"A government big enough to give you everything you want is strong enough to take away everything you have."

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Final Presidential & Senate Predictions

I have updated my Senate & Electoral College maps with my final election predictions.  You can click on the updated links on the left side of the blog to see the maps.

For the U.S. Senate, I am predicting a net pickup of 2 seats for the GOP, which brings them to 49 seats.  Democrats will also have 49 seats plus 2 liberal leaning independents who will likely caucus with their party (I am considering those two independents as Democrats for purposes of this analysis).  This is a disappointing prediction for me, since for much of the year the Republicans seemed to be in a good position to take control of the Senate.  There are a number of tossup states that I have currently leaning toward the Democrats that the GOP could conceivably win if they have an unexpectedly strong Election Day, however, so control of the Senate is not completely out of reach at this point.

At this point, the GOP seems likely to lose two seats in the Northeast.  One, the open seat in Maine, was almost a foregone conclusion when Republican incumbent Olympia Snowe announced her retirement and popular former governor and liberal Independent Angus King jumped into the race.  King is expected to easily defeat both Republican and Democratic opponents.  The other Republican seat in jeopardy is in Massachusetts, where Scott Brown seems to be slightly behind Democrat Elizabeth Warren.  Brown is surprisingly well-liked in liberal Massachusetts and has positioned himself as a moderate, but I fear that the large Democratic turnout for Obama this year will be too much for him to overcome.  This race is still a tossup though, which means it could go either way.

These two losses will be offset (in my view) by four Republican pickups of Democratic seats in the rest of the country.  The easiest pickup will be in conservative Nebraska, where Deb Fischer should easily defeat former Democratic senator Bob Kerrey to replace retiring Senator Ben Nelson.  Despite Kerrey's previous successes, he is far too liberal for the state.  A second pickup should come in North Dakota, where Democrat Kent Conrad is retiring.  Democrat Heidi Heitkamp has run a surprisingly strong race and has stayed close in the polls, but Republican Rick Berg, who currently represents the entire state in the House of Representatives, now seems likely to win (although he will run behind Romney in the state).  A third pickup is the open seat race in Wisconsin, where former GOP Governor Tommy Thompson and Democratic Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin are vying to replace retiring Democrat Herb Kohl.  This is a close race, and Baldwin was leading in the polls for a few weeks after Thompson won a contentious four-way primary, but Thompson now seems to be consolidating a lead.  Baldwin is one of the most left-wing members of the House and out of step with the state.  The fourth pickup for the GOP should come in Montana, where I predict that Republican Denny Rehberg will defeat sitting Democratic senator Jon Tester.  Polls show a close race, but Rehberg has already won statewide several times and will be aided by a strong performance by Romney at the top of the ticket in the state.

I also believe the Republicans will hold onto three competitive seats of their own in Indiana, Nevada, and Arizona.  Indiana is the one I am least sure about.  Republican Richard Mourdock, who defeated incumbent Senator Richard Lugar in the GOP primary earlier this year, was widely expected to defeat Democrat Joe Donnelly until he made an alleged gaffe regarding abortion in the case of rape during a debate.  Since then, a couple of polls have shown Donnelly ahead, although still well under 50% with a large number of undecideds.  I suspect that many of those undecided voters are conservatives who will come back to Mourdock in the end, especially with Romney and GOP gubernatorial candidate Mike Pence winning the state by wide margins.  In Nevada, Republican Dean Heller, an appointed incumbent, is leading in the polls over scandal-tarnished Democrat Shelley Berkley and should hang on to win despite the state's increasingly Democratic leanings.  And in Arizona, conservative congressman Jeff Flake should win by a few points over Democrat Richard Carmona to replace retiring GOP Senator Jon Kyl.  This is a race that has probably never been as close as some of the pundits have seemed to think.

I am also predicting that the Democrats will hold on to 9 of their own vulnerable seats, including 5 incumbents and 4 open seats.  The most disappointing of all of these races is the one in Missouri, where it looks like deeply unpopular Senator Claire McCaskill will hold on to her seat due to a mindnumbingly stupid statement by her GOP challenger Todd Akin regarding pregnancies resulting from rape.  Akin still seems to be closer in the polls than I would have expected, but the libertarian candidate in the race is polling between 5 and 10% in some polls and I would guess McCaskill will survive with less than 50% of the vote.  Democrat Sherrod Brown is another far-left senator who is out of step with his conservative leaning state of Ohio, but he appears to have a slight edge over GOP candidate Josh Mandel.  If massive Republican turnout propels Romney to a strong win there, Mandel might have a chance.  In Pennsylvania, freshman Democratic Senator Bob Casey, Jr. was thought to be safe for most of this election cycle, but Republican self-funder Tom Smith has unexpectedly surged in the polls and made things interesting.  The state has also gotten some last minute attention from Romney in the last couple of weeks, but given Pennsylvania's Democratic leanings both Romney and Smith are underdogs at this point.  In Florida, Democratic Senator Bill Nelson, once thought to be in serious trouble, now looks clearly favored to win a 3rd term over Republican Connie Mack IV, who has run a disappointing campaign.  Even more likely to win is Michigan Democrat Debbie Stabenow, who is polling strongly against Republican Pete Hoekstra.

Of the Democrats' four vulnerable open seats, by the far the toughest one is in Virginia, where former governors Tim Kaine and George Allen have been in a neck-and-neck battle to capture the seat of retiring Democrat Jim Webb, who defeated Allen in 2006.  Most polls have been showing Allen running at least two or three points behind Romney in Virginia, and my best guess is that Kaine squeaks this race out.  Democrats look to be in much better shape in their other three competitive open seats, all of which are being fought on friendly turf.  In Connecticut, Linda McMahon has spent tens of millions of her own money but appears likely to lose to Democrat Chris Murphy, who stated in a debate that he believes that human life begins at birth.  Moderate Republicans Heather Wilson of New Mexico and Linda Lingle of Hawaii were both thought to be top-tier candidates but have not been able to overcome the Democratic tilt of their states.

Tomorrow morning, I hope to provide my rationale for picking Mitt Romney to win the presidential race.

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