Swing State Pres

Monday, June 4, 2012

2012 04 23 The Senate

I’m ba-a-a-a-a-ck!  Yes, there are a number of primaries tomorrow:  New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Delaware and Pennsylvania.  This was to be Mitt Romney’s clincher, with solid wins in the first four and maybe a squeaker over Santorum in the latter’s home state.

But Santorum spoiled that scenario, bowing out two weeks ago.  I’d like to think it was because of my “Breaking News” call for Romney!  But, um, that’s not likely.  As Woodward and Bernstein taught us, “follow the money,” and Santorum was in debt and getting in deeper.  Plus the Pennsylvania polls were too close for him to know for certain he could go out with a win there – not without spending more money he didn’t have – and losing that state would have diminished his future influence, however that might be wielded.

So he ducked out, with a 20-minute exit speech that did not mention Mitt Romney even once, and certainly there was no endorsement, not then, not since.  The Irrelevant Twins, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul, remain in the race, but for reasons that remain mysterious except, perhaps, to them.

Anyway, this little respite allowed me to focus on the opening of the baseball season (as those of you on the baseball list know!) and the latest Springsteen tour (we were in Albany last week – great show! -- and Newark next week!).

So let’s put aside Presidential politics for the week while Mitt piles up delegates, and turn our attention to the Senate.

The Senate

It’s way early, of course, but with the unexpected retirement of Olympia Snowe in March, all the incumbents have declared whether they are in or out.  The tickets will be set, by and large, in primaries in the coming months, so let’s summarize how things are shaping up as of now.

Currently the Democrats hold a 53-47 Senate majority, since the two Independents (Lieberman of Connecticut and Sanders of Vermont) sit with the Democratic caucus and vote with them most of the time.

The Republicans are feeling quite good because a whopping 23 Democratic seats are up for reelection, while only 10 Republican seats are being contested.  So the way the GOP faithful look at it is:  Republicans are starting with 37 seats, and therefore need to win only 14 of the 33 elections to gain control (or 13 if Romney wins and his VP casts the tie-breaking vote in a 50-50 Senate).  Easy, right?

Not so fast:  the Democrats may start with only 30 seats, needing 20 or 21 to retain control, true.  But 13 Democrats are nearly certain winners, and 2 more seem safe as well.  So add those 15 to the holdover 30 and that’s 45.

Do the same math with Republicans and add their 8 certain/likely winners to their 37 and you get….voila….45.

So that leaves 10 elections as toss-ups, with the fate of Senate control dependent on them….which means the odds are roughly 50/50.  I’ve attached a spreadsheet that summarizes all this is living color.

The Toss-Ups

 
Let’s look at those 10 toss-up states.

         Massachusetts.  This is the highest profile Senate race with the Democrats trying to take back Ted Kennedy’s old seat, now held by Republican “Downtown” Scott Brown (so named for his high-scoring feats at Tufts), who won the special election for the seat over Williams College’s own Martha Coakley (argh!).  Now Elizabeth Warren of consumer protection fame (and Harvard) heads the Democratic ticket and both combatants have a ton of money.  All the recent polls show them in a dead heat.  Conventional wisdom is that this is a very liberal state, but over half of registered voters here are unaffiliated.  This one will be a doozie!  Wick Sloane, our Man in Boston, is calling this one for Brown 54/46.

         Maine.  This is another wild one.  Snowe stepped down rather late in the game, and a half-dozen contenders have emerged from each party.  But the real player here is popular ex-governor Angus King, and not only is he an Independent, so far he has refused to say with which party he would caucus!!!!  Wow!  The whole Senate control issue could come down to where he decides to caucus, further complicating the outcome.

         Nevada.  This is the only other state with a Republican incumbent, Dean Heller.  Heller was not elected, though…he was appointed when John Ensign resigned in disgrace, complete with an affair, hush money, the whole nine yards.  For some election trivia, Ensign had defeated Jack Carter, Jimmy’s son, in 2006 to gain office.  The Republican primary is in June, and Sharron Angle, the Tea Party nut who lost to Harry Reid in 2010, blowing a nice lead, has already declined to challenge Heller, though others may.  The Dems do not have a candidate as yet, with two declared for the primary, one of whom, Shelley Berkeley, is in the House right now.  There is recent polling that has Heller over Berkeley by 3-7 points.

         Missouri.  Claire McCaskill is the Democratic incumbent.  She barely won in 2006 and has long been viewed as highly vulnerable.  The Republican contenders include Todd Akin, a House member, Sarah Steelman, the state treasurer, and businessman John Brunner.  Akin and Steelman are up by 5 and 7 over McCaskill, respectively, in recent polling.

         Montana.  This is the other state with a Democratic incumbent who is running for re-election, Jon Tester; he won his first team in a squeaker in 2006.  Representative Denny Rehberg is the leading potential opponent, and he is 3 points up in the polls versus Tester, within the error margin.

         North Dakota.  Democrat Kent Conrad is retiring after four terms.  The field is still taking shape on both sides and there is scant polling.  While the Democrats have long held this seat with Conrad, one would have to call this a prime potential Republican takeaway, and some of the forecasters are putting this as far along as a “safe” Republican seat.

         New Mexico.  Democrat Jeff Bingaman is retiring after five terms.  Democratic Representative Martin Heinrich is the frontrunner for his party, and has a 4-point lead over Heather Wilson, a former Representative who appears to be the likely Republican nominee, in recent polling.

         Virginia.  Democrat Jim Webb decided not to seek a second term.  This clears the way for a battle of heavyweights, former Democratic Governor Tim Kaine (D) versus former Republican Senator and Governor George Allen.  Allen was the one who’s Presidential aspirations in 2008 were derailed by his calling an opponent’s staff member a “micaca” and failing to extricate himself from that mess gracefully.  Kaine was ahead in February/March polling but Allen has done better in late March/April polling, most recently +7.


         Wisconsin.  Democrat Herb Kohl is stepping down after four terms.  Democratic Representative Tammy Baldwin seems to have a clear shot at the nomination, and will likely face former Republican Governor and Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson.  Polling has been mixed of late, back and forth between narrow leads for each.


         Hawaii.   Democrat Daniel Akaka is retiring after three terms.  Democrat Representative Mazie Hirono is outpacing former Republican Governor Linda Lingle in polling.

 
There are some who argue that Florida and Ohio are in play, though leaning Democrat, and that Arizona and Nebraska are in play, leaning Republican.  Obviously, we will have to see how the primaries go to solidify the match-ups, but yes, we may see some movement between “safe” and “in play” states between now and November.

It probably makes little sense to try to guess outcome as of now, but about the finest I could pin it is to throw Missouri, Nevada, Virginia and North Dakota in for the Republicans, and Hawaii and New Mexico in with the Dems.

That would leave us with 49 for the Republicans, 47 for the Democrats, with three toss ups (Massachusetts, Wisconsin and Montana), Angus King in Maine, and Romney or Obama as President!  Lots of ways that could break.

Clear???  It is going to be an amazing election night.  Comments welcome!!!!

At some point I will get to the House.

But first…soon I will take a look at the Romney/Obama electoral map…and unveil my personally designed “Obameter” which will give guidance on whether the likelihood of an Obama second term is heating up or cooling off!

So, let’s give Rick Santorum a well-deserved send-off, via Ray Charles…..Hit the Road, Rick!

(Hit the road Rick and don't you come back no more, no more, no more, no more.)
(Hit the road Rick and don't you come back no more.)
What you say?
(Hit the road Rick and don't you come back no more, no more, no more, no more.)
(Hit the road Rick and don't you come back no more.)

Mainstream Republicans, I’ll split this scene,
And baby I’ll be back in 2016.
But I guess since I have no dough (Oh!)

I have to pack my bags and go. (Oh yeah!)

(Hit the road Rick and don't you come back no more, no more, no more, no more.)
(Hit the road Rick and don't you come back no more.)
What you say?
(Hit the road Rick and don't you come back no more, no more, no more, no more.)
(Hit the road Rick and don't you come back no more.)

Establishment GOP, don't ya treat me this-a way
’Cause I’m “next in line” as you might say.
(Don't care if you are 'cause it's understood…
…we go back to the middle; this tea tastes no good.)
Well, we’ll see at the next Show (Oh!)
It’s off to Iowa -- let’s go! (Oh yeah!)

(Hit the road Rick and don't you come back no more, no more, no more, no more.)
(Hit the road Rick and don't you come back no more.)
What you say?
(Hit the road Rick and don't you come back no more, no more, no more, no more.)
(Hit the road Rick and don't you come back no more.)

Well
(don't you come back no more.)
What you want – another Bush?
(don't you come back no more.)
Oh, now baby, not the fat guy from Jersey….
(don't you come back no more.)
The Indiana guy – the guy with one wife, twice?
(don't you come back no more.)
Watch out for Newt….
(don't you come back no more.)

Or that Palin lady…
(don’t you come back no more.}
Or the birther, or the pizza guy...
(don’t you come back no more.}
Uh uh now baby….
(don’t you come back no more}
You don’t want that…
{don’t you come back no more}

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