CT-Sen: A Hot, Sexy Threesome


No, I’m not speaking of a Cinemax late-night softcore porno, although I wouldn’t be much floored if one titled that actually existed. I’m talking about the 2012 Connecticut U.S. Senate race, a showdown which, presuming incumbent Sen. Joe Lieberman runs again as an Independent candidate, will be a three-person affair.

In one corner, you have Lieberman, who, lately, has been sporting rather grim approval ratings. Liberals are still irked by his behavior during the health care debate, conservatives are wary of his support for liberal legislation like the DREAM Act and the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal, and moderates, though perhaps the most prone to support Lieberman, don’t seem thrilled with the guy, either. Still, I have to suspect Lieberman’s leadership on the DADT repeal has probably bolstered his standing a bit here. I seriously doubt he’s at 50 percent or higher approval, but I wouldn’t be shocked if he’s back above the 40 percent mark. If so, he probably runs again.

In the second corner, you have Rep. Chris Murphy, who’s considered the front-runner for the Democratic nomination, but not necessarily an overwhelming one. There are other possible candidates, and, for Lieberman at least, the more who run, the merrier. Lieberman wants to see Murphy bloodied and battered in a primary, which might irk enough Democrats to bolt for the third-party candidate. If the field is cleared for Murphy, however, that ensures he enters the race with no damaging intraparty conflict and as much money as possible. Murphy goes into a three-way match a modest front-runner, given Democrats outnumber Republicans by a massive margin in Connecticut, plus Lieberman’s pull among Independents isn’t as overwhelming as you’d suspect; it’s even weaker than Charlie Crist’s in this past cycle, and even Crist wasn’t that strong.

And, in corner #3, you have fmr. WWE CEO Linda McMahon, who looks poised to again run for the U.S. Senate after her failed bid over the last cycle. McMahon ran an OK race in 2010, way overperforming the typical Connecticut Republican, but still failing to siphon-off the Democrats that are necessary for a GOP-er to win here. She’s not an overly-popular figure in the state, but she can self-fund, and her financial prowess relieves Republicans from having to pump money in the race. McMahon’s hope is that the GOP base is unified behind her, that Murphy faces a bruising Democratic primary, and that Lieberman fails to improve in approval. This perfect storm is what’s absolutely necessary for a candidate like McMahon to prevail here.

So, reality time. What probably happens here?

Well, here’s my guess – Murphy will face a Democratic primary. Unlike Richard Blumenthal last year, he’s hardly a juggernaut in Democratic circles, and there’s also support for Connecticut’s Secretary of State, Susan Bysiewicz. Bysiewicz is a more liberal, polarizing figure, and while that’s damaging in a general election, it can be helpful in a primary environment. But, still, let’s presume Murphy wins the nomination, and let’s also presume McMahon’s money scares any other serious Republicans away from that primary.

Here’s the thing – for Lieberman to win here, he needs to thrive on a playing field that’s a tad different from the one from his 2006 re-election bid. In that race, the Republicans nominated Alan Schlesinger, a very weak candidate, and this gave Lieberman the license to siphon-off a massive amount of the GOP vote. That, coupled with strong Independent support and adequate Democratic support, gave Lieberman a comfortable leg-up.

It’s different here. Against McMahon, the GOP vote just won’t be up for grabs. Lieberman might manage 15 to 20 percent, maybe, if McMahon’s candidacy falters even worse than in the last cycle. So, he’ll need to look elsewhere for the necessary votes. If his approval rises, he could well get to the 50 percent mark among Independents, and that’s not bad in a three-way. Here’s the hard part, though – for Lieberman to cross the finish line, he needs to steal about a third of the Democratic vote from Murphy. Basically, this means every single self-described “conservative Democrat,” and more than half of “moderate Democrats” must bolt for Lieberman. Don’t worry about McMahon – she has no chance here. If Lieberman did this, it would bring the race to a scenario where Lieberman and Murphy are lingering around 35 percent and McMahon around 25 percent. Lieberman probably can’t win by the double-digit margin from 2006. He’ll need to win by the skins of his teeth here.

In the end, though, I’m not sure Lieberman will have the necessary pull with Democrats to prevail here. Murphy will jump into the race as something of a “Lean D” favorite, and Lieberman will have to work extra-extra-super-super hard to win over wary voters from his former party. I’m not saying a Lieberman victory is impossible – hell, a McMahon victory isn’t impossible, either. But, given the state’s Democrat-heavy electorate, plus the middling favorables of Lieberman and McMahon, you just have to figure Murphy has the obvious advantage here.


A 2012 Sneak Peek: U.S. Senate Edition


Here’s the good news for Democrats as I unveil my very first sneak peek at the 2012 U.S. Senate races – I’m not quite ready to project “Shellacking Part Deux.” In fact, as it stands, I only feel comfortable in predicting a single Democrat to Republican flip. That exchange is in Nebraska, where incumbent Sen. Ben Nelson appears to be in awfully rough shape heading into the next election cycle. He’s a Democrat running in a state which’ll vote against President Obama’s re-election by a hefty double-digit margin (even if Palin’s the GOP nominee). And, despite Nelson’s seniority and bonafides, Obama will probably drag the incumbent down with him.

In terms of Democratic horror stories that I feel confident about, that’s really it.

The problem is, even if Democrats aren’t necessarily doomed looking to 2012, they’re still in for a fairly uphill climb in retaining the U.S. Senate. After all, just look at the make-up of 2012 incumbents up for re-election – there are 21 Democrats, 10 Republicans, and 2 Independents (who caucus with the Dems) who will have to defend seats in the next cycle.

For Democrats, that might seem like an incredibly daunting environment, and, while to some extent it is, it’s nothing to completely freak-out about. If they fight hard enough, the Democrats can surely hold on to majority control. What leads me to that conclusion is that, of those 23 U.S. Senators who caucus with the Democratic Party, I believe 8 of them are virtually safe from being ousted from office. On top of that, I project that another 6 are “likely” to win re-election. So, right there you have 14 out of 23 Democratic caucus members that are either absolutely or likely to win. I have another 2 Democrats who I categorize in “Lead D” position. These are incumbents who, while vulnerable, I would feel fairly comfortable in betting on for re-election. So, there’s 16 out of the 23 in good shape.

From there, however, the Democrats will have to fight hard. I’ve already stated my prediction that Ben Nelson will lose re-election, so that would bring the Dems down to a 52-48 majority advantage. There are 5 Democrats who I have listed in “toss-up” territory – that is, their race is a complete jump ball and extraordinarily difficult to predict this far out. If the incumbent Republicans held onto every single seat, Democrats would need to hold 4 of the 5 “toss-up” seats to retain a majority. 3 of the 5 would result in a tie, giving the next vice president (Biden or the Republican) the tie-breaking vote.

The good news for Democrats is that I do see a few vulnerable Republicans in the 2012 cycle, most notably John Ensign and Scott Brown. Democratic pick-ups there would help big time and ensure majority control, with or without winning a majority of those “toss-ups.”

As it stands, I feel comfortable in laying out the following seat allocations…

Democrat – 47

Republican – 47

Toss-up – 6 (5 Ds, 1 R)

A tough, but hardly impossible environment for the U.S. Senate Democrats. If hard-pressed to make a prediction, I would say the Republicans, in all likelihood, do take control.

Safe Democrat (20%+ lead):

California – Sen. Dianne Feinstein

Delaware – Sen. Tom Carper

Maryland – Sen. Ben Cardin

Minnesota – Sen. Amy Klobuchar

New York – Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand

Rhode Island – Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse

Vermont – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I)

Washington – Sen. Maria Cantwell

Likely Democrat (10-20% lead):

Connecticut – Sen. Joe Lieberman (I) (presuming Lieberman again runs for re-election as a third-party, does outgoing GOP Gov. Jodi Rell jump in?)

Florida – Sen. Bill Nelson (decent approval ratings, but the GOP bench in Florida is strong.)

Hawaii – Sen. Daniel Akaka (will outgoing GOP Gov. Linda Lingle run?)

New Jersey – Sen. Robert Menendez (with surprisingly low approval, does Lt. Gov. Kim Guadango run?)

New Mexico – Sen. Jeff Bingaman (how will his vote against the tax cuts play here?)

Pennsylvania – Sen. Bob Casey, Jr. (popular incumbent, but the GOP bench is decent, and this could be a GOP target in the presidential race.)

Wisconsin – Sen. Herb Kohl (does Russ Feingold’s loss hint at a shift to the right?)

Lean Democrat (5-10% lead):

Michigan – Sen. Debbie Stabenow (with low approval, if she wins it’s because Obama drags her across the finish line in an otherwise-blue state.)

West Virginia – Sen. Joe Manchin (Obama will lose here by double-digits…does he drag Manchin with him?)


Missouri – Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) (mediocre approval and a very strong GOP bench, but it’ll be close no matter what.)

Montana – Sen. Jon Tester (D) (his vote against the DREAM Act signals his vulnerability in this purple state.)

Nevada – Sen. John Ensign (R) (Democrat Shelley Berkley is strong in a state Obama will likely win, but should Rep. Dean Heller oust Ensign in the primaries, this becomes tough for Dems.)

North Dakota – Sen. Kent Conrad (D) (does he pull a Byron Dorgan and just outright retire?)

Ohio – Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) (Obama might win Ohio, but Brown is way to the left of this state and may underperform Obama.)

Virginia – Sen. Jim Webb (D) (if George Allen wins the GOP nod with ease, this becomes a tough one for Dems.)

Lean Republican (5-10% lead):

Maine – Sen. Olympia Snowe (if she survives the primaries, this becomes Safe R. If not, Likely D.)

Massachusetts – Sen. Scott Brown (Brown remains very popular, but the registration make-up ensures this’ll be a close one.)

Nebraska – Sen. Ben Nelson – D->R FLIP (my one and only party change projection here. Nelson posts decent approval, but Obama’s loathed here and looks destined to drag Nelson down with him.)

Likely Republican (10-20% lead):

Arizona – Sen. Jon Kyl (Arizona’s trending more and more red, but Kyl’s hardly as popular as McCain here.)

Indiana – Sen. Richard Lugar (if he survives primary challenge, Safe R. If not, it’s still probably Likely R, unless a really out-there Tea Partier beats him.)

Safe Republican (20%+ lead):

Mississippi – Sen. Roger Wicker

Tennessee – Sen. Bob Corker (watch out for a primary challenge.)

Texas – Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (ditto.)

Utah – Sen. Orrin Hatch (ditto.)

Wyoming – Sen. John Barasso


MN-Sen: Why Bachmann Will Run


I admit, I’m a pretty nostalgic guy. I’m the type who, despite my limitless political junkiness, would much prefer falling asleep at night to TV Land or Nick at Nite, as opposed to the chatter on MSNBC or FOX. My all-time favorite show is “The Wonder Years,” and, when I’m rich and have a hot wife, I plan to collect comic books and pinball machines, in due part because they remind me so strongly of past times. (Yeah, I’m THAT cool.)

There is a political sort of nostalgia I hold, too. For instance, I wish I were around for the 1984 election, where I would have so passionately championed the Mondale/Ferraro ticket. Here are two figures I hold the highest regard for, and who I only wish I were able to have voted for. I look back on the glory days of Scoop Jackson, John F. Kennedy, and other Democratic juggernauts with the same wide-eyed look as I do old sitcoms and Phil Spector records. There’s something about old Americana that I can’t help but love.

I hate to admit this, but, as of late, I’ve found myself nostalgic for, of all people, Katherine Harris. Yes, liberal readers, the former Florida Secretary of State and U.S. Congresswoman. You know, the one who was so obviously non-partisan, fair, and unbiased in the 2000 presidential race? Yeah, that one.

See, the thing is, I see this new crowd of Katherine Harrises, the Sarah Palin/Michele Bachmann/Christine O’Donnell coalition of right-wing women, are merely amateurs in comparison to the original Tea Party Queen (well, in all fairness, that title probably belongs of Phyllis Schalfly, but, c’mon, she was no fun). Harris was as loony, crazy, and uber-conservative as they come, and the U.S. House is less entertaining as a result of her absence. She was really something else.

The reason I find myself lately pondering Katherine Harris is that one of those aforementioned Tea Party gals, Michele Bachmann, appears poised to stage a very Katherine Harris-y move.

I get the sense that Bachmann, who’s really one of our most clueless and deranged U.S. House members, sees herself much in the same vein as Harris – that, like Harris thought of herself, she is something bigger and better than just an ordinary U.S. Congresswoman. Her political ambitions are too bombastic for her to remain in the U.S. House, and I firmly believe that, because of these ambitions, Bachmann will make a surprising power play in ’12.

I believe that Bachmann will run for the U.S. Senate against Minnesota Democratic incumbent Amy Klobuchar in ’12. Why?

Well, much like Harris in 2006, Bachmann rightfully realizes that the state’s conservative base would catapult her to a comfortable primary victory. This is true. She wouldn’t even have to worry about it. In ’06, Harris knew all along that she probably couldn’t beat incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson. What she realized, though, is that she could cruise through a primary, and, that if Nelson staged a blundering gaffe during the general election, she might at least have a small chance of winning. (That gaffe never happened, and she lost by 18 points.)

For Bachmann, it’s the same thing. Like Nelson in ’06, Klobuchar is a relatively popular incumbent, and, like Harris in ’06, Bachmann is far too conservative for her state’s electorate. What Bachmann hopes is that Klobuchar doesn’t run as sterling a campaign as Nelson in ’06 – that, somehow, Klobuchar screws up so royally that a Tea Party candidate can win statewide in one of the most blue states in the union.

Even if Bachmann loses, however, it’s a winning situation. She’s no longer just one of hundreds of U.S. House members. She took her shot at the big leagues, won her party’s nomination statewide, garnered tons of national press attention, and further established herself as a hero to the right. In the end, U.S. Senate victory or not, she’ll probably feel awfully good at the end of the day.

As for Harris, I’m sure she enjoyed the attention and thrill of the ’06 race. Sure, she’s no longer relevant, but, hey, does relevancy necessarily matter when you’re at home sitting on the gigantic pile of cash you built-up when you were relevant? Probably not a whole lot.

For Bachmann, I suspect a U.S. Senate run is a risk she’s more than willing to take. (Not that she has a snowball’s shot in hell of winning.)


U.S. Senate 2010: The Final Predix

You knew it was coming.

Over the past year, I’ve posted more voter models and projections than I can remember, and now, with less than one week to election night, I think I’m ready for some final analysis. Not once in my monthly projections have I projected a GOP take-over of the U.S. Senate, and that remains the case today. Some races have trended right (Wisconsin, Florida, Ohio), but the races which most matter to a take-over (Connecticut, Washington, Delaware) don’t appear poised to trade hands. In fact, as you’ll see in my forthcoming calculations, I think there are a number of under-the-radar races where the Democrat is poised to overperform. In some cases, big time. (Be prepared to catch your jaw when Iowa comes up.) Oh, and speaking of these calculations…I’ve opted to only include races where I foresee a winning margin of 20% or less. (Sorry, Christine.) Also, I’ve included third-party candidates when I foresee that vote garnering 3% or more.

So, with succinct exposition on the table, I say it’s time for some numbers…

D -> R FLIP:

North Dakota






West Virginia

Post-midterm U.S. Senate composition: 52D/48R


R – 44%

I – 37%

D – 19%

McAdams – 4/24/64 = 23%

Miller – 54/29/6 = 36%

Murkowski – 42/47/30 = 41%


D – 40%

R – 38%

I – 22%

Boozman – 18/98/65 = 58%

Lincoln – 82/2/35 = 42%


D – 43%

R – 34%

I – 23%

Boxer – 86/3/42 = 49%

Fiorina – 12/95/47 = 47%

Other – 2/2/11 = 4%


R – 36%

D – 32%

I – 32%

Bennet – 8/89/48 = 46%

Buck – 92/11/52 = 54%


D – 44%

R – 32%

I – 24%

Blumenthal – 92/11/55 = 57%

McMahon – 8/89/45 = 43%


D – 38%

R – 38%

I – 24%

Crist – 33/14/49 = 30%

Meek – 59/2/14 = 26%

Rubio – 8/84/37 = 44%


R – 41%

D – 40%

I – 19%

Isakson – 98/18/64 = 59%

Thurmond – 2/82/36 = 41%


D – 47%

R – 34%

I – 19%

Giannoulias – 86/2/42 = 49%

Kirk – 12/96/49 = 48%

Other – 2/2/9 = 3%


R – 46%

D – 38%

I – 16%

Coats – 92/14/55 = 56%

Ellsworth – 8/86/45 = 44%


R – 38%

D – 37%

I – 25%

Conlin – 4/86/42 = 45%

Grassley – 96/14/58 = 55%


D – 47%

R – 43%

I – 10%

Conway – 86/8/41 = 47%

Paul – 14/92/59 = 53%


R – 45%

D – 43%

I – 12%

Melancon – 8/87/46 = 47%

Vitter – 92/13/54 = 53%


D – 40%

R – 38%

I – 22%

Blunt – 8/96/57 = 52%

Carnahan – 92/4/43 = 48%


D – 43%

R – 34%

I – 23%

Angle – 8/86/44 = 42%

Reid – 87/7/42 = 49%

Other – 2/4/5 = 3%

None – 3/3/9 = 6%

New Hampshire

I – 37%

R – 32%

D – 31%

Ayotte – 57/95/13 = 55%

Hodes – 43/5/87 = 45%

New York (B)

D – 50%

R – 30%

I – 20%

DioGuardi – 6/89/48 = 40%

Gillibrand – 94/11/52 = 60%

North Carolina

D – 44%

R – 37%

I – 19%

Burr – 14/94/56 = 52%

Marshall – 86/6/44 = 48%


D – 42%

R – 36%

I – 22%

Fisher – 84/3/36 = 44%

Portman – 16/97/64 = 56%


D – 38%

R – 33%

I – 29%

Huffman – 6/86/45 = 43%

Wyden – 94/14/55 = 57%


D – 46%

R – 42%

I – 12%

Sestak – 88/8/47 = 49%

Toomey – 12/92/53 = 51%


D – 36%

R – 32%

I – 32%

Murray – 92/6/49 = 51%

Rossi – 8/94/51 = 49%

West Virginia

D – 48%

R – 39%

I – 13%

Manchin – 84/8/48 = 49%

Raese – 16/92/52 = 51%


D – 39%

R – 38%

I – 23%

Feingold – 89/4/44 = 47%

Johnson – 11/96/56 = 53%

***Voter models based on analysis of ’04-’08 CNN exit polling data + actual voter registration numbers + recent public polling data***

FL-Sen: Road to Nowhere


Is there a more exciting, yet entirely-irrelevant 2010 political race than the Democratic primary in Florida’s U.S. Senate race?

First off, Florida Democrats must face the music – Republican-turned-Independent Gov. Charlie Crist is going to prevail in this race, and he’ll do so via the support of a great, big chunk of registered Democrats. Why is this the case? Or, better put, why has the Florida Democratic Party become so weak and pathetic in the two years since Barack Obama’s state victory?

Well, it’s all about the candidates, and, in FL-Sen, Democrats are stuck choosing between two politicians who are about as imposing as me.

In one corner, there’s Kendrick Meek, a liberal Congressman who comes from a district so Democratic, he’s never faced a general election challenger. This, of course, is a great characteristic when it comes to reaching out into the swing districts. (Not.) To be fair, Meek is actually a very appealing and talented politician, but even as Charlie Crist was still duking it out in the GOP primary months back, no realistic political pundit thought Meek had a real chance. Now, with centrist, Democrat-friendly Crist running third-party, he’s even more doomed.

Meek’s general election fate was so evident, a millionaire businessman named Jeff Greene figured, “hey, if he sucks so hard in the general, maybe he’ll flop in a primary too!” And, thus, Greene, who is a certified loon, and who no true Democrat (or sane individual) should support, jumped into the race, forced a primary, threw some cash onto the airwaves, and, now, if you believe the polls, he’s actually ahead of Meek.

On one hand, this development is both baffling and disappointing, given Greene is a legit nutjob, and Meek, while hardly a great candidate, has at least done his constituents fair, respectable service in his four terms in Congress. On the flip side, Greene’s entry provides for great, engrossing political fodder, especially from a financial standpoint.

After all, Greene has basically bought himself the lead in this primary, flooding the airwaves as the cash-strapped Meek scrambles to do whatever possible (and cheap) in getting his name out there, all the while trying to salvage some finances for the general election (should he get that far, of course). As Meg Whitman perfectly illustrated in California’s recent gubernatorial primary, money often speaks louder than words in the political arena, especially when your opponent doesn’t have the money to even put his or her words out there.

No surprise, I’d personally vote Meek over Greene in a heartbeat, but, from a purely political calculus, as in “how to defeat Crist and Rubio,” it makes no sense to me why any logical, thinking Democrat would vote Greene. Once Greene’s loony associations with the likes of Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton come to the forefront, I suspect even the most liberal Democrats will suddenly like the idea of Sen. Charlie Crist. Meek, to his credit, should at least perform well among African-Americans and self-described “progressives.” With Greene, such is no guarantee.

My current projections on races with both Meek and Greene…

Republican – 35%

Democrat – 33%

Independent – 32%

Crist – 23%/57%/55% = 45%

Rubio – 77%/7%/32% = 39%

Meek – 0%/36%/13% = 16%

Crist – 23%/73%/61% = 52%

Rubio – 77%/7%/32% = 39%

Greene – 0%/20%/7% = 9%


Field of Nightmares – the 2010 Gov Races


I’ve been holding off on July U.S. Senate projections for weeks now, waiting for something race-altering to give me some incentive in doing them. Alas, with just over a week left to go, it doesn’t appear that my June projection, a 52-48 hold for Senate Democrats, will change. In fact, none of my rankings have switched whatsoever, and, thus, for now,  I have practically no reason to focus upon the U.S. Senate field.

So, for the first time this year, I’m opting to veer away from that zaniness, into the comparable insanity that is the gubernatorial field. (I don’t have the time, patience, or energy to do a U.S. House projection, but my suspicion is the GOP will narrowly win it back.)

Frankly, I didn’t know what to quite expect in tacking the gubernatorial races. I’ve been following a few quite intently – California, New York, and Ohio in particular – but, in a number of these races, I wasn’t even sure of the candidates running. Little did I know just how few incumbents are running for re-election in this cycle, not to mention the vast number of candidates, in some cases nearly a half dozen serious contenders, in a few of the yet-to-be-determined primaries.

In mulling over each of this cycle’s gubernatorial races, I often found myself both shocked and disappointed.

Democrats aren’t in for a gentle thumping in this gubernatorial field. They’re poised for a violent thrashing.

At the moment, Democrats preside over 26 gubernatorial seats, with Republicans holding 23, and Charlie Crist holding down #50 in his new role as Independent. The best news for Democrats in this cycle is, perhaps unlike in the U.S. Senate races, they’re undoubtedly poised to flip a number of states from red to blue – among them, Hawaii, Connecticut, and Florida. For the time being, I also suspect they’ll triumph in Minnesota.

That’s about the most positive note I can give Dems. Otherwise, the 2010 gubernatorial field looks to be a living hell.

In my full list of projections below, you’ll notice that about twice as many candidates are in Safe/Likely/Lean GOP tiers than candidates in the same Democratic tiers. There’s also a whole boatload of toss-up races, and I expect, unless the environment greatly improves for Democrats, the GOP should have a strong leg-up among them, perhaps even ultimately sweeping them.

I’m sure many of my projections will elicit both curiosity and downright befuddlement, so feel free to challenge my rankings. I’d be more than happy to run-down some of these races with greater explanation. And, knowing me, I may have made an error in calculation. Perhaps my math is incorrect and the Democrats aren’t down miserably!

Dem – 20

GOP – 29

Indie – 1

Safe Dem (>20% victory):

Arkansas – Gov. Mike Beebe > State Sen. Jim Keet

New York – Attorney General Andrew Cuomo > businessman Carl Paladino or fmr. Rep. Rick Lazio

Likely Dem (10-20% victory):

Connecticut – businessman Ned Lamont or fmr. Stamford Mayor Dan Malloy > Lt. Gov. Michael Fedele or fmr. U.S. Ambassador Tom Foley

Hawaii – Rep. Neil Abercrombie or Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann > Lt. Gov. Duke Aiona

New Hampshire – Gov. John Lynch > businessman Jack Kimball, fmr. HHS Commissioner John Stephen, or activist Karen Testerman

Lean Dem (5-10% victory):

Colorado – Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper > fmr. Rep. Scott McInnis or businessman Dan Maes

Florida – State CFO Alex Sink > Attorney General Bill McCollum or businessman Rick Scott

Massachusetts – Gov. Deval Patrick > businessman Charles Baker (R) or State Treasurer Tim Cahill (I)

Maryland – Gov. Martin O’Malley > fmr. Gov. Bob Elrlich


California – fmr. eBay CEO Meg Whitman (R) > Attorney General Jerry Brown

Georgia – fmr. Rep. Nathan Deal or fmr. Secretary of State Karen Handel (R) > fmr. Gov. Roy Barnes (D)

Illinois – State Sen. Bill Brady (R) > Gov. Pat Quinn (D)

Maine – Waterville Mayor Paul LePage (R) > State Sen. President Libby Mitchell (D)

Minnesota – fmr. Sen. Mark Dayton, fmr. House Minority Leader Matt Entenze, or House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kellhier (D) > State Rep. Tom Emmer (R)

Michigan – Sheriff Mike Bouchard, Attorney General Mike Cox, Rep. Pete Hoekstra, or businessman Rick Snyder (R) > Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero or House Speaker Andy Dillon (D)

New Mexico – D.A. Susana Martinez (R) > Lt. Gov. Diane Denish (D)

Ohio – fmr. Rep. John Kasich (R) > Gov. Ted Strickland (D)

Oregon – fmr. Gov. John Kitzhaber (D) > fmr. NBA player Chris Dudley (R)

Rhode Island – fmr. Sen. Lincoln Chafee (I) > State Treasurer Frank Caprio (D) or fmr. State Rep. Victor Moffitt (R)

Texas – Gov. Rick Perry (R) > fmr. Houston Mayor Bill White (D)

Wisconsin – fmr. Rep. Mark Neumann or Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker (R) > Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (D)

Lean GOP (5-10% victory):

Pennsylvania – Attorney General Tom Corbett > Alleghany County Executive Dan Onorato

Vermont – Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie > State Sen. Susan Bartlett, fmr. State Sen. Matt Dunne, Secretary of State Deb Markowitz, fmr. Lt. Gov. Doug Racine, or Senate President Pro Tempore Peter Shumlin

Likely GOP (10-20% victory):

Alabama – State Rep. Robert Bentley > Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks

Arizona – Gov. Jan Brewer > Attorney General Terry Goddard

Iowa – fmr. Gov. Terry Branstad > Gov. Chet Culver

Nevada – fmr. federal judge Brian Sandoval > Clark County Commissioner Rory Reid

Oklahoma – Rep. Mary Fallin > Lt. Gov. Jari Askins or Attorney General Drew Edmondson

South Carolina – State Rep. Nikki Haley > State Sen. Vincent Sheheen

Safe GOP (>20% victory):

Alaska – Gov. Sean Parnell > fmr. House Minority Leader Ethan Berkowitz or State Sen. Hollis French

Idaho – Gov. Butch Otter > activist Keith Allred

Kansas – Sen. Sam Brownback > State Sen. Tom Holland

Nebraska – Gov. Dave Heineman > ?

South Dakota – Lt. Gov. Dennis Daugaard > Senate Minority Leader Scott Heidiprem

Tennessee – Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, or Rep. Zach Wamp > businessman Mike McWheter

Utah – Gov. Gary Herbert > Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon

Wyoming – fmr. U.S. Attorney Matt Mead, state auditor Rita Meyer, fmr. Rep. Ron Micheli, or House Speaker Colin Simpson > state party chair Leslie Petersen


June Projection: Dems Hold U.S. Senate, 52-48


Roughly one month ago – can you believe how this summer is flying by? – I released a new set of U.S. Senate projections, giving Democrats a 53-47 seat edge over the GOP. Since then, we’ve had a boatload of primaries, a few more candidate scandals, and, yet, on the whole, my sentiment on Democratic strength remains about the same.

For the month of June, I’m opting to give the Dems a more narrow 52-48 hold upon the U.S. Senate. While such is hardly a cause for celebration, it’s also not a particularly catastrophic development, and, despite the closeness in tally, my suspicion is actually that the GOP’s climb to that magical 51-vote majority is in fact only getting steeper.

Why the contradiction? Well, before I delve into any specific, race-by-race analysis, let me first point out the races which have, over the course of the past month, either a) moved in ranking and/or b) flipped in favor of the other candidate.

Dem Upgrades:

CT-Sen – Lean Dem -> Likely Dem

FL-Sen – Toss-up (Rubio edge) -> Toss-up (Crist edge)

IL-Sen – Lean GOP -> Toss-up (Kirk edge)

LA-Sen – Safe GOP -> Likely GOP

NY-Sen (B) – Likely Dem -> Safe Dem

GOP Upgrades:

AZ-Sen – Likely GOP -> Safe GOP

IA-Sen – Likely GOP -> Safe GOP

IN-Sen – Toss-up (Ellsworth edge) -> Toss-up (Coats edge)

KY-Sen – Toss-up (Conway edge) -> Toss-up (Paul edge)

WI-Sen – Likely Dem -> Lean Dem

My suspicion is, while Republicans are very likely to win over a majority of so-called “toss-ups” come the fall, their odds of actually winning back the U.S. Senate are close to non-existent. I say this, because a few supposedly-vulnerable Dems – Richard Blumenthal and Kirsten Gillibrand in particular – are looking more and more unbeatable as the season rolls onward. For the GOP to claim victory, this cannot be the case. They can knock off Barbara Boxer, and that only gets them to 49. Have Marco Rubio eek out a victory, thus sweeping every single “toss-up,” and Joe Biden gets to break the 50-50 tie. After all of that, Republicans have two opportunities – in the form of Russ Feingold and Patty Murray – and boy, would that take the perfect storm.

In terms of explanation re: my aforementioned upgrades, let me do a quick run-down on each…

AZ-Sen: It strikes me as highly unlikely that J.D. Hayworth gives the boot to John McCain in this state’s upcoming GOP primary and, thus, I feel it’s prime time to move this into “safe” territory. Rodney Glassman isn’t a particularly bad Democratic candidate – against Hayworth, he could perhaps keep things somewhat competitive – but unless national Democrats can switch the overall narrative in their favor by the fall, it’s tough to see this randomly going blue.

CT-Sen: It doesn’t appear that the Vietnam hooplah over Attorney General Richard Blumenthal is sticking with Connecticut voters, and I suspect for GOP challenger Linda McMahon to have had a realistic shot at victory, she needed a far bigger bounce when that story was at its hottest. Now, the Blumenthal buzz has fizzled, and McMahon’s still trailing by about twenty points. Two factors keep me from moving this to Safe Dem: 1) Blumenthal is absolutely dreadful on the campaign stump and 2) there’s a very good chance Sen. Joe Lieberman backs McMahon. Still, this is looking like a huge stretch for Republicans.

FL-Sen: Even if Rep. Kendrick Meek survives his now-competitive primary vs. oddball businessman Jeff Greene, it’s looking awfully plausible, if not probable that Charlie Crist nets sizable support among registered Democrats come November. With Marco Rubio’s campaign feeling curiously-flat since Crist’s launch of an Independent bid, it doesn’t seem too far beyond the realm that the incumbent Governor can prevail, even in such an anti-incumbent cycle.

IA-Sen: Much like in Arizona, the Democrats have coalesced around an attractive candidate, attorney Roxanne Conlin, but there’s no reason to believe she can prevail in an environment which appears awfully cool to Democrats. Chuck Grassley isn’t the most popular guy out there, and it says something that I kept him out of “safe” territory for so long. Alas, until I see national Dems pumping money into this thing, I have to presume he is safe.

IL-Sen: With a new Public Policy Polling survey showing the Green Party candidate netting 14% in this race, it’s awfully difficult to attain a real grasp around this race. Both Republican Mark Kirk and Democrat Alexi Giannoulias are supremely unpopular, dogged by controversies which even trump Blumenthal’s, and with all of this lukewarm feeling, there’s speculation that third-party candidates could play a real factor. For now, I suspect Kirk can win in this particular cycle, and he’ll have to play by the Peter Fitzgerald book, used to trump Democrat Carol Moseley-Braun in the ’98 U.S. Senate race. Nonetheless, this has “toss-up” written all over it.

IN-Sen: With a sterling candidate like Brad Ellsworth, Democrats have a real shot at holding Evan Bayh’s seat, but, at least for the time being, I’m just not sensing the pro-Ellsworth excitement that’ll be necessary to prevail in a conservative-leaning state. Don’t get me wrong – Dan Coats is one very flawed candidate, and it’ll be a miracle if he can somehow connect with the Tea Party crowd. Alas, in this environment, and with the state’s conservative voting-streak, I have to give the slight (and I mean super-slight) edge to Coats.

KY-Sen: Much like Indiana, I suspect this one’s a legitimate barnburner, the GOP candidate is flawed, the Democrat is terrific, and, nonetheless, considering the state’s conservative nature, I suspect it’s simply less risky to side with the Republican. For now.

LA-Sen: As I wrote in a recent column, I think Democrat Charlie Melancon poses a real threat to incumbent Republican David Vitter, and, thus, I’m moving him up a bit in my rankings. The state’s conservative lean will continue to strain on Melancon’s chances of actually prevailing, but recent polling does show him surging quite a bit, and who knows what kind of political implications this disaster-plagued environment carries.

NY-Sen (B): This has been a decision in-the-making for quite a while now. While Kirsten Gillibrand’s re-election numbers are still a tad underwhelming, the New York GOP is so anemic and dysfunctional that it seems almost a joke to continue viewing her as vulnerable. To put it bluntly, the New York Republican Party just can’t get its shit together. All of the potential challengers – Bruce Blakeman, Joe DioGuardi, and David Malpass – are strictly third-rate material.

WI-Sen: Russ Feingold has a history of pulling out squeaker victories, and while I could just as easily say “I expect no less this time around,” the truth is, I think Feingold’s probably up in the high, comfortable single-digits. Still, the environment is just so anti-incumbent, and Wisconsin conservatives will always have it out for Feingold, an unabashed, albeit somewhat unpredictable liberal. I actually think Republicans caught a lucky break when the uber-establishment fmr. Gov. Tommy Thompson opted to pass on the race. At least here, they can mount an outsider.

Please feel free to comment upon and challenge my rankings. I’m sure many, for instance, will find themselves aghast at my prediction that Sharron Angle defeats Harry Reid. My full ranking run-down is, as follows…

D – 52

R – 48

Safe Dem (>20% victory) :

Hawaii – Sen. Daniel Inouye > GOP nominee (?)

Maryland – Sen. Barbara Mikulski > GOP nominee (?)

New York – Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand > GOP nominee (?)

New York – Sen. Charles Schumer > GOP nominee (?)

Oregon – Sen. Ron Wyden > law professor Jim Huffman

Vermont – Sen. Patrick Leahy > businessman Len Britton

Likely Dem (10-20% victory):

Connecticut – Attorney General Richard Blumenthal > WWE CEO Linda McMahon

Lean Dem (5-10% victory):

Washington – Sen. Patty Murray > fmr. State Sen. Dino Rossi

Wisconsin – Sen. Russ Feingold > GOP nominee (?)


California – Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) > fmr. Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina (R)

Colorado – fmr. Lt. Gov. Jane Norton or District Attorney Ken Buck (R) > Sen. Michael Bennett or fmr. House Speaker Andrew Romanoff (D)

Florida – Gov. Charlie Crist (I) > fmr. House Speaker Marco Rubio (R) or Rep. Kendrick Meek (D)

Illinois – Rep. Mark Kirk (R) > State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias (D)

Indiana – fmr. Sen. Dan Coats (R) > Rep. Brad Ellsworth (D)

Kentucky – eye surgeon Rand Paul (R) > Attorney General Jack Conway (D)

Missouri – Rep. Roy Blunt (R) > Secretary of State Robin Carnahan (D)

Nevada – fmr. Assemblywoman Sharron Angle (R) > Sen. Harry Reid (D)

Ohio – fmr. Rep. Rob Portman (R) > Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher (D)

Pennsylvania – fmr. Rep. Pat Toomey (R) > Rep. Joe Sestak (D)

Lean GOP (5-10% victory):

New Hampshire – Attorney General Kelly Ayotte > Rep. Paul Hodes

North Carolina – Sen. Richard Burr > fmr. State Sen. Cal Cunningham or Secretary of State Elaine Marshall

Likely GOP (10-20% victory):

Arkansas – Rep. John Boozman > Sen. Blanche Lincoln

Delaware – Rep. Mike Castle > New Castle County Executive Chris Coons

Louisiana – Sen. David Vitter > Rep. Charlie Melancon

Safe GOP (>20% victory):

Alabama – Sen. Richard Shelby > Attorney William Barnes

Alaska – Sen. Lisa Murkowski > Dem nominee (?)

Arizona – radio host JD Hayworth or Sen. John McCain > businessman Rodney Glassman

Georgia – Sen. Johnny Isakson > Dem nominee (?)

Idaho – Sen. Mike Crapo > businessman Tom Sullivan

Iowa – Sen. Chuck Grassley > Attorney Roxanne Conlin

Kansas – Rep. Jerry Moran or Rep. Todd Tihart > Dem nominee (?)

North Dakota – Gov. John Hoeven > State Sen. Tracy Potter

Oklahoma – Sen. Tom Coburn > Dem nominee (?)

South Carolina – Sen. Jim DeMint > military veteran Alvin Greene

South Dakota – Sen. John Thune > unopposed

Utah – businessman Tim Bridgewater or Attorney Mike Lee > businessman Sam Granato


LA-Sen: Can Melancon win?

In my latest U.S. Senate projections, posted a few weeks back, I opted to move the Louisiana race, between Republican incumbent David Vitter and Democratic challenger Charlie Melancon, from “Lean GOP” to “Safe GOP.” In fact, it was one of five particular races I gave special attention, given its notable shift in ranking amid my projections.  I moved this race further into red territory, given a) most polling conducted on the match-up has shown Vitter with upwards of a 30 point lead, b) Melancon’s campaign hadn’t ignited much excitement, and c) it appeared as though Louisiana voters had forgotten about or outright forgiven Vitter for the infidelity controversy that plagued his Senate tenure a few years back.

It’s now more than a week into June, and I feel this race deserves a second look.

Why? Because, while Sen. Vitter is doing incredibly well, given the shaky press coverage he’s garnered in recent years, the recent BP disaster has finally given Congressman Melancon, whose district has perhaps been most hard-hit during the crisis, his moment in the sun. And, what a tremendous job he has done.

While both Vitter and fellow Sen. Mary Landrieu deserve kudos for their PR handling of the BP crisis, it has been Melancon who really struck a chord, with both Louisiana’s residents and the nation, on this issue. He gave heartwrenching testimony to Congress regarding the oil spill’s impact upon the people of his district, and he’s hit the cable news circuit, establishing himself as one of the most affective communicators on the issue. I must admit, I’ve been quite moved by Melancon’s work in the past weeks, and I will be rooting for him for the remainder of this political season.

Of course, this begs the question – can Charlie Melancon really defeat David Vitter? Is this still a “Safe GOP” race?

Truthfully, at this point, it’s difficult to tell. LA-Sen has been a gravely-underpolled race, with only the conservative-leaning Rasmussen bothering to conduct polling on it this year. The last time a non-partisan outlet polled it was all the way back in July, 2009 (!), while Public Policy Polling showed Vitter with a 12 point lead. Which, for the record, only constitutes a “Likely GOP” ranking in my methodology, not “Safe GOP.” Rasmussen, for the record, found Vitter with a 24 point lead in both February and March, before giving up on polling the state.

With no help from the pollsters, it’s difficult to get a solid grasp on this race. In all likelihood, Vitter is still ahead, and at least by double-digits. 24 points, though? That’s probably a stretch. A 24-point lead in Louisiana means Vitter trimming a quarter of Democrats from Melancon, and that’s awfully unlikely.

Indeed, the potential good news for Melancon is that Democrats make up a plurality – about 40 percent – of the Louisiana electorate. The bad news? About a third to a fourth of those Democrats are conservative ones, “Blue Dogs” if you will. And the Republicans? They’re some of the most conservative in the country. The non-affiliated voters, who make up a fifth of the electorate, are also right-leaning.

If I had to take a stab on the outcome of this race, I imagine it looks something like…

Democrat – 40%

GOP – 38%

Independent – 22%

Melancon – 85%/10%/46% = 48%

Vitter – 15%/90%/54% = 52%

Which, would of course make this a bonifide toss-up. Despite my voter model, I suppose Vitter is perhaps ahead by more. If only Rasmussen would release its internal numbers, which it, unfortunately, does not. For the time being, I’ll give the benefit of doubt to Sen. Vitter, but Melancon could be on the rise.


FL-Sen: Sunshine State Showdown

In my latest U.S. Senate projections, posted a few weeks back, I noted my belief that, despite recent polls showing otherwise, I believe Republican Marco Rubio will claim victory over Independent Charlie Crist and Democrat Kendrick Meek in the upcoming Florida Senate race. Though most polling has shown Crist with a modest lead over Rubio and Meek trailing way behind, I’ve been thinking, for several reasons, such may prove short lived.

For one, the bulk of Crist’s impressive support in these polls has stemmed from registered Democrats. Though the centrist Governor could surely win over conservaDems and even many moderate Democrats come the Fall, my suspicion is Meek, a progressive Congressman, will ultimately clean up among the liberals who make up a majority of the Dem electorate. Per CNN polling from 2008, self-identified liberals make up 51% of Florida Dems, with 37% moderates and 13% conservatives. If Meek can hold liberals and win over half of the moderate vote, he’ll defeat Crist 3-to-1 among the total Dem vote, forcing Crist to turn elsewhere in getting the necessary votes.

That “elsewhere” may not necessarily be the party Crist just abandoned.

If you believe the polls, Rubio, the fmr. Florida House Speaker, has already shored-up the vast majority of the GOP vote, leaving Crist with about 20% of his old party’s base. For Crist to pull off a win, this probably cannot be the case. Keep in mind, in Sen. Joe Lieberman’s Independent bid for re-election in 2006, he held onto roughly a third of the Democratic vote, stemmed largely from moderate and conservative Dems. Per that same 2008 CNN primary poll, 61% of Florida Republicans are self-identified conservatives, with 28% moderates and 11% liberals. For a Crist victory, I suspect he’ll need to clean-up among both liberals and moderates, the latter of which could be difficult as the Governor moves toward the left in his quest to win over Democrats.

Unsurprisingly, the most key factor of all for Crist will be the Independent vote, which makes up about 30% of the Florida electorate and, typically, decides statewide elections here. Polls show Crist with a decent lead among this group and, should he hold onto this lead, he’ll surely have a fighting chance at triumph. The question is, can the Governor win over conservative non-affiliates who might find Rubio attractive too? Or, likewise, liberal Indies who are intrigued by Meek? It’s a fine ideological balance Crist must somehow pull off. Move to the center-left? Maintain that slightly right-of-center stance he established in his Gubernatorial tenture?

Whatever the case, I currently think Rubio, one of the hottest GOP commodities on the scene, will eek out a win.

My current thoughts on an electoral breakdown here are, as follows…

Republican – 37%

Democrat – 35%

Independent – 28%

Crist – 15%/35%/45% = 31%

Meek – 0%/60%/15% = 25%

Rubio – 85%/5%/40% = 44%

Crist’s dream scenario probably mirrors something more along the lines of…

Democrat – 35%

Republican – 35%

Independent – 30%

Crist – 65%/25%/55% = 49%

Meek – 30%/0%/10% = 14%

Rubio – 5%/75%/35% = 37%

As you see, Meek and Rubio are relatively stable in their margins, at ranges of 14%-25% and 37-44%, respectively. In all likelihood, neither could win in a two-way match. Crist, on the other hand, has very erratic numbers, with a range of 31%-49%. Such guarantees at least second-place finish, but also means Crist requires 37% to even remain competitive against Rubio.

Such a model assumes a) Meek implodes among registered Dems (much like Republican Alan Schlesinger in that ’06 CT race), b) Crist wins over moderate Republicans, and c) Crist overwhelmingly wins among non-affilated voters. For the time being, I just don’t see Meek as anemic as Schlesinger, and I suspect, amid such an anti-incumbent environment, moderate GOP-ers may prefer Rubio over the sitting Governor. I imagine Crist is ahead among non-affiliateds, but not by enough to run up the necessary margins.


NY-Sen: Conservative Chaos

Last Thursday, just one day after New York Republicans selected Rick Lazio as their official nominee for Governor, the state’s GOP convention produced some mixed results in the U.S. Senate race to challenge Kirsten Gillibrand. Unable to settle upon one candidate, both Bruce Blakeman and David Malpass will compete in a September primary for the GOP nomination. Joe DioGuardi, the third candidate, failed to garner the support necessary to make that primary ballot.

There’s only one problem. DioGuardi, no matter what happens on the GOP side, already has a guaranteed slot on the November ballot. Huh?

New York’s Conservative Party, the right-wing gang originally designed to create hell for liberal Republican Nelson Rockefellar way back when, has already given DioGuardi its ballot line for the Senate race, provoking all sorts of vote-splitting horrors for Republicans statewide.

After all, just rewind back to that fascinating race up in NY-23, where liberal Republican Dede Scozzafava, once considered the overwhelming front-runner, was bombarded by the Conservative nominee, uber-right-winger Doug Hoffman. Hoffman, a political arsonist at its worst, damaged Scozzafava so horribly among the district’s Republicans that she dropped out of the race at the 11-o-clock hour. For Hoffman, however, it was an exercise to nowhere, as Democrat Bill Owens used the obnoxious Hoffman/Scozzafava showdown to his benefit, claiming victory as the one normal, likable candidate in the race.

For New York Republicans, such a scenario on a statewide level would be the nightmare from hell.

My suspicion is, however, DioGuardi, the fmr. Westchester Congressman, doesn’t have the money or excitement to make a real dent in this race. He’s so dull and washed-up, he makes Rick Lazio look fun, and I think most conservatives will make a valiant effort to rally around either Blakeman, the fmr. Port Authority Commissioner, or Malpass, the fmr. Reagan advisor. Both men are moderate Republicans, but not quite as liberal or RINO-y as Scozzafava, plus many state GOP-ers are salivating at the notion that Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand might be a bit vulnerable when it comes to the general.

I do think this race is in the Likely Dem column, perhaps even Safe Dem, with Gillibrand consolidating the vast majority of Democrats and probably performing quite well among Independents too. Even if she doesn’t succeed among the latter, the overwhelming Dem registration should keep her in safe territory. I imagine we’re looking at a voter model which mirrors something like…

Democrat – 46%

Republican – 27%

Independent – 27%

Gillibrand – 93%/7%/55% = 60%

Blakeman/Malpass – 7%/83%/40% = 36%

DioGuardi – 0%/10%/5% = 4%

For Republicans, I suspect a best-case-scenario “dream model” would look something like…

Democrat – 45%

Republican – 30%

Independent – 25%

Gillibrand – 85%/3%/43% = 50%

Blakeman/Malpass – 15%/93%/55% = 48%

DioGuardi – 0%/4%/2% = 2%

In this (highly-unlikely) scenario, Gillibrand bleeds conservative Dems and many moderate Independents to the GOP ticket, while DioGuardi implodes, failing to gain any real traction among the far-right who might be weary about Blakeman or Malpass. Even so, Gillibrand still eeks out a win.