Let's Talk Sense...
Monday, November 4, 2002 Volume XXVII, No. 3
Roswell, New Mexico
Republicans to capture Senate
In our last issue, September 13, we predicted a likely GOP net gain of three seats in the US Senate races, leaving the GOP in control by a margin of 52-47-1. We still see Republicans picking up four seats and the Democrats gaining one, for a net gain of three for the GOP.
Counting Jeffords (about whom we have provided the only accurate analysis, LTS...May 21-22, 2001) as a Democrat because he caucuses with them, the January lineup will be either 52-48 or 53-47 in favor of the Republicans. Because of other campaign duties, we were unable to publish an update before now. After all is said and done however, the forecast made some 7½ weeks ago is unchanged. There are however, a couple of details that have changed. New Jersey will go to the Democrats and Georgia will go to the Republicans. Also, Louisiana because of their unique system will be undecided after November 5. We will have to wait till their runoff in December. The best overall forecast right now is that the Republicans will have a 53-47 Senate majority come January 2003. That is to say, they will go on and win the runoff in Louisiana a month after Tuesday's election.
Below is a region-by-region analysis. State names which are underlined are the ten states we categorized as "Races to Watch" two months ago. They were so classified because of a variety of demographic, psephological and political factors in those states. These factors led to an above average
level of instability in campaigns and projected outcomes. Oddly enough, in a couple of those states, New Jersey and Minnesota, bizarre and tragic events respectively, made each of them even more volatile than even we had imagined possible.
States shown in red indicate a Democrat gain, those shown in blue indicate a Republican pickup. Black indicates no change. And gray is for Louisiana where no one will know till December.
East: No Change; New Jersey seat held (extra-legally)
South: Unknown; Dems gain Arkansas, GOP gains Georgia but Louisiana will be undecided
Midwest: Republicans gain 2 seats (Minnesota, Missouri)
West: Republicans gain 1 seat (South Dakota)
Pacific: No change
Summary: Upside and downside potential for both parties
The East: No Change (due to NJ Supreme Court)
Delaware: Joe Biden (D) wins reelection
Maine: Susan Collins (R) wins reelection
Massachusetts: John Kerry (D) wins reelection
New Hampshire: John Sununu (R) keeps open seat in Republican hands after making it open by defeating incumbent Bob Smith in the primary on September 10. (Smith would have lost the seat to Democrat challenger Jeanne Shaheen.) This has become a tough race in an increasingly Democrat state. 2006 might well have been too late for a GOP win in such a tightly contested open seat race like this. But Sununu should be able to pull this one out by at least a point.
New Jersey: Democrats hold the seat as a result of a scandalous legal decision and allowing an unlawful substitute of a candidate for Democrat incumbent Robert Torricelli. New Jersey is simply too liberal to elect a conservative Republican except in extraordinary circumstances. Torricelli's unethical record provided those circumstances. Frank Lautenberg as the new candidate (despite the unlawfulness of his status) takes away the conditions which worked in favor of a Republican gain.
Rhode Island: Jack Reed (D) wins reelection
West Virginia: Jay Rockefeller (D) wins reelection
The South: No change
Alabama: Jeff Sessions (R) wins reelection
Arkansas: Democrat Mark Pryor defeats Republican incumbent Tim Hutchinson Many pundits have told us this one will be pulled out by the GOP, but we've never bought it. Arkansas is still very tough sledding for statewide GOP candidates even though it is conservative enough to be considered Republican in Presidential races that don't involve a hometown candidate.
Louisiana: Mary Landrieu (D) faces a runoff election in December. This is a change Landrieu faces too many credible candidates to go past the 50% required by Louisiana law. She will face the second place finisher in a runoff in early December.
Georgia: Republican Saxby Chambliss defeats Democrat incumbent Max Cleland. This was on the "watch" list because of two factors: 1) Georgia's economic, cultural and foreign policy conservativism, and 2) The fact Max Cleland is as liberal in his actual convictions as any other Democrat in the Senate. The question that remained was whether the GOP could drive that record home enough. If successful, they would be able to show evidence that belied Cleland's carefully-nuanced voting record -- one he reluctantly sculpts and hones in order to try to keep his seat. If Cleland lived in Maryland, he would vote exactly like Maryland Senator Paul Sarbanes, or for that matter the late Paul Wellstone, or Teddy Kennedy, or any other Senator who gets 100% ratings from far-Left groups. It appears to us the GOP has had the budget to demonstrate that to at least a bare majority of Georgia voters.
Kentucky: Mitch McConnell (R) wins reelection
Mississippi: Thad Cochran R) wins reelection
North Carolina: Elizabeth Dole (R) keeps the Jesse Helms seat in GOP hands Much late noise by media on this without any substance.
South Carolina: Lindsey Graham (R) keeps the Strom Thurmond seat in GOP hands
Tennessee: Lamar Alexander (R) keeps the Fred Thompson seat in GOP hands
Virginia: John Warner (R) wins reelection
The Midwest: Republicans pick up 2 seats
(This represents no change from the September issue.)
Iowa: Tom Harkin (D) is reelected. This state was on the "watch" list not because of demographic or psephological trends. Those actually favor Democrats in Iowa. Rather, the political wild card is always
Harkin himself---a remarkably unlikeable candidate whose ranting and raving can edge toward the Marxist, and his hostile verbiage makes one think that a Stalinist wannabee lurks just below the surface. The questions are always: how does this misanthrope get re-elected? Have Republicans found the candidate to beat him? Answers this time: 1) We still don't know; and 2) Alas, again they have not.
Illinois: Richard Durbin (D) is reelected
Michigan: Carl Levin (D) wins reelection
Minnesota: Republican Norm Coleman defeats Democrat Walter Mondale. (Unlike all the other analyses everywhere these days, we had this one going to Coleman anyway. We had it on the watch list because Minnesota is inclined to be economically, culturally and foreign policy liberal.) One point we believe is salient, but have neither seen nor heard anyone anywhere make, is related to the Minnesota Supreme Court ballot decision. While everyone has reported on the decision that new absentee ballots (with Mondale's name) will be mailed only to those voters who request it. We have not heard or read any analysis of what that means in raw numbers and how that translates into votes for Coleman right now!
So we will.
Some 2.1 million Minnesotans went to the polls in the last off-year election. The reports indicated that about 4.5% of voters had voted absentee this year. With normal trend lines in turnout, that means about 100,000 people have already voted. We are fairly confident that Norm Coleman was named on about 55,000 of those ballots, and Wellstone on about 45,000. But, since Wellstone's votes no longer count, this means Coleman leads Mondale 55,000 to nothing! That's a 2% lead already----and the polls haven't even opened yet. Given the grotesque display the Democrats put on in place of an actual memorial service for Senator Wellstone, and the lies they have subsequently told about it ("It was the Wellstone family's idea, they worked it all up, scripted it out for everyone, handled all the logistics, rented the auditorium, bused in the participants, heck, they even threw in the boos and stuff, the DNC had absolutely nothing to do with any of these theatrics." Right.), we believe a majority these earnest, hardworking, serious-minded Scandinavian Lutherans and German Catholics (and more Lutherans) will vote against the Democrats, Mondale or no Mondale, and if it is not quite a majority, then the 55,000 votes Coleman has banked already will put him over the top. Missouri: Republican Jim Talent defeats incumbent Democrat Jean Carnahan. Tough state for Republicans, and edging toward tougher, that's why it was on the watch list. But Carnahan is so transparently untalented (no pun intended) even the dumbest independent voter can see it. She is also one of the most truly graceless and classless individuals to ever set foot in Congress. That is also probably clear to at least 51% of Missourians.
The West: Republicans pick up 1 seat
Alaska: Ted Stevens (R) wins reelection
Colorado: Wayne Allard (R) wins reelection. This state was on
the watch list NOT because---as one FOXNEWS analyst (Ceci Connelly)
put it, "Colorado is sooo Republican," but because Colorado
is so competitive. (The analyst just has it wrong.) True, Colorado
did go for Bush, but he got less than 51% of the vote. Dole got
less than 46% while winning by only 20,000 votes. Bush the Elder
actually lost Colorado to Clinton by nearly 70,000 votes, and carried
it unimpressively against Dukakis. Colorado, as pop psychologist
might say, "has some issues." Radical enviros exaggerate
every facet of life. Strong Christian fundamentalist and Evangelical
influences are present in some counties (El Paso, Douglas) while
they are countered by equally strong hard Left wing, radically secularist,
humanist and anti-faith elements in others (Boulder, Denver). And
there are populous suburban counties that are stoutly contested,
and much more closely divided ideologically (Adams, Arapahoe, Jefferson
and Larimer). Then there are numerous small and isolated communities
that are a lot like an extension of Kansas in the East and an extension
of New Mexico in the south, with voters acting a lot like those
just across the borders in those neighboring states. In any case,
the days of Colorado being "so Republican," if they ever
were here, are gone. Allard should win because there is no real
reason to fire him.
Idaho: Larry Craig (R) wins reelection
Kansas: Pat Roberts (R) wins reelection
Montana: Max Baucus (D) wins reelection. On the watch list because of the strong trend toward the GOP in recent years. But the Republican candidate was apparently not the strongest the party could have put forward, so he up and quit. So now Baucus is unopposed. Republican National Committee Chairman, former Montana Governor Mark Racicot, who left office with 85% approval ratings would have crushed Baucus by 25 points or more. But, being an ethical individual (unlike his counterparts) he decided not to take a leave of absence from the RNC, fly out to Montana, win a landslide victory, get sworn-in in January, resign later that month and allow Republican Governor Judy Martz to appoint a Republican to replace him, then fly back to D.C. to resume his duties at the RNC. However, if he were a Democrat, and the shoe had been on the other foot, that is precisely what they would have done.
Nebraska: Chuck Hagel (R) wins reelection
New Mexico: Pete Domenici (R) wins reelection
Oklahoma: James Inhofe (R) wins reelection
South Dakota: Republican John Thune defeats incumbent Democrat Tim Johnson. On the watch list because the Dakotas are just so unpredictable in statewide races. They have elected a remarkable list of highly dissimilar people. It seems to be more personality-driven than the average state. Still, a 72,000-vote margin (Bush's win over Gore) in a state where only a little over 300,000 go to the polls is a huge advantage in favor of Thune. He is going to ride it to victory.
Texas: John Cornyn (R) keeps the Phil Gramm seat in GOP hands. Lot's of TV chatter about nothing in this one.
Wyoming: Mike Enzi (R) wins reelection
The Pacific: No Change
Oregon: Gordon Smith (R) wins reelection. On the watch list because of factors in the state that favor Democrats.
An important note about LTS... analysis. It is not based on polls. The latest Zogby Polls (one of the most highly respected organizations) calls practically every single race I have analyzed the opposite way. The root of this analysis is psephology and demography, not the sampling of public opinion.
Finally, given the unlawful and tragic events in New Jersey and Minnesota respectively, not to mention the bizarre situation in Montana, it is useful to reflect on our summary written on September 13:
"Remember: Two weeks can be a long time in politics. Seven weeks can seem like forever....each party, and a number of major actors in each, could behave in ways that suddenly, and immediately, ...are highly favorable---or extremely prejudicial---to each party or individual actor."
Clearly, no one foresaw that anyone would die, and that is the saddest event of the entire campaign, but even in that situation in Minnesota we saw the truth of our warning play out in microcosm.
Here was an unforeseen event, a tragedy. Yet, the major actors in the Democrat Party far from carrying on with grace and dignity, clearly behaved in ways that "suddenly and immediately" were "extremely prejudicial" to their party. Frequently it is not the events themselves, but the reactions to the events that transform campaigns.