2008 Senate Races At A Glance

Democrats currently control the Senate 50-49-Lieberman. In 2008, twenty-one Republican-held seats, and only twelve Democratic held seats, are up for election. Also, Democrats currently hold a sizable fundraising advantage on Republicans in the Senate. Given all of this, the opportunities to build a larger, sustainable, and more progressive majority are huge. However, at this early date, the picture remains muddy, primarily because so far candidates have declared their candidacy. Here is a crude outlook on the 2008 Senate picture right now, divided into five tiers that I admit are somewhat nebulous. It isn't he sort of thorough outlook I would prefer, but I didn't offer my first thorough 2006 Senate outlook until August of 2005 anyway.
  • Lean Party Switch: Colorado (Republican-held open seat). Gooooood luck to Colorado Republicans trying to hold onto this seat. Democrats got a top-tier candidate in Rep. Udall, while Republicans were stuck with a wingnut. In a state where Democrats now win virtually everything due to demographic trends and the fully operational, statewide vast left-wing conspiracy, Democrats are well poised to add to our narrowest of margins in the Senate.

  • Already Competitive
    Republican-held: Collins (ME), Coleman (MN), Sununu (NH), Smith (OR). The reason for the competitiveness of these seats vary, but they have two common threads: quality challengers have already declared, and all states were recently considered "swing" but are now decidedly trending blue. When it comes to specifics, Susan Collins is very popular, but she is facing a very popular Democrat in a state trending blue. Gordon Smith is reasonably popular, but is facing a primary challenge and would have found himself in the "lean party switch" category had Rep. DeFazio run. Coleman and Sununu are not particularly popular, but not so much that defeat is virtually guaranteed, ala Santorum.

    Democratic held: Landrieu (LA). Landrieu only avoided being placed in the "lean party switch" category because Rep. Jindall will seek the Governorship. Still, she is not very popular, and much will depend on who Republicans find to challenge her.

  • Potentially Competitive
    Republican-held: Domenici (NM), Dole (NC), Cornyn (TX), Warner (VA). These are all states that can be made competitive depending on who Democrats can recruit. If Warner retires in Virginia, this seat immediately moves up to "already competitive," given recent Democratic statewide successes here. Dole and Domenici have approval ratings in the 50's, but are both in weak campaign positions due to senility (Domenici) and unpopularity in the Republican apparatus (Dole). Freshman Cornyn is just very unpopular, and has never appeared to be the brightest bulb on any string of lights. Still, Texas is pretty red, and it will still be tough to knock him off. Hopefully, Tancredo's presidential campaign and purple the state up a bit.

    Democratic-held: Pryor (AR), Harkin (IA), Baucus (MT), Lautenberg (NJ), Johnson (SD). When it comes to Pryor, much depends on who Republicans recruit. In New Jersey, Lautenberg not very popular, but I'm not buying into Republicans being competitive statewide here again. Harkin is vulnerable on virtually every surface indicator, but Iowa is really trending blue. Baucus is in an unusual position of being a red-state Senator with an approval rating in the 60's, but some progressives are making noise about a primary. Johnson won by only a few hundred votes in 2002, and is now incapacitated. Normally, this would make a seat more competitive, but in this case the illness actually seems to have strengthened Johnson's position as no one is attacking him. How long will that last? The grace period might expire in a few months when South Dakotans get tired of only having one voting Senator.

  • Keep An Eye On: Sessions (AL), McConnell (KY), Cochran (MS), Hagel (NE), Inhofe (OK). This is a slightly lower, all Republican-held tier. Hagel could retire, or could easily lose a Republican primary, which might open this seat up. Cochran could retire, doing the same in Mississippi. A number of high profile candidates are making noise about potentially challenging Sessions, but none have formally announced and the seat would be a longshot anyway (Alabama is not Virginia--it isn't even Arkansas or North Carolina). Inhofe is very unpopular and a total whackjob, but can Democrats really compete here? Finally, McConnell is going to be hit hard by several groups, and bluegrass Republicans are reeling, but what candidate could really give him a go?

  • Currently not on the board
    Republican held: Stevens (AK), Chambliss (GA), Craig (ID), Roberts (KS), Graham (SC), Alexander (TN), Enzi (WY). Some people might object to some of these seats being off the board, but I don't see it. For example, if we lose ID-01 to Bill friggin' Sali ina huge Democratic year, how can we win statewide against Craig in 2008?

    Democratic held: Biden (DE), Durbin (IL), Kerry (MA), Levin (MI), Reed (RI), Rockerfeller (WV). Ditto what I said about the Republicans in this category.
The bottom line is that after the first five races listed here (CO, ME, MN, NH and OR), pretty much everything else currently depends on candidate recruitment, retirements, and Republican primary challenges (and, of course, the overall national mood eighteen months from now). In truth, recruitment still matters even in MN, NH and OR, where the field could change quite a bit over the next few months. It is nice that we are doing so well monetarily, and that we have so many potential targets, but none of that will matter if our top candidates, such as Rep. DeFazio, keep passing on potential challenges. For the next six months or so, it is all about finding the best candidates for every seat, even the longshot ones that are not currently on the board. The opportunities here are huge, and we can't let our best chances slip from our fingers. Leading Democrats need to suck it up, and run for Senate everywhere.

Update: More on the Senate money race can be found at CQ Politics.

How Did Your Forecasts Do?

I was looking over my House Forecast today. Considering that ten seats that could still shift party control are still undecided, here is how I performed:

Democratic Targets
  • Lean Democratic tier. My projection: 11-13 pickups. Current status: 13-14 pickups. The two that we have narrowly lost in this category, NY-25 and PA-06, are particularly painful to me, since I lived in both districts for a combined nineteen years (I grew up in one, and went to college in the other). I also volunteered for both campaigns this time around, and talked with both candidates who I like very much. Outside of netroots candidates who narrowly lost, those were the two campaigns I would most like to have seen gone the other way. Truly, a bitter taste. It is like seeing the promised land and not being able to walk in it with the rest of your people.

  • Toss-up tier: My projection: 11-12 pickups. Current status: 10-15 pickups. With five races still undecided in this tier, I think I did a good job of placing many of the closest races in the country here.

  • Lean Republican tier. My projection: 4-5 pickups. Current status: 4-6 pickups. Of all my projections, I was most worried about finding victories in this tier. However, it seems to have come through exactly as my numbers indicated it would.

  • Likely republican / others tier: My projection: 0-1 pickups. Current status: 1-2 pickups. The one that is still undecided will be a run-off involving Ciro Rodriguez in TX-23. Ciro was the first candidate I helped raise money for in 2006. That is just strange.
Republican Targets
  • Toss-up tier: My projection: 1 loss. Current status: 0-1 losses. If we hold GA-12, and I expect we will, we shut out Republicans everywhere. Sweet. I am happy to end up being wrong here, especially IN-07.

  • Lean Democratic / others tier: My projection: 1-2 losses. Current status: 0 losses. This actually seems to have been my biggest error of the night. Democratic incumbents performed very well.
Overall, it was a pretty good projection. Democrats either performed right at my expectations for each tier, or very slightly above those expectations. While I did not project individual seats, my tier-based projection looks like a good method. If I had been forced to pick each seat, I would have probably forecasted another ten seats going to Democrats, because I didn't have the heart to call individual Democratic loses. Being emotionally attached to campaigns causes weakness in the mind of even the most hard-headed election analyst. Using a tiered-based ranking formula rather than an individual seat based ranking formula allowed me to keep the potential biases of my hopes and emotional attachments from contaminating the system. So, I think I will stick with that strategy in the future.

In the Senate, every individual seat that I forecasted was correct. My error was in projecting that Democrats would win only three out of four from Maryland, Montana, Virginia and Missouri. We ended up winning all four. I am more than happy to have been wrong about that.

Anyway, enough about me. How did your forecasts do?

A Quick Review of The Situation In The House

Before results start coming in, I just want to make a few things clear:
  • The final seven generic ballot polls, all conducted entirely in November, show a mean double-digit lead for Democrats among both likely voters and registered voters.

  • The final, independent polls in individual districts show Democrats ahead in 239 seats, Republicans ahead in 195, and one tied. Further, Democrats are within single-digits in 23 of the seats that Republicans are projected as winning.

  • The combined forecasts of the major professional prognosticators show 43 Republican held seats as either toss-up, or favored to flip to Democrats.

  • Republican insiders think the following: Here's information from a chart that GOP insiders are using as a cheat sheet:

    Eight in the most likely gone category: PA-7, Weldon, OH-18, Ney open, IN-8, Hostettler, CO-7 Beauprez open, AZ-8, Kolbe open, NY-24, Boehlert open, PA-10, Sherwood, CT-4, Shays.

    Eight in the expect to lose most of these unless something changes: TX-22, DeLay open, NC-11, Taylor (chart notes unfavorable trend in this race), IN-9, Sodrel, IN-2, Chocola (chart notes a favorable trend), FL-16, Foley open, OH-15, Pryce, PA-6, Gerlach, NH-2, Bass (unfavorable trend).

    Twenty in the true toss-up category (I'm just citing districts because I'm tired of typing): IA-1, NY-20, WY, WI-8 (favorable trend), WA-8, VA-2, PA-8, NY-26 (favorable trend), NM-1, IL-6, FL-13, CA-50, CA-11, OH-1, ID-1, NY-25, MN-1, CO-5, OH-2, CA-4.

    That's 36 seats total. In the first category, unfavorable trends are noted in 7 of the 8 races (AZ-8 is the only exception). In the third category, 13 out of the 30 races have unfavorable trends.
Needless to say, given all this, if the House doesn't flip, it will be, um "suspicious."

Governor Forecast 2006: Final Update

At this late hour I've put the finishing touches on the final update to MyDD's Governor Forecast 2006. On election eve (or morning), I now project the Democrats picking up 9 governorships, putting them at a 30 to 20 advantage.

Democratic Targets

Ohio and Massachusetts now join New York in the safe category, with Ted Strickland and Deval Patrick consistently leading by 20 points or more. Colorado is not far behind. Other races moving closer towards the Democrats include Minnesota, which remains far from a lock (and thus is still a toss-up), Nevada, Idaho, Alaska and Florida (the last four of which provide Democrats for one, perhaps two pick-ups but nevertheless could all go Republican). The race in Arkansas seems to have gelled with Mike Beebe leading with a comfortable 8-10 point margin, which might narrow in actual balloting. The race in California is now off of the table (perhaps I should have removed it earlier). And perhaps the only cautionary news among Democratic targets comes from Maryland, where Martin O'Malley's lead has shrunk to just a couple of points. He is still favored, but the race is now a toss-up.

Safe Democratic:1. New York (Democrat: Eliot Spitzer). 2. Ohio (Democrat: Ted Strickland). 3. Massachusetts (Democrat: Deval Patrick).

Likely Democratic:4. Colorado (Democrat: Bill Ritter). 5. Arkansas (Democrat: Mike Beebe).

Toss-Up:6. Maryland (Democrat: Martin O'Malley). 7. Minnesota (Democrat: Mike Hatch).

Leans Republican:8. Idaho (Democrat: Jerry Brady). 9. Nevada (Democrat: Dina Titus). 10. Alaska (Democrat: Tony Knowles). - Knowles 40, November 3; Dittman, Palin 48 - Knowles 39, October 26.

Likely Republican:11. Florida (Democrat: Jim Davis). 12. Rhode Island (Democrat: Charlie Fogarty).

Safe Republican (in alphabetical order): Alabama, California, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Nebraska, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas and Vermont.

Republican Targets

Democratic Governors around the country are breathing easier going into election day than they were one month ago or even a year ago. Govs. Ted Kulongoski, Rod Blagojevich and Jennifer Granholm (of Oregon, Illinois and Michigan, respectively), each of whom might have been considered underdogs at some point, each appear on path for reelection. While Jim Doyle's lead in Wisconsin has shrunk in recent days -- enough so to move him into toss-up range -- he still is favored to win reelection. Maine's John Baldacci is not quite as certain, though the presence of an Independent candidate and a Green candidate on the ballot could mean that 36 percent is enough for him to win. Finally, Iowa, which long looked like the Republicans best pick-up opportunity, is seeing a late, though noticeable move towards Democrat Chet Culver.

Toss-Up:1. Maine (Democrat: John Baldacci). 2. Wisconsin (Democrat: Jim Doyle).

Leans Democratic:3. Oregon (Democrat: Ted Kulongoski). 4. Iowa (Democrat: Chet Culver). 5. Illinois (Democrat: Rod Blagojevich). 6. Michigan (Democrat: Jennifer Granholm).

Safe Democrat (in alphabetical order): Arizona, Kansas, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Wyoming.

Overall, the nation's 36 governor races seem to offer the Democrats their best opportunities for gains in more than a decade, with the potential for about 10 pick-ups when the dust settles on election day. These shifts will both be important and monumental, as governors have the capacity not only to lead on policy (including redistricting) but also to affect the partisan make up of states. It is not coincidental that Democrats are showing new signs of life in states like Wyoming, Montana, Arizona and Kansas, each of which has a popular Democratic Governor.

For the latest polling and analysis of all of this year's most important gubernatorial races, head on over to the MyDD Governor Forecast 2006 sponsored by Bill Richardson.

There's more...

Final House And Senate Forecasts

At long last, after more than a year of digging through numbers, I have arrived at my final House and Senate forecasts. While it is possible that there will still be some polls released between now and tomorrow morning, I doubt that many will be released, or that they will change this forecast at all. At the very least, I do not intend to make anymore posts on the House and Senate forecasts before the elections actually take place. This is the one for posterity.

My final House forecast shows a Democratic pickup of 23-29 seats, for a majority of 226-232. If you have to push to for a single number, I'll go with 26, and a majority of 229. The only chance I made form yesterday was to move NY-25 from "toss-up" to "lean Democratic." I have to say that one makes me very, very happy.

Note that I do not predict the outcome of individual races. Rather, I have placed seats into probability tiers, and estimated the number of seats Democrats will win within each tier. If I were to pick individual races, I would probably come up with a much higher Democratic gain. This is both because Democrats are leading according to polls in more than 26 Republican-held seats, and because I just don't have the heart to pick individual Democrats to lose. Thus, this system of forecasting saves me from engaging in a sort of wishful thinking bias.

My final house forecast shows a Democratic pickup of five seats. While I do grant either four seats or six seats as quite possible, I just think a five-seat pickup is the most likely outcome. This would lead to a 50-48-2 Senate, where Dick Cheney would cast the tie-breaking vote (provided that Lieberman caucuses with Democrats).

Looking that the five close races we have to win in order to take control, Rhode Island, Maryland, Montana, Missouri and Virginia, things look good for us in all five cases. However, I just have to think that there is going to be that one blemish, the one close race that gets away. I don't know which one it will be, but I feel a lot better about forecasting a five-seat gain where one of our small leads can disappear rather than projecting we take control by sweeping all five. I certainly hope I end up being wrong, and democrats take control.


Well, that's it for me when it comes to election forecasts this year. I am going to make some phone calls to family and friends, get ready for tomorrow, and go to bed early. I will be working my precinct from 7 a.m. until the early afternoon, but I will be back and ready to blog a couple hours before the polls start closing. I am actually kind of glad that it is about to finally reach some sort of resolution. Let's make this happen.


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