SENATE 2010: FINAL BOARDING CALL

As we reach the end of yet another long, grueling circus of a campaign, let us reflect on a few of the larger issues in play on Tuesday before charging into the predictions. (N.B.: I got exactly one Senate race wrong in 2008 and two in 2006, and in both years I was inadvisedly blinded by my hatred of Mitch McConnell and Bob Corker. Past results do not necessarily indicate future performance, but to continue this trend I should get 0 wrong in 2010 and then -2 wrong in 2012.)

The GOP has done a poor job of managing expectations, setting themselves up for defeat even in victory. Do not misunderstand me. I don't mean literal defeat, as in failing to gain seats in both chambers. They are taking the House with 99.5% certainty and they will pick up at least four Senate seats, possibly more. The problem is that their year-long rhetoric and the overwhelming sense of cockiness radiating from the party elite really puts them in a bind. They and their media surrogates have been predicting such an overwhelming, crushing defeat for the Democrats on Tuesday that even a slightly better-than-expected performance by the blue party will read as a GOP defeat. The problem with predicting a 60-seat pickup is that when you "only" pick up 40 it looks like you underachieved. Gaining 40 House seats is really good for one election. But the Democrats would be able to look at a 40-seat loss and say "Is that it? What happened to the tidal wave of Teabaggers we've been hearing about?" In fact, I will be very surprised if the Democratic talking point after Tuesday is anything other than "This hardly looks like the revolution Glenn Beck promised."

Now. On to the races.

I hate House predictions. There are just too many races in play for one person to meaningfully track, analyze, and comment on them. The vast majority of predictions are the GOP gaining between 50 and 55 seats. My poorly-informed guess is that they will underperform that slightly based on the strength of some of the recent generic ballots. Generic ballots are a terrible tool overall, but Alan Abramowitz has done some pretty neat analysis of Gallup's generics over the years suggesting that a 4-6 point advantage for the GOP in generics corresponds to a 44-50 seat pickup in the House. I'll go with the 45-50 range and give Alan the credit if I'm right.

And now the Senate.

First, I've moved four additional races out of the Competitive category since the last update:

Lincoln is toast in Arkansas, and after some initial indications that the races might be somewhat competitive Portman (OH) and Ayotte (NH) have really pulled away from their Democratic rivals. All three of those seats are likely safe R, and of course the surprise nomination of Christine O'Donnell has taken the Delaware race out of play.

That means that of our 37 (!!!) races this year, more than 2/3rds of them – 27 in all – are slam-dunks:

These races represent a 3-seat pickup for the GOP, with the North Dakota, Arkansas, and Indiana races switching parties.

Finally, let's look at (few) the competitive races:

Isn't that something? Only 10 competitive races, and I'm being generous to include two of them (MO and KY). First, let's talk briefly about the six races with solid predictions:

  • Illinois: Giannoulias's lead in recent non-Rasmussen polls, combined with the sheer power of the state Democratic Party in even the worst of times, suggest he will take this one by a hair. Ironically, it may be Libertarian Mike Labno (currently polling about 6%) who sinks Republican Mark Kirk in the final tally.

  • Kentucky: I'd bet money on Rand Paul with a high level of confidence, but his recent surge of bad press leaves just a sliver of hope for Jack Conway. It's been a while since the Bluegrass State sent a Democrat to the Senate, and this hardly seems like the year to do it. Paul wins.

  • Missouri: Roy Blunt appears to have this one in the bag, and I'm calling it competitive only because of my longstanding policy of never betting against a Carnahan in Missouri.

  • West Virginia: Joe Manchin has run a great campaign, including a dumb but stunningly effective TV spot, and has the lead in the late stages of a very tight race. This would be a big moral victory for the Democrats.

  • California: Bless their little hearts for trying, but this race has simply never been that close despite the best efforts of the right to say so. Obama won this state by over a million votes. Boxer should be able to hang on by a few thousand.

  • Washington: Murray has a slim lead in the polls heading into the final turn. That combines with two factors – the liberal tendencies of the state and the meatheadedness of GOP opponent Dino Rossi – to favor Murray. Her lead has never been large but it has been consistent.

    And finally, the four Coin Flip races. I would not bet money on any of these. I would not even bet someone else's money on any of these. They are, with one exception, Too Close to Call in every sense of the phrase. I hate making predictions on these because so much will depend on turnout and the small number of late deciders. These races are close enough for just about any small change to matter.

  • Wisconsin: The numbers on this one aren't that close. Ron Johnson leads in the polls and you should probably bet money on him. But Feingold is good, and he got a very late boost by winning the endorsement of essentially every newspaper in the state over the past week. Ron Johnson has done everything possible to hurt his own chances, mostly by opening his mouth near cameras and reporters. The numbers say Johnson, but I'll take a risk and say that this race ends up breaking the GOP's heart. Feingold by a hair (Hold D).

  • Colorado: No clue on this one. None. It is as close to a statistical and qualitative tie as any race can be. Bennet is a bland, forgettable non-entity and Ken Buck is a raging asshole. Who wins when those two personality types face off? Based solely on Colorado's recent trend toward the left and Bennet's late break in the polls, I'll go with the incumbent with 0% confidence. This race comes down to turnout. Who is more organized, Colorado Springs or Boulder? Bennet by half a hair (Hold D).

  • Pennsylvania: Toomey has led throughout and PA is odd politically, with the old joke noting that it is Philly and Pittsburgh with Alabama in between. My brain says I have to stick with Toomey on this one, but as close as this race has gotten (and given Obama's 10-point win in 2008) we can't look entirely shocked if Sestak pulls an upset. Toomey wins it (Pickup R).

  • Nevada: Good lord. Harry Reid is just awful. Sharron Angle is categorically insane. How is a voter to choose? Note the curious fact that nearly every poll shows a statistical tie and the distance between Reid and Angle is attributable entirely to a handful of Rasmussen polls that show her with 5-point leads. HMM. Angle could very well win this one given the number of A) lunatics and B) Midwestern retirees living in Nevada, but Reid may very well pull it out. Without Rasmussen's data, this race is a tie. FWIW. Angle by like 7 votes (Pickup R).

    So if Ed is right, that leaves the GOP with a pickup of five seats. I am probably wrong about Wisconsin, if the poll numbers are to be trusted, but odds that I am wrong about WI are as good as the odds of Reid prevailing in NV so it could be a wash. But my theory is, what fun would it be to make the same predictions as everyone else, just blindly following the polls? I'll go out on a limb and call Feingold an upset winner along with tight Democratic holds in Colorado, Illinois, and Washington.

    Final prediction: +5 GOP: 46 R, 52 D (+ 2 Independent Democrats)

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  • 33 Responses to “SENATE 2010: FINAL BOARDING CALL”

    1. J. Dryden Says:

      Bless you for these time-intensive and exhausting posts. Knowing what's coming shelters the blow a bit, and seeing that the damage won't be *too* brutal helps even more.

      That said: Man, are the next two years going to blow. If the GOP wins the number of seats that you predict–and I'm inclined to trust your predictions, since the times you've been wrong (Stevens's win in AK, for instance) were lunatic occurrences that no one *should* have predicted, not in a sane world–they *their* talking point will be about how the "true voices of the right" have gained an important foot-hold, and that the *real* Referendum On America will be in 2012, and then we're off to the hyperbolic races again. The noise of their failure to achieve a total seizure of power will be diminished in the caterwauling chorus of "Tomorrow Belongs To Me."

      And of course, to expand on their gains, they're going to have to sabotage *any* effort by Obama to Get Shit Done between now and then. Which mean a lot of laissez-faire decay of our nation's soul, not to mention its social programs, infrastructure, and standard of living. But the part I dread most is the noise from both sides. I just know I'm going to go into the same tortured mode as the Grinch on top of Mount Crumpit listening to the endless cacaphony from those fucking Whos down below.

      It's gonna get bad–real, real bad.

    2. Erin Says:

      Man, Fernando Tatis really wants Shumer's seat. Two elections in a row according to official polling. He probably isn't given much of a chance due to everything associated with the Mets being construed as "shit-like".

    3. HoosierPoli Says:

      I so hope you're right about Feingold. I can't live in a country without him in the Senate to at least PRETEND to give a shit.

    4. ts46064 Says:

      Looks like Nevada will probably take the "Home of the dumbest Senator" title away from Oklahoma.

    5. acer Says:

      Yeah, Angle is the living worst. At this point, anyone else could be shellacking Reid. If there's any justice, this influx of teabaggers will see the same backlash Obama did, when Great Depression II continues unabated.

    6. anotherbozo Says:

      I enjoy the wit within the predictions, Ed, but forgive me my depression. However interesting the details, the game is determined by the one big, dumb fact: the Dems are being tarred and feathered for the crime of inheriting a disaster that everyone knew would be impossible to correct in 2 years. Stuck with the hot potato. Everybody who reflected at all in 2008 knew this would happen. The glare of media may be brighter than ever, but the body politic is still dumb as a brick.

      Glad this is your field, and not mine. But since I, like every other citizen, will go down with the ship, I appreciate the interesting play-by-play.

      On the other hand, I fielded an survey on the phone the other night. Bloomberg is considering a presidential run in 2012. The thought fascinates me. If he ran and won (a short New York Jew? lotsa luck. but just for speculation's sake), and given the fact that he's just about as liberal as Obama, would the Republicans in Congress support him, based on their knee-jerk loyalty to any alpha dog with an R beside his name?

      It's the only interesting idea I've come across lately.

    7. Edward Says:

      "the Dems are being tarred and feathered for the crime of inheriting a disaster…"

      No way. Obama and the democrats have done a miserable job on just about every issue from the war to health care reform to Wall Street regulation to the BP oil spill. Obama's appointments have been either Zionist shills or Wall Street sycophants.

    8. Monkey Business Says:

      I feel like we're gonna start seeing some kind of rubber band effect as people jump from party to party, nominating more and more extreme candidates, in a desperate hope to find someone that can fix what's broken. Every two years, someone else will control Congress. Pretty soon, we're gonna be nominating actual Green Partiers and Nazis and Communists and Socialists and Libertarians. Then whoever's president won't have to deal with two parties; they'll have to deal with ten parties, all under the tents of the two parties, all with different agendas. Pretty soon, Congress will become gridlocked with no one able to accomplish anything, and government will grind to a halt.

      Ladies and gentlemen, this is how the grand experiment in American democracy ends. To the sounds of the great wheels of government finally grinding to a halt as the corporations rise and become our de facto rulers.

      I for one welcome our new corporate overlords.

    9. Blue Texan Says:

      The annoying thing is even if the GOP's gains are much lower than expected, the narrative will be REPUBLICAN WAVE!!!

      The script has already been written.

    10. evrenseven Says:

      I'm hoping for a takeover in both houses. Then we'll see what spending is going to be cut.

    11. bb in GA Says:

      I think it is the Leftist media that has overblown the expectations. That way they can discredit the T-party effect when the Rs get 40 instead of 72 or whatever.

      The T-tarded emphasis is what my old football coach used to say. L.S./M.F.T. (That acronym used to appear on the bottom of Lucky Strikes cigarettes (Lucky Strike Means Fine Tobacco.) He yelled at us "Less S__t, More Effing Touchdowns." Touchdowns in this context is passing the correct things on the agenda even if they die in the Senate or are vetoed by our President.

      It will be unacceptable for Rs to sit around and whine about what can't be done because they don't control the Senate and the W.H. You will see the T-party turn on the Rs if they don't put their asses in gear.

      //bb

    12. Monkey Business Says:

      @bb in GA So you're saying that the media has set anything short of an electoral landslide up as a failure for the GOP? I mean, lets say they gain control of both houses of Congress. Are we going to call that anything less than a win for them? Yeah, it's not Georgia Tech Vs. Cumberland, but it's still a win.

      So let's say that the GOP lines up a conservative top ten list of legislation to shove down the Democrats throats at the behest of their Tea Party masters. First off, they've poisoned the well of bipartisanship, so they're not gonna get a single Democrat to break ranks and work with them. Secondly, anything they manage to pass through both houses will die on the President's desk. Thirdly, they're not gonna be able to have enough votes to override the President's veto.

      So what happens then? Does the Tea Party, which is so thoroughly Republican they might as well just call themselves "The Tea Party, sponsored by the GOP" suddenly turn to the Democrats? Or do they primary all of their candidates and nominate someone even more extreme? What's the next step when the GOP doesn't deliver on their promises, and the Tea Party candidates can't do anything because they're junior members, have no real power, and no one will work with them because they're generally dismissed as batshit crazy by everyone?

    13. Ed Says:

      BB, I don't know what news you have been watching but I'd like to take a look at it.

    14. Major Kong Says:

      I wish the media was HALF as liberal as BB seems to think it is.

    15. anotherbozo Says:

      @Edward (if you're still around–I look in either too early or to late for response) -
      Of course Obama's been a disappointment in a lot of ways; my contention is that anyone short of FDR-returned-as-Superman and the Democratic POTUS would be held responsible for the absence of anything short of total recovery. Most of the public don't care about Obama's other failings, the major one of which you didn't even mention: communicating administrative and legislative successes, such as they are. Why are Dems running from "Obamacare?" This apologetic stance, objectively speaking, is grotesque. And the only thing wrong with the stimulus program–which has largely paid for itself–is that it wasn't large enough. But how many of the public understand that? Media haven't helped, of course, where the administration failed to explain itself.

      No, my point–about the stupidity of the public–stands. They're about to give more power to the cretins whose philosophy got us here in the first place.

    16. bb in GA Says:

      Monkey Biz:

      We will see if the establishment Rs can co-opt the T-party conservatives. That's a real open question at this point.

      I think the Rs will be toasted if they do not to put up the conservative agenda. The Tea Party will break away and form the 3rd. This will likely cause a semi-permanent Dem majority and the Whiggification of the Rs during the decline. Or, if it happens quickly enough, the Ds will be up against a more conservative party as the major second party.

      Even though the short term is energized, the Right is in for a long slog. I still think the future for the US is Red (not red state, but Commie Red)

      //bb

    17. BillCinSD Says:

      bb, I know many, many T-partiers, and every single one of them was a Republican, is a Republican and will be a Republican. They can't really be co-opted by the establishment Rs because they never stopped thinking the way the establishment Rs wanted them to

    18. bb in GA Says:

      @Monkey Business – "bipartisanship"

      Tell me biz, when fancy Nancy took over in '07, about how much bi-P did we see moving forward..hmmm? Rs shut out of meetings, you know stuff like that and those wonderful NO AMMENDMENTS NEED APPLY bills…

      Traditionally (last 50 -60 years) that is the way the House runs when you are in the majority.

      Oh and how come recently was the very first significant (more than 5 min) face time ol' Mitch had with our President since his immaculation?

      Why is it bi-p is only an issue when Rs run the show?

      @BillCinSD

      The T-partiers I know are conservatives before they are Rs. Maybe your sample is larger than mine. If what you say is true then my T-partiers will bolt the party and the scenario I posed will be on maybe w/ less success rather than more.

      //bb

    19. eau Says:

      I was hoping you'd have some better news about Reid/Angle. It takes a lot to get me interested in single races from all the way over here, but Angle in public life is bad. Bad for everyone. Bad for the universe.

    20. Monkey Business Says:

      @bb in GA

      Let's say you're right, the Republicans fail to deliver on their electoral promises, causing a schism in American conservative politics. Suddenly, you have an overwhelmingly liberal population of young and/or brown people, the vast majority of whom are voting Democrat, against a fractured conservative movement that is primarily old and white. Simply put, there are a lot more of us than there are of you, and less of you as time goes on.

      I'm not sure if you thought this far ahead, but a schism in American conservative politics, without a liberal counterpart, would be the end of Conservatism in American politics at every level. The Democrats would be able to nominate pretty much anyone for any office and the GOP would be unable to muster enough support to defeat them, with the Tea Party folks nominating their own person, thus splitting the conservative vote.

      That being said, that's not happening, and everyone knows it's not happening. The Tea Party has had it's 15 minutes. Tomorrow people will go to the polls and elect a few crazies and reject a few others, and life will go on. In 2012, buoyed by the President being on the ticket, facing off against Palin or Romney or Huckabee or Gingrich or some other retread, with two years of GOP insanity fresh in everyone's mind, the GOP will be rightfully expelled from the halls of power once more, and serious people will get back to serious governing.

    21. bb in GA Says:

      Biz:

      You weren't into comprehensive reading on this one, were you?

      @BB "This will likely cause a semi-permanent Dem majority and the Whiggification of the Rs during the decline. Or, if it happens quickly enough, the Ds will be up against a more conservative party as the major second party.

      Even though the short term is energized, the Right is in for a long slog. I still think the future for the US is Red (not red state, but Commie Red)"

      DUH, Amen Bruther…

      //bb

    22. Major Kong Says:

      @bb "still think the future for the US is Red (not red state, but Commie Red)"

      Because everyone knows that the Soviet Union got started out with a watered-down, corporate-friendly health care reform (sort of) bill.

      I think if the Tea Party gets its way the future for the US will look a lot more like Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.

    23. bb in GA Says:

      No Mr Kong:

      That Red is the direction we are headed, not that we will end up at the USSR. We will fall in the ditch long before we make it there.

      Won't y'all take YES for an answer? The T-Party is NOT going to have their way. The future is Greater FranGerTaly not Leonid Brezhnev's Moscow.

      //bb

    24. Major Kong Says:

      I've spent plenty of time in FranGerTaly.

      While the streets of Europe are not paved with gold, I'll take that over some Libertarian return to late 19th century capitalism.

      Not sure why conservatives are so anxious to replace the system that beat communism with the one that spawned it.

    25. bb in GA Says:

      Y'all just don't get it. Anxious or calm conservatives make no difference at all no matter what Century's Capitalism we prefer.

      The T-party is the last stand. There will be a valiant try, but an Epic Fail.

      The future is as was quoted earlier – "the Young, the Black, and the Brown" who are manifestly more liberal than their predecessors.

      The last stand is populated largely by HOWGs (Hick Old White Guys) We die first – You Win, that simple.

      God Bless the USA now and in your future.

      //bb

    26. Mark Says:

      @bb

      Hahaha. God, you just "see" it so much clearer than the rest of us.

    27. eau Says:

      I think we're all going to be surprised how long and how far the 'mainstream' GOP will continue to bend over for the 'baggers. If we manage to retain the ability to BE surprised in this context.

    28. j-mo Says:

      "I've spent plenty of time in FranGerTaly.

      While the streets of Europe are not paved with gold, I'll take that over some Libertarian return to late 19th century capitalism.

      Not sure why conservatives are so anxious to replace the system that beat communism with the one that spawned it."

      Best. Post. Ever.

    29. mojidoji Says:

      "Y'all just don't get it. Anxious or calm conservatives make no difference at all no matter what Century's Capitalism we prefer

      The T-party is the last stand."

      @bb (obviously)

      When did the Tea Party (or, Republicans) become conservatives? Seriously, if the Republican Party had some actual conservatives, they might be able to find some non-insane followers, besides those who just show up for the party just because they have a membership card. WTF are you people trying to conserve, anyway? Your romantic notion about the founding America? Empty-headed rhetoric about honor or values; just a bunch of BS.

      I blame modern conservatives for fucking up a perfectly good movement. Good riddance (if we could only be so lucky).

    30. bb in GA Says:

      Why are you all so bitchy?

      Short term pain as the Rs roll tonight. So what. (Although I have to agree w/ mojidoji that there a damn few conservatives around today)

      The long term, big picture is that your side is going to inherit whatever is left of the system. I hope there are some large good chunks intact. But in ten – 20 years or so YOU GOT THE BALL Leroy. The demographics are all on your side if you can get your lazy assed (relative to politics) constituents in gear.

      I hope that the Rs and the T-party doesn't screw things up more than our outgoing Ds have.

      And then there is whatever that unelected bunch at the Fed can do to us…

      //bb

    31. I'm Just a Bill Says:

      Since I can't be bothered, have you gone back & verified your prognotications? (I'd like to see them side by side – Now that should be a soft & easy blog posting.)

    32. bb in GA Says:

      In line w/ the earlier post @ 8:29, check out that smart ass, puke Time Wise. I agree with his prophecy, not his snarky hatred.

      http://www.theblaze.com/stories/author-blasts-white-right-and-their-recent-successful-temper-tantrum/

      Also listen to Colonel West for the other side…

      //bb

    33. slacker Says:

      Awesome column , I'm going to spend more time reading about this subject

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