Monday, November 01, 2010

The ultimate election day guide

Other election guides: These might be worth keeping handy when the polls close:
  • David Freddoso: State by state and hour by hour guide of what to look for as results come in. Great resource.
  • Nate Silver: Another hour by hour guide which attempts to link individual races to the big picture.
What the pros say:
Setting the bar: So what should constitute a Republican victory? What threshold of House seat pickups should be passed in order for Republicans to feel good? Let's start off by keeping in mind that Democrats were destined to lose seats. Democrats faced extremely good electoral environments the last two elections in 2006 and 2008 -- with 2008 a near "perfect storm" in their favor -- and had pretty much maxed out their potential, reaching 255 House seats. The only direction to go was down. So picking off even one, two or three dozen Democrats is really nothing special.

I calculated that from the 1994 to the 2004 elections, Democratic levels in the House fluctuated from 204-212, with an average strength of 209. Let's then consider that a kind of default level. In order to return to that level, Democrats would have to lose 46 seats. With that in mind I offer up the following for keeping score:

Less than 40 seats: Bad night (less than 35 would be horrendous). The party at Nancy Pelosi's house makes Studio 54 look like Chuck E. Cheese. Chris Matthews has another thrill go up his leg.
40-45: Not a loss, but not much of a win either. A collective sigh of relief emanates from the White House and MSNBC.
46-50: Decent, but given the circumstances still left to ponder what might have been.
51-55: Pretty good. James Carville once again dons a wastepaper basket.
56-60: A route. Rachel Maddow faints on air.
61-65: The political equivalent of Super Bowl XXIV.
66-70: Dempocalypse. The lamentations of DC liberals echo throughout the streets of Washington. At least one Hollywood celebrity actually moves to Canada or France.
70+: Victory of near biblical proportions. Cats and dogs living together, swarm of locusts descends on Washington, the New York Times editorial staff commits seppuku, etc.

Early indicators: So just how big this "wave" election is going to be? Will it be just enough to do some bodysurfing or will Republicans be riding a tsunami to shore? MSNBC says that a few key districts will help provide a clue:
Polls close completely at 7:00 pm ET in five states with a handful of key races: Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, South Carolina, and Virginia. (And we’ll begin to see returns in Indiana at 6:00 pm ET, when many polling places close in the state.)

Let’s start with IN-9, which has become the quintessential swing district because Rep. Baron Hill (D) lost the seat in ’04, but won it back in ’06 and was re-elected in ‘08. This race is No. 42 in our House rankings -- right about the number the GOP will need to take back the House (because Dems will likely pick up two to four seats). So if this race is called for Hill’s challenger, Tea Party-backed Todd Young, you know it’s going to be a good night for the GOP.

*** Looking at IN, GA, and KY: Another place to watch is GA-8, because if Republicans are winning it, they could very well be on their way to a gain of 50-plus seats. Rep. Jim Marshall (D) won that district with just 51% in 2006 and 57% in ‘08.
The other early House contest to watch is in KY-6, which could forecast a big GOP tidal wave if Republicans are winning it -- or are even running close. The congressman representing that district is Ben Chandler (D), who won his previous contests with 65% (in ’08) and 85% (in ’06).

Other races to watch in that first hour: GA-2, IN-2, SC-5, VA-2, VA-5, VA-9, and VA-11. And closing at 7:30 are the key races in North Carolina (NC-2, NC-7, NC-8, NC-11), in Ohio (OH-1, OH-6, OH-13, OH-15, OH-16, OH-18), and in West Virginia (WV-1, WV-3). If Republicans are winning a majority of these 20 races, say hello to Speaker John Boehner.
Individual Races and Plotlines

Schadenfreude: While savoring wins is an obvious attraction to election night, there are a number of Congresscritters I am really hoping go down to defeat. They are:
  • Alan Grayson (FL-8): Where to begin with this guy? During the health care debate he flatly declared that the GOP's health care plan was "Don't get sick, and if you do get sick, die quickly." In his current campaign he attempted to equate his opponent with the Taliban and said that attendees at a Glenn Beck rally were "People who were wearing sheets over their heads 25 years ago." It is little wonder that George Will bestowed him with the title of America's worst politician.
  • Loretta Sanchez (CA-47): Up against Van Tran, Sanchez injected a racial element to the campaign with her statement on Spanish-language television that the Vietnamese and Republicans were trying to take a seat away from the Hispanic community and labeled Tran as anti-Hispanic. That's simply disgusting.
  • Phil Hare (IL-17): When Nancy Pelosi was asked where in the constitution it authorizes Congress to mandate that every American purchase health insurance she responded "Are you serious?" While Pelosi will be safely re-elected, the same can't be said of Rep. Phil Hare, who when asked about how Obamacare comports with the constitution responded that, "I don't worry about the Constitution on this." He further compounded his nonsense with a bizarre declaration in early October that the US national debt is a myth. Opponent Bobby Schilling, who is favored in the race, has been a union official, worked in financial services and now owns a pizzeria.
  • Charlie Crist (FL-Sen): Perhaps the most transparently self-centered power-hungry individual running for Congress. Was accused of being a RINO by Rubio and hit back by calling himself a Reagan Republican, then bolted the party when it became apparent he was going to lose in the primary. He now says he will caucus with the Democrats if elected and swears he was going to leave the Republican party anyway.
  • Rep. Maurice Hinchey (NY-22): Hinchey doesn't think the $1+ trillion budget deficit is a big deal. That's really all you need to know. He's slightly favored in his race against George Phillips.
  • Jim Oberstar (MN-8): Oberstar collecting just a single contribution from a resident of the district between June 22 and Sept. 30 when Jane Robbins of Pine City gave Oberstar $500 on Aug. 22. Oberstar is opposed by Chip Cravaack and the two appear to be neck and neck.
  • John Dingell (MI-15): Dingell has been a Michigan Congressman since 1955, making him the longest serving member of the House. His last two elections saw him earn over 70% of the vote. This time around, however, at least one poll shows his actually losing. Still hard to see happening, however.
  • Barney Frank (MA-4): Frankly, I don't like Barney because, in addition to his politics (although I agree with him on online gambling and military cuts) he comes off as an imperious blowhard who has been in Congress too long (almost 30 years). His opponent Sean Bielat seems to be an impressive guy with a MA from Harvard and experience at McKinsey and the Marines. He's also a former Democrat that is liberal on social issues and economically conservative. Still, Frank seems to have the upper hand in this contest.
  • Harry Reid (NV-Sen). Well, duh.
  • Rep. Jan Schakowsky (IL-9): Schakowsky has referred to Tea Party protests as "despicable" and has openly stated that she would like to put health insurance companies out of business through a "public option." As of early-October she has also refused to debate her opponent, Joe Pollak, a former Democrat endorsed by both Alan Dershowitz and Paul Ryan. She's in a pretty safe district, typically winning reelection by a 3 to 1 margin since her election in 1998, so if she loses it probably means Republicans are running riot.
  • Rep. Bob Etheridge (NC-2): Bob just seems to be kind of a jerk. A SurveyUSA poll less than a week ago has him losing by several points to opponent Renee Ellmers.
  • Lisa Murkowski (AK-Sen): I've previously written about the importance of getting Murkowski out of office here. In addition to being the beneficiary of nepotism and a consummate Washington insider obsessed with staying in power, Murkwoski also appears to have little respect for the Constitution as evidenced by this quote of hers:
“That somehow or other these are unconstitutional because they’re not enumerated within the powers of the constitution, that somehow or other we should just be eliminating these, I think that is out of the mainstream."
I don't think there is anything opponent Joe Miller believes in that I find quite as scary as that. Polls don't close until midnight EST and because Murkowski is a write-in candidate the vote counting is likely to be quite slow. We may not know the outcome for a while.
The Race Card: Since the Tea Party and Republicans are regularly accused of racism it's worth noting the racial diversity of Republican candidates this year. This includes the nomination of 14 black House candidates, four of which are running in white majority districts -- which is one more than the Democrats. The more notable contests are:
  • CO-7: Ryan Frazier vs. Rep. Ed Perlmutter. This district went for Obama by 19 points in 2008 but the two have been very close in the polls. In 2002, which might be a good approximation for the electoral make-up this year, the two candidates in this race were separated by just over 100 votes.
  • FL-22: Allen West vs. Rep Ron Klein. This race seems to be leaning towards West, a former Army Lt. Col.
  • SC-1: This district is heavily Republican, and Tim Scott is virtually guaranteed to become the South’s first black Republican representative since 1901. It's worth noting that Scott defeated Paul Thurmond, son of Strom, in the Republican primary. A businessman, Scott has been endorsed by the Club for Growth.
  • NC-13: Bill Randall vs Rep. Brad Miller. Miller is expected to prevail against Randall, a retired Navy master petty chief officer.
  • CA-Secretary of State: Former NFLer Damon Dunn is running against incumbent Democrat Debra Bowen. You can watch Dunn's inspirational bio film here.
Hispanic Republicans are also projected to have a good night, highlighted by Marco Rubio's Senate contest in Florida as well as gubernatorial races in New Mexico (Susana Martinez) and Nevada (Brian Sandoval) in which both GOP candidates are favored. If elected Martinez will be the country's first Hispanic female governor.

Seventeen Hispanic Republicans are seeking election to the House. Six -- Jon Barela (NM-1), Bill Flores (TX-17), Francisco Canseco (TX-23), Jaime Herrera (WA-3), Raul Labrador (ID-1) and David Rivera (FL-25) -- are even-money or better to win.

There are some Asian-American Republicans involved in election contests as well, highlighted by Charles Djou in HI-1. Djou won a special election earlier this year in which the Democratic vote was split, but he seems to have a slight lead. If he loses, however, Djou would make history as voters in Hawaii have never tossed an incumbent from federal office. Anh "Joseph" Cao in LA-2 is unlikely to be re-elected in the majority black district he represents, having only prevailed by 3% in 2008 against William "Cold Cash" Jefferson.

In South Carolina, meanwhile, Nikki Haley will likely become the GOP's second Indian-American governor in the South, following in the footsteps of Bobby Jindal.

In NY-1 Randy Altschuler is in a toss-up race against Rep. Tim Bishop. If elected, Altschuler would double the GOP's Jewish caucus to two, with Rep. Eric Cantor the other member.

Toeing the party line: Some House Democrats in close districts toed the party line, supporting the Obama administration on key votes such as the stimulus, Obamacare and cap and trade. Some didn't. It will be very interesting to see if that makes a difference. If it does, it will be hard to argue that Democrats were victims of anti-incumbent sentiment and not their policies. This will help to keep score (click to enlarge):

PA-12 -- Rep. Mark Critz vs Tim Burns. Incumbent Democrat Critz has run as a conservative. He opposed the final version of the Wall Street regulatory overhaul, the Disclose Act tightening campaign finance rules and a repeal of the "Don’t ask, don’t tell" policy on gays in the military. Critz has also run against the healthcare law (though he doesn’t favor full repeal) and the cap-and-trade energy bill, and he said in a debate here Friday that he would have opposed the stimulus package that passed in February 2009. The word "Democrat" doesn't appear on the front page of his website or on the biography page.

The Old Guard
: In addition to the aforementioned John Dingell and Barney Frank, a number of other long-time incumbent Democrats are in serious trouble. These include:
  • Chet Edwards (TX-17): Elected in 1990
  • Ike Skelton (MO-4): Elected 1976
  • John Spratt (SC-5): Elected 1982
  • Earl Pomeroy (ND-AL): Elected 1992
  • Paul Kanjorski (PA-11): Elected 1984
Spratt and Edwards are almost guaranteed to go down while Pomeroy and Kanjorski are underdogs in their contests and Skelton's race is a toss-up.

Military vets: I've already mentioned a few people with military experience who are running but here are some others:
  • Ilario G. Pantano (NC-7): Running against Rep. Mike McIntyre, Pantano has both completed USMC scout/sniper training and has a degree in economics from NYU -- what a combination. This race is a toss-up.
  • Adam Kinzinger (IL-11): Kinzinger is 32. He was elected at age 20 to the McLean County Board and served for five years. After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, he signed up for the Air Force and was deployed twice to Iraq and flew missions into Afghanistan. He also once wrestled and disarmed a guy with a knife who had just cut a woman's throat.
  • Nick Popaditch (CA-51): Popaditch is a USMC veteran who was hit in an RPG attack in Fallujah and wears a patch over his eye, which would instantly make him one of the most recognizable members of Congress.
The doc is in: The 11 Republican doctors in Congress (there are also 5 Democrats) will likely receive some more company, with several doctors favored or in close races. They are:
  • Dan Benishek (MI-1): Benishek, a general surgeon, launched his bid for Congress in March during the Obamacare debate and has called for free market reforms to improve the health care sector. If successful he will take over the seat currently occupied by the retiring Rep. Bart Stupak.
  • Scott DesJarlais (TN-4): Physician Scott DesJarlais is seen by most observers as a slight underdog to replace incumbent Rep. Lincoln Davis.
  • Joe Heck (NV-3): Heck, another physician, is in a very close race against incumbent Rep. Dina Titus.
Sports personalities and the celebrity D-list: In addition to Damon Dunn, Republican Jim Runyan, formerly of the Philadelphia Eagles, seems to have a edge in his race against Rep. John Adler in NJ-3. Incumbent Democrat, and former Redskins QB, Heath Shuler appears to be in a tough fight against Jeff Miller in NC-11. Miller is a small businessman and founder of HonorAir, a really cool program. Shuler is not an easy target, having voted against the stimulus package, TARP and Obamacare. GOPer and former NBA player Chris Dudley, meanwhile, is in a close race to become the next governor of Oregon.

Former Real Worlder Sean Duffy appears likely to win his House race in WI-7 against Democrat Julie Lassa.

Club for Growth: I am a big fan of the Club for Growth and their dedication to the expansion of economic freedom. If they endorse a candidate and are willing to spend money on their behalf, you can bet that individual would be a pretty good addition to Congress. Newcomers endorsed by the Club for Growth include:
  • Todd Young (IN-9): Young is a slight favorite against Rep. Duke Earl King Baron Hill.
  • Andy Harris (MD-1): Harris faces Rep. Frank Kratovil, who won this district last time when the incumbent Republican Wayne Gilchrest, who was defeated by Harris in the primary after being accused of being a RINO, endorsed Kratovil. Harris is viewed as having the edge here.
  • Keith Rothfus (PA-4): Taking on Rep. Jason Altmire, Rothfus is projected to fall short as Altmire earned some goodwill through his vote against Obamacare.
  • Stephen Fincher (TN-8): Fincher is a slight favorite.
  • Justin Amash (MI-3): In addition to being endorsed by the Club for Growth, Amash is a Tea Partier and is backed by Rep. Ron Paul. The 30 year old has his undergraduate degree in economics, which is always good.
  • Tim Griffin (AR-2): Griffin should win rather easily.
  • Mike Pompeo (KS-4): Pompeo, who graduated first in his class from West Point with a degree in mechanical engineering and attended law school at Harvard, should get an easy win here.
  • Tim Huelskamp (KS-01): Another easy win.
  • Nan Hayworth (NY-19): Hayworth is an opthamologist locked in a close race against incumbent Rep. John Hall.
  • Jesse Kelly (AZ-8): Tossup race against Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who voted for the stimulus package and Obamacare.
  • David Schweikert (AZ-05): Shcweikert is thought to have a slight lead against incumbent Rep. Harry Mitchell.
  • David Harmer (CA-11): Facing incumbent Democrat Jerry McNerney, Harmer -- the favorite in this contest -- is a former Heritage Foundation fellow who had a book on education reform published by the Cato Institute. How committed is he to shaking up the system? He has called for the abolishment of government-run schools.
You can track all of the candidates endorsed by the Club for Growth and how they are performing on election night here.

New England: After the last election the Republican party was pretty much left for dead in New England, but there are now signs of life. Races where Republicans are favored or competitive include:
  • Statewide: MA-Gov, CT-Gov, RI-Gov, VT-Gov, ME-Gov, NH-Sen
  • House: CT-4, CT-5, MA-10, NH-1, NH-2, RI-1, ME-1, ME2 
Arkansas: Arkansas votes Republican in presidential elections but Democrat pretty much everywhere else, with Democrats controlling 3 of the state's 4 House seats and both Senate seats. This will likely end, however, with Republicans projected to win in AR-1, AR-2 and AR-3 and John Boozman expected to crush Blanche Lincoln in the Senate contest.

Referendums: A number of ballot issues will be presented to voters which are worth paying attention to:
  • Prop 19 (CA): This measure would legalize tax and regulate marijuana. The entire California establishment is against it with basically every newspaper in the state editorializing against it and every statewide politician opposed. Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch argue that this is perhaps the single most important item that voters will decide, and I am inclined to agree. Recent polling does not show cause for optimism, however.
  • Prop 20 (CA): Would have commissions set congressional districts instead of the state legislature. Great idea.
  • Prop 27 (CA): Would see a 2008 measure that established commissions to set legislative districts would be repealed. This measure is being pushed by Democrats and public sector unions, who apparently do not have an interest in competitive elections.
  • Prop 23 (CA): Would repeal a bunch of state anti-global warming/climate change laws. Apparently the evil, greedy, earth-hating corporations decided to sit this one out as supporters of the repeal were outspent about 20 to 1.
  • Initiative 1098 (WA): Introduction of a tax the rich scheme.
  • Amendment 63 (CO): Would guarantee that the state government can't force you to purchase a health insurance plan you don't want. Supporters have one of the funnier campaign spots you are likely to find.
  • Proposition 106 (AZ): Would amend the state's constitution by barring any rules or regulations that would force state residents to participate in a health-care system. The proposed amendment would also ensure that individuals would have the right to pay for private health insurance.
  • Question 4 (NV): Would prohibit the taking of private property if it is to be transferred to a private party.
  • Question 3 (MA): would reduce the state sales tax rate from 6.25 to 3 percent.

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