So the campaign is over and within 36 hours you will have voted. Ginandtacos takes this opportunity to serve the public with a review of competitive House and Senate races one final time. We have also put our political oddsmaking balls on the line by making predictions in competitive races – predictions that, come Wednesday, will either leave us open to severe mockery or provide even more evidence of why we rule.
See previous posts on this subject for a review of non-competitive races. To economize time and effort, they will not be re-hashed here.
You don't need to be Jane Fonda to realize that the GOP has already resigned itself to losing the House. I've not met anyone – even the staunchest Republicans among my friends – who would bet a nickel on their party retaining the lower chamber. The question becomes one of magnitude.
Now, as ginandtacos.com is a free public service, I never did find the time to do a run-down of the 40-50 competitive House races. So rather than bogging down in the details now, I'll focus on the House as a whole.
Believe it or not, there is a slight chance of the Republicans retaining control. I emphasize that it is very slight. Basically, I see 45 races that are legitimately competitive. Out of that group, the Democrats' 95% confidence interval is between +40 and +10. That is, it's 95% likely that they'll gain between 10 and 40 seats in the House. Note that a gain of less than 16 would leave the GOP in control of the chamber by a slim margin.
The most likely prediction, and the one ginandtacos will run with, is a gain of +23 to +25 seats. The end result will be Democratic control by a margin of 8-10 seats – not a huge margin, but enough to send Denny Hastert to the backbench.
The barometer races are:
If the Democrats split those races, they're looking at moderate gains overall. If they win all five, then it's likely that they've won closer to 40-45 seats. Please note that the odds of that happening are minimal.
For those of you who want to cut to the chase, ginandtacos is going with a Senate breakdown of 50R, 48D, 2 I (Democratic caucus). Basically I think this is going to turn into an enormous cluster-fuck. Neither party will emerge from Tuesday with a real advantage. Even if the Democrats take a 51-49 edge, the questionable Democratic loyalties of Ben Nelson (D-NE) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) make it plausible for the GOP to re-take the chamber via party-switching. It's just going to be a mess. Sorry, we calls it like we sees it.
Connecticut – Joe Lieberman (I) appears to be inevitable here. I am not willing to write Lamont off completely because polling in 3-way races is notoriously inaccurate. But Lieberman certainly looks like he will hang on provided Schlesinger (R) doesn't steal too many moderate/conservative votes. Lamont (D) just ran out of gas, like so many out-of-nowhere anti-war candidates have done historically. Joe L says he will remain with the Democrats, but nothing else the man has ever said has been believable. I see him being courted heavily by the GOP and either switching parties or refusing to seat with the Democrats. Little piss-ants like Lieberman just love the attention and power that being the deciding vote provides.
Washington – Maria Cantwell (D) was beatable on paper, but not in 2006. Mike McGavick spent millions and still hasn't sniffed her coattails yet.
Virginia – George "I hate the negroes" Allen (R) has really just fallen apart. If he hangs on, it will be by a thread. This might be the hardest race to call. By all rights Allen has no business winning this race given how terribly he's campaigned, but here's a guy who was a 2008 Presidential contender just 6 months ago. It's almost impossible to picture a fall from grace so severe that now he might not win his Senate seat. Jim Webb (D) has campaigned as strongly and as well as any Democrat could in VA. I'm just not convinced that it's enough. I go with Webb, but this is basically a coin flip. It's amazing that it's come to this. Allen's campaign will go down as one of the worst in American history. He literally did everything wrong.
Montana – Conrad Burns (R) has the late momentum. The GOP is spending boatloads to turn out the anti-gun control, socially conservative rural base. Unfortunately I think it's too little, too late. Burns is just a classic case of a politician going Washington and losing touch with his state. Ask Tom Daschle if that's a bad reputation to have. Jon Tester (D) has just out-campaigned Burns from start to finish. You'll hear from him in the future.
Ohio – Mike DeWine (R) has essentially been written off. Sherrod Brown (D) ran a mistake-free campaign and has basically left DeWine and the rest of the Ohio GOP with enough rope to hang itself. It worked.
Pennsylvania – Rick Santorum (R) has never really been in this race. He won't get blown out like the polls have been indicating, but he's not winning this one.
Missouri – Jim Talent (R) v. Claire McCaskill (D) is probably the second-hardest race to call. They're just such a bland, unmemorable pair of candidates that it's hard to say voters have strong feelings one way or another. Two things lead me to conclude that McCaskill will win. First, the national climate is negative for the GOP and Missouri is famous for being a bellwether state. Second, Libertarian Frank Gilmore will get a couple percent of the conservative vote. Talent's virtual anonymity is his downfall.
Rhode Island – Lincoln Chaffee's (R) luck runs out. Rhode Island is the most Democratic state in the union based on 2004, and that will finally be enough to overcome the fact that most of its residents genuinely like Chaffee. Sheldon Whitehouse (D) did a good job of keeping the focus on Bush and Iraq.
Tennessee – The numbers say Corker will pull this one out – he's had momentum in recent polls. But my gut says Ford has this one by a hair. His organization in Memphis and the western half of the state should turn out voters who don't normally show up in off-year elections.
New Jersey – Here's another ball-buster. Bob Menendez (D) benefits from incumbent-party status and living in a very liberal state. The Democratic party also has a fearsome urban machine in place in the major cities. But Tom Kean (R) is just more likeable and a better politician. Period. He's just more personable and more professional than Menendez. Having a famous politican name doesn't hurt – Tom Kean Sr. is still revered in New Jersey. The Democrats think they have this one, but to a man I bet they're sweating like whores in church over it.
Minnesota – This one really veered away from "competitive" and turned into a non-entity. Mark Kennedy is too far out there to win a liberal state in a liberal year.
Maryland – Here's another tough one. It's very similar to NJ. Maryland is a liberal state and this is an open Democratic seat. Ben Cardin (D) should be cake-walking. But Mike Steele (R) has just run a much better campaign. He's more likeable and he's appealed to suburban voters very well. Cardin is a stiff who hasn't excited anyone and isn't even garnering much enthusiasm in his Democratic base. This should be a 65%-to-35% race, but it's basically going to be 51%-49%. Steele has been teriffic, but this state is just too liberal and the national climate is too unfavorable for the GOP. Steele is someone you will hear from in the future.
That's +5 for the Democrats (counting Lieberman) and a 50-50 Senate. Even if Menendez pulls out NJ to leave us with 51D, 49R the situation will still be a mess, and the political pressure on fence-riders will be even greater. When the balance of power in our great nation is left in the hands of shitheads like Joe Lieberman, we can't expect much beyond gridlock, inefficiency, and mass confusion to ensue. May God have mercy on our souls.