano 56,297 48,735 54%-46%

Sonoma 94,217 54,860 63%-37%

Stanislaus 39,683 65,299 38%-62%

Sutter 6,106 15,357 28%-72%

Tehama 4,366 11,598 27%-73%

Trinity 1,717 2,456 41%-59%

Tulare 17,799 50,792 26%-74%

Tuloumne 5,883 11,891 33%-67%

Ventura 96,762 124,914 44%-56%

Yolo 28,380 23,460 55%-45%

Yuba 4,173 9,737 30%-70%

Total 4,397,078 4,396,901 50%-50%