Sunday, June 22, 2008

Sunday with the Senators: The Overall Projections

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The official DCW Senate Tracker is up (post immediately below) and while I subscribe to the deeply held belief that DCW is the place for accurate numbers and data, I must take issue with some of the projections. Not that we posted anything incorrectly, it’s just I cannot subscribe to what the predictors are saying.

I work from the assumption that there are now 50 Democrats in the Senate. I calculate this based on Bernie Saunders always caucusing as a Democrat, and the idea that Joe is not a Democrat. Thus, as per the information, Chris Bowers predicts a net gain of 6, and everyone else predicts a net gain of 5. I say a minimum of 6, (Virginia, New Mexico, Colorado, Minnesota, New Hampshire, and Alaska) with a likelihood of 8 (2 of Oregon, Maine, and Mississippi (Wicker)). Unlike the rest of the world, I think North Carolina will end up in play, and that Liddy Dole is in much more serious trouble than the CW allows.

First, the easy pick-up: Warner in Virginia. Done.

Now, New Mexico. The Republican Party is not even going to contest it. I see that one as a pick-up, and frankly don’t understand why it would end up in any other column.

I feel equally sure about Colorado. Bowers has it as leaning, everyone else has it as a toss-up, and I can’t imagine it being anything but the third pick-up. Currently, Udall is leading by 9 points, up from 6 points a month earlier, and a dead heat last fall.

Worth noting that New Mexico and Colorado are two of the states Obama is targeting with both on-air ads and organizing fellows. The strongest Presidential coattails (when they exist) are for Senators, then for Congress, and then potentially further down the ticket. Obama is making a real play for Colorado, and there is no reason to assume that the two campaigns will not cross-pollinate one another.

In New Hampshire, the table shows a toss-up or Democratic lean. I am perplexed. We have March data. Then, in May, the Concord Monitor reported Sununu’s support for suspension of the gas tax, and a whole-lotta-oil-drillin’, on shore- off shore - in ANWAR. Just not a popular position, and one that will not play well as the season progresses, tied as it is to George Bush and his potential third term.

While Sununu carries the conservative vote, Shaheen carries both the moderate and liberal vote, and keeps expanding her lead. The most recent UNH poll shows Shaheen leading by 16 points. Maybe my math is off, but that doesn’t seem that entire close, certainly not “toss-up” close. I cannot find a 2008 poll which shows Shaheen NOT leading, but I’m sure if there is one, I’ll hear about it.

New Hampshire is the one place where I’m pretty sure I know why the CW is so willing to say Sununu has a chance. It’s that McCain won New Hampshire in January, McCain is a “Maverick” and Sununu is the same kind of “Moderate” Republican that McCain is. Now, admittedly, I read this between the lines, but whenever you hear about the NH matchup in the MSM, they forget how close the last Shaheen-Sununu match-up was, they overlook that NH has gone from reasonably red to brilliant blue in just a few years, and they forget that a lot of the vote for McCain in January was NOT the 2000 pro-McCain vote, it was the 2008 anti-Romney vote.

The table shows Minnesota as a toss-up with a Republican lean. I much more see this one as a Democratic lean with a good pick-up possibility, provided Jesse Ventura does not enter the race; it is unclear where he would end up pulling from. If you look at the MN situation, Franken had a bad May, especially with the reports of his tax problems (since resolved) and was trailing by 7 points. Now, in mid-June, the race is virtually deadlocked.

Remember that Norm Coleman won in 2002, after the untimely death of Paul Wellstone, with only 49.5% of the vote. He is a Bush man, pro-Iraq, and in May, the Minneapolis-Saint Paul Star Tribune ran a survey which shows that 41% sees Coleman as agreeing with Bush on most things, and 45% believe that Coleman “tends to change his mind to try to gain political advantage.” And that poll was before Franken garnered the state nomination.

Then we come to Alaska, which shows everything from Republican Lean through Toss-Up through Democratic Lean. I’ve profiled this race before, and while I still hold to the idea that the sooner the indictment the better, Obama has sent organizing fellows there, and will contest the state vigorously. If you have either worked or volunteered for the Obama campaign this year or last, you know what a juggernaut this is. Recent polls (a b) show a very tight race, and there is no reason to expect that Begich won’t expand to a terrific lead by Labor Day.

Now there is Oregon. Everyone has it somewhere in the Red column, and I think they’re mistaken; it’s an out and out toss-up, and by end of summer will be Democratic Lean. Despite the fact that Smith is polling ahead, Merkley recently finished a primary battle, and is therefore looking at REALLY introducing himself to the electorate as “the candidate”. In addition, McCain plans a lot of ground time in Oregon, and he and Smith share a lot of the same views. In fact, if you read Smith’s voting record, even the condensed version, and look at his rankings, and how his views have shifted, you’ll know that his positions will not play as well this year as in the past.

In Maine, which everyone has in the red column, watch for a shift of the pundits over to toss-up, and eventually lean Democratic. While “the numbers” show her ahead, her lead is slipping, and there is a lot of work being done by progressives on the ground in Maine to bring forth her record as far less moderate as the electorate assumes it to be. Plus, her pro-Iraq stance will not serve her that well this year. And as an aside, there is a lot of local progressive work for Tom Allen, and if you’re in the area, you can support Allen, and hear great music at the same time.

In the Wicker Mississippi race, the polls are tight (albeit a month old) but there are no party labels on the ballot, since it’s not a special election. Ronnie Musgrove, as a prior Governor, has better name recognition. And above all, we won a House seat earlier this year, Obama primary turnout was huge -- and this is MISSISSIPPI -- the fact that Musgrove can poll ahead AT ALL is a testament to how competitive this race actually is.