PUTTING IT ON THE LINE, AGAINST JUDGMENT

Making predictions is not my favorite thing. We know where people stand but not who's going to show up on Tuesday. It's simple to sit here and tell you which way the public is leaning and very difficult to predict how that will translate into electoral results. But I talk too much about these races to do any less than offer predictions which can be held against me at a later date. So, for your mocking pleasure, I give you the Senate races, on which I did not do half-badly in 2006, and the big race. The current Senate, for reference, is 50 D, 49 R, and one ass clown.

Easily defended seats (22)

  • Idaho (Open): Jim Risch
  • Tennessee: Lamar Alexander (i)
  • Wyoming: Mike Enzi, John Barrasso (both incumbents)
  • Mississippi 1: Thad Cochran (i)
  • Alabama: Jeff Sessions (i)
  • Kansas: Pat Roberts (i)
  • Oklahoma: Jim Inhofe (i)
  • South Carolina: Lindsey "Chickenhawk" Graham (i)
  • Maine: Susan Collins (i)
  • Nebraska: Mike Johanns
  • Arkansas: Mark Pryor (i)
  • Montana: Max Baucus (i)
  • Rhode Island: Jack Reed (i)
  • West Virginia: Jay Rockefeller (i)
  • Massachusetts: John Kerry (i)
  • Illinois: Dick Durbin (i)
  • Delaware: Joe Biden (i)
  • Iowa: Tom Harkin (i)
  • Michigan: Carl Levin (i)
  • South Dakota: Tim Johnson (i)
  • New Jersey: Frank Lautenberg (i)

    I would bet a lot of money on these races (6)

  • Virginia: Mark Warner over Jim Gilmore (Pickup – D)
  • New Mexico: Tom Udall over Steven Pearce (Pickup – D)
  • Colorado: Mark Udall over Bob Schaeffer (Pickup – D)
  • Louisiana: Mary Landrieu (i) over John Kennedy (Retained – D). Remember when the GOP thought this was a pickup?
  • Alaska: Mark Begich over Ted Stevens (i) (Pickup – D). I don't see how Tubes can survive seven felony convictions in a race he was already trailing.
  • Texas: John Cornyn (i) over Rick Noriega (Retained – R). Noriega made some noise but failed to gain enough momentum.

    Confident, but not enough to bet money (4)

  • North Carolina: Kay Hagan over Elizabeth Dole (i) (Pickup – D). Dole's recent wingnut "godless" ad shows real desperation. As Jesse Helms' former strategist said, "The next sound you'll hear is the roof caving in on Liddy Dole."
  • New Hampshire: Jeanne Shaheen over John Sununu (i) (Pickup – D). A lot more competitive than I thought, but Sununu isn't going to hang on.
  • Oregon: Jeff Merkely over Gordon Smith (i) (Pickup – D). A very pro-Obama state will have enough carryover to give the unknown challenger a narrow win.
  • Kentucky: Mitch McConnell (i) over Steve Lunsford (Retained – R). Wishing McConnell will lose can't make it so. He hangs on by a thread.

    I am not confident, but I have a reasonable guess (1)

  • Georgia: Jim Martin over Saxby Chambliss (i) (Pickup – D). This is not a brilliant call given that Martin has never led, but he closed a large gap in a hurry and has a ton of last-minute momentum. Here is a state in which higher black turnout – which I earlier stated can only boost Democratic results by about 1% – will make a difference. It is going to be extremely close regardless, so I'll buy the "new registrants" argument here.

    I wouldn't even bet someone else's money on these races (2)

  • Mississippi 2: Roger Wicker (i) over Ronnie Musgrove (Retained – R). This is a total wild card. More than one in five eligible voters in MS is African-American. Musgrove led early, but Wicker has consistently held a small lead for several weeks. Wicker hangs on, although if GOP voters really do throw in the towel on McCain the stay-homes will really affect races like this one.
  • Minnesota: Al Franken over Norm Coleman (i) and Dean Barkley (Pickup – D). Three way races are impossible to predict. It's great that voters have a non-mainstream choice but…Barkley isn't going to win. He'll pull about 15%, which accomplishes nothing for him. How that 15% affects the Coleman/Franken balance is anyone's wild guess. Franken has not run a good campaign but the Ventura/Barkley/Reform candidates in MN take positions that are more conservative than liberal. In other words, if I have to pick I will guess that Barkley's futile campaign takes more votes from Coleman than Franken. Without Barkley, Coleman would hold his seat given Franken's flat campaign.

    Wednesday morning split: 59 D, 40 R, and that male hooker from Connecticut.

    And now the big race. It would be lazy and easy to say "Obama wins" because it is looking about 95% likely at this point. But we can put a finer point on things. Let me be clear that I am intent on missing low this year. Giving McCain every benefit of the doubt – the Mountain West, Ohio, Florida, and Missouri – he still cannot make the math work. So I will make a "Best case McCain" and "Best case Obama" map. Reality will probably fall somewhere between the two.

    The best that McCain can do, in my opinion, is Obama 306, McCain 232. In this best-case scenario I am going with Obama in an extremely tight NC race but McCain in Ohio and Florida.

    If everything goes as Obama hopes – cascading waves of excited voters swamp the polls while McCain's followers give in to despair – it's Obama 378, McCain 160. If the race is any more lopsided than this it will require Obama to win in some pretty unbelievable places.

    So for the econometricians, the 95% confidence interval is (306, 378). That is, the odds that Obama does better or worse than that are a combined 5%. I know that pessimism does and will forever reign in the Democratic Party, but if Obama does not win this race then everything we think we know about elections is utterly wrong and I will have more to worry about that this poor prediction.

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  • 11 Responses to “PUTTING IT ON THE LINE, AGAINST JUDGMENT”

    1. Schultzenhaben Says:

      I have done the math for this twice, and actually, the way you've predicted the senate races it would be 59 for the Democrats, 40 for the Republicans and then Lieberman. So you've predicted that the Democrats will get a full 60 seats provided they don't kick Lieberman to the curb.

      Then again, if Obama wins, he can always try to appoint a Republican senator to a cabinet position (as long as the senator is from a state with a Democratic governor, like Arlen Specter from PA).

    2. Ed Says:

      I mistakenly listed New Mexico as a retention, when it is actually a pickup (Domenici retirement) for the Democrats. Thank you for catching it.

    3. j Says:

      Ed, do you think that the difference between 59/40/1 and 60/39/1 is really that great? I mean, wouldn't it usually play out that at least one or two republicans would not support a filibuster, provided that the bill in question is not totally ridiculous (e.g., forced abortions for all)?

    4. mike Says:

      1) Is Indiana in play? Or is that incredibly hopeful?

      2) Did you see the McConnell-was-gay-in-the-military leaflets? Woah. Scorched Earth in some parts I guess.

    5. Ed Says:

      Indiana is up in the air. It and NC are as close to 50/50 as you will ever see. I think they will be barometers for the race as a whole. If Obama wins either the race is essentially over.

      Yep, scorched earth is a popular scent this season. I'd feel bad for the victim if it wasn't McConnell.

    6. Scott Says:

      For all of you pessimists and doomsayers, here is statistical evidence that a McCain victory is plausible:

      http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/2008/11/what-mccain-win-looks-like.html

      Nate Silver (who started off as a baseball stathead) and his team run an election simulation 10,000 times daily – making changes everyday based on changes in myriad data points. Out of those 10,000 simulations yesterday, McCain won 169 times.

      It's still pretty unlikely, but it's interesting to see what McCain would have to do to win based on what we know now.

    7. Scott Says:

      Correction – The link above notes that McCain won 640 times in their simulation. The figure of 169 is the most frequent McCain victory scenario. It's still an interesting read.

    8. BK Says:

      J –
      In my opinion, the difference between 60/39/1 and 59/40/1 is huge. While there may always be a couple of defectors from both sides (don't forget that not all the Ds in the Senate are big liberals or huge Obama fans), the minority party typically bands together pretty well to play the role of the faithful opposition.

      Thus, it is unlikely most of them will defect on procedural motions, such as cloture. This is because they can still say they support bill X,Y, or Z but can always say their vote was to continue discussion/debate on the bill.

      Gotta love the rules of the game in the Upper House.

    9. Joe Says:

      If McCain wins he will give up his seat in the Senate. Arizona has a Democratic governor wont that make the balance 60D 39R and Lieberman who has been in support of McCain. 60 D 40R. So if your math is correct and McCain wins the presidency that is when the Republicans actually loose the senate because of the 60 needed to stop debate.

    10. j Says:

      Thanks BK, I was just wondering! To prove my happiness I will express it with an emoticon :)