Dispassionately Taking Stock

Herein I will project the remaining uncalled races without commenting on my current apoplexy, or anyone else’s.  Actually quite pleased with the Senate and Governor picture.  Let’s not talk about that other thing.


Called Republican Pickups (6): AR, IL, IN, ND, PA, WI

Uncalled Republican Holds (1):

AK – Murkowski up 7% with 100% in.  AK moved formal write-in ballot counting up to next week.


Called Democratic Pickups (3): CA, HI, VT

Called Republican Pickups (11): IA, KS, ME, MI, NM, OH, OK, PA, TN, WI, WY

Called Independent Pickups(1): RI

Uncalled Democratic Pickups (2):

CT – Malloy now up 6,000 votes with 98% in. SoS says final tally is today.

MN – Dayton up 9,000 votes with 100% in.  Final canvass on November 23.

HOUSE – R+63

Called Democratic Pickups (3): DE-AL, HI-01, LA-02

Called Republican Pickups (63): AL-02, AR-01, AR-02, AZ-01, AZ-05, CO-03, CO-04, FL-02, FL-08, FL-22, FL-24, GA-08, ID-01, IL-11, IL-14, IL-17, IN-08, IN-09, KS-03, LA-03, MD-01, MI-01, MI-07, MN-08, MO-04, MS-01, MS-04, NC-02, ND-AL, NH-01, NH-02, NJ-03, NM-02, NV-03, NY-13, NY-19, NY-20, NY-24, NY-29, OH-01, OH-06, OH-15, OH-16, OH-18, PA-03, PA-07, PA-08, PA-10, PA-11, SC-05, SD-AL, TN-04, TN-06, TN-08, TX-17, TX-23, VA-02, VA-05, VA-09, WA-03, WI-07, WI-08, WV-01

Uncalled Republican Pickups (3):

IL-08 – Walsh up 550 votes with 100% in.  Absentees left to count.

NY-25 – Buerkle up 650 votes with 100% in.  Absentees left to count.

TX-27 – Farenthold up 800 votes with 100% in.  Absentees left to count.

Uncalled Democratic Holds (6):

AZ-08 – Giffords up 3,000 votes wih 100% in.  Apparently “early votes” still being counted.

CA-11 – McNerney up 121 votes with 100% in.  Absentees left to count.

CA-20 – Vidak up 1,700 votes with 100% in.  However, tens of thousands of absentees outstanding, almost all in Costa strongholds.

KY-06 – Chandler up 600 votes with 100% in.  He has declared victory.

VA-11 – Connolly up 800 votes with 100% in. Provisionals left to count.

WA-02 – Larsen up 1,450 votes with 80% in.  Lots of votes remain all over the district.  Tough call, but I’ll go with Larsen since he’s up.

RealClearPolitics House Rankings

I’m curious what SSP’ers think about RealClearPolitics US House rankings for November. They’re fairly bleak reading: RCP ranks 24 Dem seats as “leaning” or “likely” Republican, with three Republican seats ranked as “leaning” or “likely” Democratic. So right off the bat, they have the Republicans with a 21-seat gain.

On its own, that wouldn’t be surprising; it’s the “tossups” that are.  

Beyond the 21-seat net GOP gain RCP sets as a base, they project that there are 30 Democratic seats (and one Republican seat) that are in the “tossup” category. What’s so bleak about this picture is that if we assume the 21 pickups they do, and a GOP-leaning electorate, that would indicate they’d get more than half of the tossups, giving them a majority.

Certainly, this would be consistent with the TPM and Pollster Generic Ballot average, which are looking especially bleak.

To be fair, there are some important caveats. The generic ballot does not look good, but it seems to be particularly skewed by Rasmussen, which has a 48-36 GOP advantage right now, and Gallup, whose polls have swung wildly. In the Pollster database, if you filter both of those out, you get a narrow 1-point GOP generic ballot advantage.

More on point about the RCP average – could they be over-optimistic? GOP gains of 40+ or even 50+ are certainly possible, given the political climate. But it does seem like several of those races listed as “lean GOP” should be listed as tossups. And although RCP is relatively non-partisan in their polling averages, they are a GOP site.

Any thoughts? I’d be interested in hearing more from people who know these races better than I do.  

What is Charlie Cook Overlooking?

DC political prognosticator Charlie Cook is getting a lot of attention for his doom and gloom about Democrats’ chances this November. He has controversially asserted that health care reform is Barack Obama’s Iraq War and that the Democrats will likely lose the House.

It’s worth pointing out that other major political pundits don’t (yet) agree with Cook’s forecast; Larry Sabato and Stuart Rothenberg, for example, still see Republican gains in the House in the mid-to-upper 20s. Cook’s analysis can’t be totally dismissed, however. Congressional approval ratings, though always low, are scraping the bottom of the barrel. Democratic enthusiasm is hugely down, economic forecasts indicate slow job growth through the end of the year, and Obama’s approval rating is the second-lowest of any president at this point.

Moreover, young and minority voters are unlikely to turn out in large numbers; many, even if supportive of Obama and liberal-ish in their views, aren’t especially political and may treat the midterms with apathy. As Obama’s approval ratings are low with older voters and white voters, a turnout favoring them could well  deliver the GOP big gains.

Nonetheless, Cook’s analysis seems flawed to me. It’s not that Democrats couldn’t lose the House. And it’s not just the standard “a week is a lifetime in politics,” caveat. Rather, Cook seems to me to miss many mitigating factors, and I’m curious if others agree.  

First, I don’t think Cook accounts for the weakness of the GOP brand, which remains very low. It’s true that in an anti-incumbent year, Democrats will be the main losers as the party in power. But while large GOP gains aren’t out of the question, the voters’ low enthusiasm for the GOP seems to me to be a major hurdle. Hatred of the GOP could prove extremely potent in getting a higher proportion of Democratic-leaning voters to the polls. In 1994, pre-Newt’s speakership, surveys showed Democrats had relatively low disapproval of the Republican Party.

Second, I think Cook understates the potential for Democratic mobilization. Especially if Democrats can pass health care reform, they will likely at least stabilize their position with Democratic-leaners and have a concrete – and real – achievement to champion before the voters. Frankly, even without that, mobilization alone would shift turnout somewhat in their favor. And by all accounts, it appears that Obama will take a major personal stake in the midterms. This will be an all-out, nationalized campaign, and while there will be districts where that will be hindrance, revving up Democratic voters and convincing them to turn out and vote could well save several marginal seats.

Third, I think Cook underestimates Obama’s continuing popularity. There’s no doubt that Obama’s numbers have fallen, but the public still likes Obama personally by a heavy margin. And for all the talk of Democratic disillusionment, approval and enthusiasm for the president among Democratic-leaners remains extremely high. Comparisons with Bill Clinton are difficult, as Clinton’s approval ratings in early 1994 were actually quite high. But by the late spring of ’94, Clinton’s job and personal ratings were significantly down due to several big political defeats and the controversies over Whitewater. While Obama’s job approval ratings and personal favorability ratings could fall to the low 40s, I have a hard time seeing them doing so. And if Obama’s ratings are around 50% in November 2010 and if he maintains high personal approval ratings, it would add up to a less hostile climate for Democrats than they faced in 1994.

All of these factors suggest to me that Republican gains will likely top out at the mid-to-upper 20s or low 30s, in the House. And the potential is there, actually, for actual losses to prove smaller. Unless there is a double-digit recession, it is difficult (though, again, not impossible) for me to see Republicans picking up 40+ seats. If, as forecasted, we have at least some modest job growth, approval ratings for Obama around 50%, passage of health care reform and at least a few other popular items, and Democratic mobilization heavier-than-today, that points towards more modest losses than what Cook is forecasting.

In fairness to Cook, we’re in somewhat uncharted waters here. Neither 1994 or 2006 looked like wave elections this far out, although moderate gains for the opposition in both years seemed likely. In both years, voter anger grew and grew and didn’t peak prior to election day.

This year, the level of angst is present so early that it’s hard to predict what will over the coming months. It is entirely plausible that the seeming wave will crest. Democrats are aware of voter anger far earlier and for the GOP to look like they’re returning to power this early on may give time for wavering voters to have second thoughts. Alternately, the wave could build, which would indicate catastrophic losses for Democrats. Or it could remain roughly the same as it is today.

So do people agree? Disagree? Or is Cook right regardless of the factors I name?  

A Southern Wave? Where are the targets?

So I’ve heard it posited here on SSP that 2010 will be a Republican wave in the South, with a stalemate in the rest of the country.  While I do think a Southern wave is coming for the Republicans, I do not think it is coming in 2010.  Rather, it will come over time as entrenched Southern Democrats like Gene Taylor, Allen Boyd, John Tanner, Lincoln Davis, Bart Gordon, etc. retire, leaving open seats.  There is no reason to believe that these types of entrenched incumbents are going to lose in significant numbers in 2010, nor is there reason so far to believe any of them are going to retire in 2010.  In fact, for 2010, it does not appear that there are a lot of juicy Southern targets for the Republicans.  

Here is the geographical distribution of the 2010 Frontline Democrats, along with the three competitive open seats (PA-07, NH-02, and LA-03):


CT-04 – Himes

MD-01 – Kratovil

NH-01 – Shea-Porter

NH-02 – OPEN

NJ-03 – Adler

NY-13 – McMahon

NY-20 – Murphy

NY-24 – Arcuri

NY-25 – Maffei

NY-29 – Massa

PA-03 – Dahlkemper

PA-07 – OPEN

PA-10 – Carney

SOUTH (11)

AL-02 – Bright

AL-05 – Griffith

FL-08 – Grayson

FL-24 – Kosmas

LA-03 – OPEN

MS-01 – Childers

NC-08 – Kissell

TX-23 – Rodriguez

VA-02 – Nye

VA-05 – Periello

VA-11 – Connolly


IL-11 – Halvorson

IL-14 – Foster

IN-09 – Hill

IA-03 – Boswell

MI-07 – Schauer

MI-09 – Peters

OH-01 – Driehaus

OH-15 – Kilroy

OH-16 – Boccieri

OH-18 – Space

WI-08 – Kagen

WEST (10)

AZ-01 – Kirkpatrick

AZ-05 – Mitchell

AZ-08 – Giffords

CA-11 – McNerney

CO-04 – Markey

ID-01 – Minnick

NV-03 – Titus

NM-01 – Heinrich

NM-02 – Teague

OR-05 – Schrader

The DCCC is not trying to protect entrenched incumbents in the South (even Chet Edwards amazingly).  Rather, the DCC believes that the seats it needs to defend are widespread, largely because the Dems’ recent gains have been widespread and therefore the least entrenched Dem congressmen are widespread.  In fact, the plurality of anticipated, competitive seats are in the Northeast, the Democratic sweet spot.  I think the DCCC is protecting the right incumbents, give or take.

While I could see as many as eight of the ten Southern, Frontline Democrats losing, plus the open seat in LA-03, that does not a wave make unless there are additional gains elsewhere.

In summary, for 2010, the least entrenched incumbents are scattered all over America.  Therefore, if there is a Republican wave, it will likely be scattered all over America, just like 1994.  I just do not see the opportunity for a Southern wave this time around.



In 2010, Democrats need a strong candidate to run in California’s 3rd Congressional District, which is rapidly trending Democratic. In 2006, Bill Durston ran against Republican Dan Lungren and lost by 21.5 percent. In 2008, Durston ran again. This time, he came within 5.5 percent of winning and kept Lungren’s vote total under 50%.

But Durston has decided not to run again. And with the DCCC targeting the district, we desperately need a candidate who can step in and finish the job that Bill Durston started.

John Garamendi is the absolute best person to lead the battle for California’s 3rd Congressional District. He has deep roots in the district – he was born and raised in Mokelumne Hill, owns a ranch there, and was elected by the voters in the district to serve in the California state legislature from 1974 to 1990.


Tell John Garamendi that you want him to run for Congress in the 3rd Congressional district against Dan Lungren in 2010.  

Back in 2007, when John Garamendi addressed the Amador County Democrats, he discussed his longstanding relationship with the district:

Garamendi talked briefly about his time representing Amador, Calaveras and other rural counties in the State Assembly for two years and for fourteen years as a State Senator. He recalled that one of the first bills he introduced was about a water ditch in Amador Co. The local connection is “very important to those of us living in these rural areas” says Central Committee Vice Chair Randy Bayne. As evidence, he noted that every year hundreds of local residents take a trip out to the Touch the Earth Ranch in Mokelumne Hill for the Garamendi Basque Barbeque.

Garamendi will be holding his 32nd Annual Basque Barbeque in Calaveras County in a little over two weeks, reconnecting with the local folks who have supported him for decades. We’re asking him to step up once again to fight for Amador and Calaveras Counties by running for Congress in District 3.

A game theory analysis of elections, or why Jim Bunning is only pretending to be crazy

In game theory there is game called entrance deterrence.  The idea is that when a person or firm challenges an incumbent it goes along two nodes of thought.  The first is the challenger’s decision to go against the incumbent.  The second is whether the incumbent fights the challenger, or defers to him.  This game will be able to predict both what Specter and what Bunning are doing this election season.

If the challenger decides not to play, his payout is 0 for the challenger and 2 for the incumbent.  If the challenger decides to fight, then it’s the incumbents turn to make a decision.  If the incumbent fights then his payout will be -1 to the challengers 0, and if he defers to the challenger it will be a payout of 1 to each.

As two-bit challengers appear against incumbents from time to time, it should be clarified that this game only applies when two factors are present.  The first is that the incumbent is in danger of losing his election either due to his low popularity, or his opponent’s high popularity.  The second factor is that there is gain from leaving the senate, such as a high paying job, or prestige of being a retired senator who didn’t lose.  

An example of this is the election of Mark Warner.  Last cycle John Warner was considering retirement, but wasn’t sure.  Mark Warner threw out hints that he would run.  John could say that he will fight mark regardless of what mark does, but that is unlikely.  The payoffs show that should mark run, and john fight, john will have a payout of -1, worse than his payout of 1 should he defer to mark, and retire gracefully.  

This payout comes from john either losing a fierce election with mark, ending his long running senate career in disgrace, or eking out a bare win, where he will be in the extreme minority, and his reputation still varnished.  Thus, when it became clear that john’s plans not to retire were bluffs, he realized the most logical move would be to retire.  This is what happened.  If you replace mark with Toomey (scary I know) and Warner with specter, you have the reasons why specter will retire should Toomey run.  There are variables of course, but if specter can’t independents in the primary he will retire, soon after, or shortly before Toomey announces.  

This should suggest that Bunning will retire, as a plausible republican challenger would defeat him, but there is a flaw in this plan.  This all depends on logic, Bunning’s potential challenger has to realize the payouts described above, as does Bunning.  If Bunning is Crazy, and playing illogically, then the challenger won’t play.  Why bother running, when your payoff will be 0 either way.  Either 0 for not running, or 0 for losing to bunning/winning but getting beaten up, to go onto lose to your democratic opponent.  This is what bunning wants us to think.

I theorize that he understands this game and the payouts, that’s why he has been playing up the whole “I’m crazy” shtick of late.  He’s trying to convince his opponents that he would not act logically at this game.  That if he was challenged he might defer, he might fight, he might find a third option.  Either way it would be better not to enter at all.  The reasoning is that the number of votes he loses by acting crazy is less than that he’d lose by losing the primary (where the general election votes are irrelevant) or winning the primary bloodied up and broke.  

This assumes that he’s sane, eccentric, but sane.  He has had a tendency to act weird, but the type of crazy being described here is not that of bunning.  It suggests a sincere lack of logic, not simply acting weird.  Take Bunning’s performance back in 2004, it’s weird, but not illogical.  Considering his money, the partisan tilt of Kentucky, and the fact that bush was expected to do well, he probably figured he could phone it in.  Lazy and stupid, but there was logic to it.

Furthermore, consider his recent acts of

crazy.  It’s all stuff that only would anger liberals, and the political class.  Suggesting that Ginsberg will die soon, picking fights with Cornyn and the NRCC, it’s not the kind of stuff that would anger conservative primary voters.  He’s not expecting much help from either the political class or liberals to begin with, so there’s little to nothing to lose by fighting with them.  There is logic in his eccentricities.  

This of course assumes that bunning is eccentric, but not illogical.  If he is in fact crazy crazy then everything stated is wrong, but the only way to tell that is to wait until a challenger appears and see what he does.  If he defers, then bunning is still logical, if he keeps on trucking, he’s not.  If no challenger appears then all we will know is that it worked.  

Game theory has numerous applications in politics that are still being understood.  This game shows why other politicians retired and will show why specter will retire.  It will also do what few thought possible: explain Jim Bunning.