Thursday, July 12, 2012

Senate Update: Another Nailbiter...Or, Who is Angus King? (July 12, 2012)

It's time to take another look at the Senate races.  The bottom line:  we'll be up all night on Election Night, not only to determine who is President, but also who controls the Senate.  It's that close.  And even then, Senate control may come down to the whim of some guy in Maine.

The Senate elections are coming into view…we're about halfway through the primary season, which will continue until mid-September, though most of the rest of the primaries will occur in August.

To review, 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. There are a whopping 23 Democratic seats are up for reelection, while only 10 Republican seats are being contested. 

If that sounds like a setup for an easy Republican takeover, wait just a second.  The Democrats may have only 30 seats not up for re-election, but 14 of the races appear to be solid for them – so count that as 44 seats in hand before the close ones.  The Republican math is somewhat different – 37 seats not up for reelection plus 7 safe seats…but voila, the same 44 seats in hand before the close ones.

That means there are 12 "toss-up" races now…two more than my analysis in April.  I added Indiana when long-time Senator Richard Lugar's lost in the Republican primary to his Tea Party-backed opponent, Richard Mourdock.  And I added Florida since recent polling has first-term Democratic Senator Bill Nelson showing some slippage versus potential opponent Representative Connie Mack (yes, baseball fans, the great-grandson of the Hall of Fame owner/manager of the Philadelphia Athletics). 

Of the 12 "toss-ups," four are leaning Republican, two leaning Democrat and six are true "dead-heats."  If Romney wins the Presidency, the Republicans need to win just two of the toss-ups to gain control of the Senate; if Obama wins, they need three (assuming each party holds its leaners).


Not up for

Toss Up
True


reelection
Solid
Leaning
Toss Ups
Total
Democrats
30
14
2
0
46
Republicans
37
7
4
0
48
Toss ups
0
0
0
6
6

Here's a brief look at the 12 toss-ups:

The Six Dead-Heats:

·        Massachusetts.  This is the highest profile Senate race with the Democrats trying to take back Ted Kennedy's old seat, now held by Scott Brown (R).  Elizabeth Warren of consumer protection fame heads the Democratic ticket and the money is flowing.  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.  My man in Boston, Wick Sloane, will give his take on this race in a "guest blog" next week.

·        Virginia.  This is another high profile battle of heavyweights, former Governor Tim Kaine (D) versus former Senator and Governor George Allen (R).  (Yes, football fans, son of the former Redskins coach).  Allen was the one who's Presidential aspirations in 2008 were derailed when he called an opponent's staff member a "micaca" and failed to extricate himself from that mess gracefully.  The polling in this one is see-sawing quite a bit with the most recent poll putting Kaine just 2 points ahead.

·        Nevada.  Incumbent Dean Heller (R) was appointed when John Ensign resigned in disgrace, and thus this is his first Senate election.  Representative Shelley Berkeley (D) won the Democratic primary.  Recent polling shows her behind Heller by 1 point.  But that was before the House Ethics Committee announced they were investigating charges that Berkeley used her position to help her husband's medical practice.  That's not a great sign for her campaign!

·     Montana.  Jon Tester (D) won his first team in a squeaker in 2006.  Representative Denny Rehberg (R) won the Republican primary and he narrowly leads Tester (by just 2 points) in the polls.

·        North Dakota.  Democrat Kent Conrad is retiring after four terms.  In the primaries, Heidi Heitkamp (D), the former State Attorney General and Representative Rick Berg (R) emerged as the nominees.  Heitkamp is ahead in the polls in this one, again by a single point.

·        Maine.  This is the truly wild one in the mix.  The virtually foregone conclusion is that popular former Governor Angus King, an Independent, will win the election – he has over 50% in the polls with his Democratic and Republican opponents each way behind.   The kicker is that King has refused to say with which party he would caucus if elected. The conventional wisdom is that he will go with the Democrats, but thus far, he ain't saying.  (Although he has said he plans to vote for Obama, which seems to be a strong clue!)

Two Races Leaning to the Democrats

·        New Mexico.  Democrat Jeff Bingaman is retiring after five terms.  Representative Martin Heinrich (D) is the frontrunner for his party, and has a 6-point lead over Heather Wilson (R), a former Representative who appears to be the likely Republican nominee, in recent polling.

·     Hawaii.   Democrat Daniel Akaka is retiring after three terms.  The primary is on 8/11, but in current polling between the two leading candidates, Representative Mazie Hirono (D) is outpacing former Governor Linda Lingle (R) by about 5 points.

Four Races Leaning to the Republicans

·        Missouri.  Claire McCaskill (D) is the incumbent.  She barely won in 2006 and has long been viewed as highly vulnerable.  The primary is on 8/7, and the Republican contenders include Todd Akin, a House member, Sarah Steelman, the state treasurer, and businessman John Brunner.  Steelman leads McCaskill by a whopping 12 points in recent polling.
    
·        Wisconsin.  Democrat Herb Kohl is stepping down after four terms.  Representative Tammy Baldwin (D) will face former Governor (and former Secretary of Health and Human Services) Tommy Thompson (R).  Thompson is up by 4 points at this juncture.

·     FloridaMost polls had first term Senator Bill Nelson (D) up comfortably in April and May, but the race tightened in June polls and a July poll (warning:  by notoriously Republican-leaning Rasmussen) had the Republicans up by 9.  Hard to put this in the "leaning Republican camp" based just on that one poll, but no other category feels right either.  Representative Connie Mack (R) is used for the Republicans in this polling, but he has to win the primary on 8/14 first.

·     Indiana.  Republican stalwart Richard Lugar was beaten handily, as noted, by Richard Mourdock, throwing this race wide open.  Lugar was so popular six years ago that the Democrats did not put up and opponent and thus he was uncontested.  Now he couldn't make it out of his own party's  primary.  There is only one poll in Indiana thus far, and it shows a tie between Mourdock and Representative Joe Donnelley (D).  I have to keep this leaning Republican until more polling shows otherwise.

This one is, of course, too close to call.  The numbers favor a Republican takeover, but barely, and that's giving them the benefit of the Florida/Indiana doubt.  But if I had to make a call today, it looks like 51-49 for the Republicans. 

So here is my favorite "wild scenario":  the Dems win three of the non-Maine tossups (say, Massachusetts, North Dakota and Nevada), and everyone holds on to their leaners, and Obama wins.  And Angus King easily wins Maine…still undeclared as to his caucus-sitting intentions.  So that makes it 50-49 for the Republicans, and Hill has vowed not to announce where he sit until after Election Day.  Whoever he chooses to caucus with will thus control the Senate, since VP Joe Biden will cast the deciding vote in a 50-50 split, but has no power in a 49-51 minority.

Should be a wild night!

COMMENTS WELCOME….particularly local insight!


Here's my fancy Senate Scorecard…the italics mean the primary has not happened yet so the frontrunners or incumbents are italicized.  The (I) refers to "incumbent.  I've included polling for the toss up races.


2012 SENATE ELECTION SCORECARD
















DEMS

REPS




In play = 12







46
6
48





Dem
Rep
Ind.
 Latest Polling %
Dem
Toss Up
Toss
Toss Up
Rep




Cand.
Cand.
Cand.
Dem
Rep
Ind.
Solid
Dem
Up
Rep
Solid










44
2
6
4
44



Democrats Not Up






30







California
Feinstein (I)
Emken




1







Delaware
Carper (I)





1







Maryland
Cardin (I)
Bongino




1







Minnesota
Klobuchar (I)





1







New Jersey
Menendez (I)
Kyrillis




1







New York
Gillebrand (I)
Long




1







Rhode Island
Whitehouse (I)





1







Pennsylvania
Casey (I)
Smith




1







Michigan
Stabenow (I)





1







Washington
Cantwell (I)





1







West Virginia
Manchin (I)
Raese




1







Vermont


Sanders (I)



1







Ohio
Brown (I)
Mandel




1







Connecticut






1







New Mexico
Heinrich
Wilson

50
44


1






Hawaii
Hirono
Lingle

49
44


1






Massachusetts
Warren
Brown (I)

46
46



1





Maine
Dill
Summers
Hill
8
25
53


1





North Dakota
Heitkamp
Berg

47
46



1





Nevada
Berkley
Heller (I)

43
44



1





Montana
Tester (I)
Rehberg

47
49



1





Virginia
Kaine
Allen

46
44



1





Florida
Nelson (I)
Mack

39
44




1




Wisconsin
Baldwin
Thompson

43
47




1




Missouri
McCaskill (I)
Steelman

39
51




1




Indiana
Donnelley
Mourdock

35
35




1




Arizona
Carmona
Flake








1



Nebraska
Kerrey
Fischer








1



Mississippi
Gore
Wicker (I)








1



Tennessee

Corker (I)








1



Texas










1



Utah
Howell
Hatch (I)








1



Wyoming

Barrasso (I)








1



Republicans Not Up










37




2 comments:

  1. 1. The elitist Elizabeth Warren is the #1 threat to our freedoms and must be defeated
    2. You're wrong on CT - Shays for Senate. Murphy who?
    3. If you're right, the future looks bright with a Republican Congress .. and Christie 2016!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Tom@obameter2012.comJuly 14, 2012 at 9:07 PM

      Hey anonymous, sounds like you have some insight on the Connecticut race...I invite you to guest blog on obameter2012.com....send me 300+ words on it to tom@obameter2012.com!

      Delete

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