Wednesday, September 12, 2012

U.S. Senate 2012 Predictions: The Bidening

The Famous Quibbling Potato Tour
It's September, the conventions are over, every partisan is fired up and ready to go, and polling firms are earning all kinds of scratch predicting the presidential race.  Seems like there's a new opinion poll regarding Obama/Romney every day.  But while the presidential race is important, every poll says pretty much the same thing: Obama will probably win by fewer electoral votes than he did in 2008.  The really exciting race is for control of the Senate, and a lot of movement in the polls will happen in these last two months.

This is my biennial post breaking down the Senate race.

Right now the Democrats control the Senate 53-47, but only because they pal around with Socialists (Bernie Sanders, I-VT) and a McCain-supporting war hawk (Joe Liebermann, I-CT). But of the 33 seats up for reelection in 2012, only 10 of them are held by Republicans. So our starting baseline is D:30 - R:37

I Just Blued Myself

Tom Carper (D) vs. Kevin Wade (R)

Ben Cardin (D) vs. Dan Bongino (R)

Amy Klobuchar (D) vs. Kurt Bills (R)

Rhode Island
Sheldon Whitehouse (D) vs. Barry Hinckley (R)

Maria Cantwell (D) vs. Michael Baumgartner (R)

Bob Casey (D) vs. Tom Smith (R)

New Jersey
Bob Menendez (D) vs. Joseph Kyrillos (R)

All these races have Democratic incumbents, all of these will be won by the Democratic incumbents easily, yet all of them aren't exactly what you'd call a household name. (The Bobs on either side of the Delaware River are maybe slightly more famous than the rest of this group.) I only learned just now that Senator Cardin and Senator Carper were two different people. Amy Klobuchar might have had a close race, but the Republicans chose Ron Paul-backed Representative Kurt Bills in the primary.  Sheldon Whitehouse is going to face off against a guy whose last name is 19 Google hits below the guy who shot Reagan.  And Cantwell will beat the guy whose only notoriety in the national media so far is that he told a reporter to "go fuck yourself".   Add seven to the D's.

D:37 - R:37

The Jim Rogers Memorial Is-This-Really-The-Best-Democrats-Can-Do? Races

John Barrasso (R) vs. Tim Chestnut (D)
Roger Wicker (R) vs. Albert N. Gore Jr. (D)

Bob Corker (R) vs. Mark Clayton (D)

Chestnut managed to win the majority of the votes cast in Wyoming's Democratic primary despite  not having a campaign webpage and spending just $300 (which works out to about $100 per registered Wyoming Democrat).

Mississippi's Albert N. Gore Jr. is almost a perfect imitation of Oklahoma's own lovable lunatic Democrat Jim Rogers. 1. He's old. 2. He has a similar name to someone well-respected in the region (Will Rogers, Al Gore). 3. He's not at all related to that person. 4. He doesn't have a website. 5. He actually won a statewide primary. The only real difference is that while Jim Rogers observes a strict media silence, Albert N. Gore Jr. (who won't give out his age) has given several interviews. Also, he's seems to possess both coherent policy ideas and more than one shirt. 

Tennessee's Mark Clayton: Tim Murphy of Mother Jones describes him thusly:
Mark Clayton believes the federal government is building a massive, four-football-field wide superhighway from Mexico City to Toronto as part of a secret plot to establish a new North American Union that will bring an end to America as we know it. On Thursday, he became the Tennessee Democrats' nominee for US Senate.
He's more of a Randall Terry Democrat than a Jim Rogers Democrat, I suppose. He's such a social conservative that Tennessee state senator Stacey Campfield, the Sally Kern of Tennessee, proudly called himself a fan and did a joint press conference with him.  The Nashville Tennesseean's article about this is entitled "If liking a Democrat is wrong, Stacey Campfield doesn't want to be right"

So, three easy wins for Republicans.

D:37 - R:40

Big Blue Ladies

Dianne Feinstein (D) vs. Elizabeth Emken (R)

Debbie Stabenow (D) vs. Pete Hoekstra (R)

New York
Kirsten Gillibrand (D) vs. Wendy Long (R)

These three Democratic women represent (and will continue to represent) 66 million people. The three previous Republican men represent (and will continue to represent) 10 million people.

D:40 - R:40

Berg and Re-Berg

North Dakota
Heidi Heitkamp (D) vs. Rick Berg (R)

Jon Tester (D) vs. Denny Rehberg (R)

Rehberg and R. Berg are destined to be the next two U.S. Senators Whose Names I Mix Up (sorry Cardin/Carper).  They are both Republican and they both are currently the U.S. Representatives for the at-large districts in their states.  Representative Berg should have no problem ousting former state attorney general Heidi Heitkamp, but current U.S. Senator Jon Tester, who barely squeaked by in a Democratic wave election in 2006 (the Thumpin') should give Representative Rehberg a harder time, though I'm still predicting a Rehberg win.  Can't stop the 'stache.

D:40 - R:42

Tea Party Victories = Republican Victories

Paul Sadler (D) vs. Ted Cruz (R)

Bob Kerrey (D) vs. Deb Fischer (R)

Joe Donnelly (D) vs. Richard Mourdock (R)

Tea Party groups primaried the establishment Republicans in these three races this year and are now in good position to win the general election.  Cruz, fresh off his speech at the RNC, has now been anointed as a new conservative star.  Fischer has been the brightest endorsement success so far this election season for fading star Sarah Palin.  Mourdock faces the toughest challenge of this group, but his Club for Growth-fueled money advantage should carry him to victory in a red state against an opponent who voted for Obamacare.

D:40 - R:45

Tea Party Failures = Republican Victories

Tammy Baldwin (D) vs Tommy Thompson (R)

Scott Howell (D) vs. Orrin Hatch (R)

Hatch got through Utah's weird convention process only slightly scathed by a Tea Party-backed upstart and will win a huge reelection victory over token opposition Scott Howell.  Wisconsin is a bit of a different story.  The establishment candidate, former governor Tommy Thompson, did manage to win in the primary over a conservative Tea Party-backed opponent, but will face a challenge against a strong opponent who is looking to be the first lesbian U.S. Senator, Tammy Baldwin.  Despite having  terrible campaign signs, I think Tommy Thompson will still be able to win this race based on name recognition and centrism. 

D:40 - R:47

Wait, We Have to Vote Against These Losers Again?

Chris Murphy (D) vs. Linda McMahon (R)

West Virginia
Joe Manchin (D, technically) vs. John Raese (R)

The term "perennial candidate" is not just for low-budget crazies like Jim Rogers and Vermin Supreme.  Linda McMahon and John Raese both are well-funded perennial candidates who don't let a little thing like losing to a Democrat in a U.S. Senate race in 2010 stop them from losing to a Democrat in a U.S. Senate race in 2012.  Hell, Raese is even looking forward to losing to the same Democrat he lost to two years ago!

D:42 - R:47

Blue State Democrats Doing Whatever the Hell They Want

Mazie Hirono (D) vs. Linda Lingle (R)

Bernie Sanders (I) vs. The World (D & R)

Vermont's Bernie Sanders is an actual Socialist, as every news article about Bernie Sanders will tell you.  I'm pretty sure he spends every day in elected office just blogging for the Huffington Post.  He'll get 6 more years.  Democratic representative Mazie Hirono won her primary and will now spend the rest of election season chillaxing with Republican representative Don Young of Alaska. 

D:44 - R:47

Florida and Ohio, Florida and Ohio, Every Single Election Year It's Always Fucking Florida and Ohio

Bill Nelson (D) vs. Connie Mack IV (R)

Sherrod Brown (D) vs. Josh Mandel (R)

These senate races are two of the more heavily polled in the nation, partly due to the fact that they are going to be close and partly due to the fact that the polling firms are polling in these states for the presidential race (which will also be close).  These polls have the Democrats up by a couple points.  Both races feature incumbent Democrats fighting off cocky, strident, odd-looking conservatives (Josh Mandel looks like a 16-year-old high school speech club president ...

... and is it just me or does Connie Mack resemble, like, Pacman or something?

It's just me?  I thought so.)

I predict Democrats will just barely squeak by in both races.

D:46 - R:47

Commonwealth Superstars

Tim Kaine (D) vs. George Allen (R)

Elizabeth Warren (D) vs. Scott Brown (R)

All four of these candidates are political heavyweights who bring lots of national attention and fundraising ability to their races.  Tim Kaine went from the governorship to being head of the DNC, Elizabeth Warren went from setting up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to being every liberal's dream come true, Scott Brown went from Cosmo's centerfold to owning a truck to being the deciding vote against Obamacare the first time around, and George Allen went from the governorship to being the first person ever to lose an election because of a "macaca moment".

Polling has occurred in both races since 2011, and these two races have been essentially tied for the entire time (Scott Brown has generally been on top by small margins, Kaine and Allen have been switching back and forth).  I'm putting my blue goggles on and predicting Democratic Party wins in both of these races.  It's hard to see Massachusetts electing a Republican over a hard-campaigning Democrat beloved by New England Democrats, and since I think Barack Obama will win Virginia, it would be more surprising to see Allen win at the same time than it would to see Kaine win at the same time.  Flimsy reasons, I know.

D:48 - R:47

Show-Me Shenanigans

Claire McCaskill (D) vs. Todd Akin (R)

Okay, so here's what's happened so far: Claire McCaskill, a mainline non-Blue Dog Democrat, had a low probability of reelection since her state has shifted red in the six years since she was first elected.  So the winner of the Republican primary should have been the candidate to beat in this election.  McCaskill knew this and dog-whistled to the wingnuts in her state that this guy Todd Akin was "the most conservative" Republican in the race, because she believed she had the best chance against him.  The strategy worked and Akin won the nomination.  Then Akin opened his mouth, said some stupid thing about women and rape these days, and McCaskill said "dance, puppet, dance!"

Akin's radical right-wing beliefs forced the Republicans to walk back their support for him; they urged him to drop out of the race because any other registered Republican would have a better shot at victory than Todd Akin.  As a woman and a Democrat and the opponent of a misogynist, McCaskill could be expected to weigh in with vitriol and umbrage over Akin's words along with the rest of America, but instead McCaskill has refrained from attacking him, keeping her campaign positive and letting Akin's support be eroded away by his own words.  She's brilliant!  Here's an article about the gamesmanship in this race so far.

Akin's petard-hoisting not withstanding, Missouri is looking less like Nellytown and a lot more like Branson these days.  I think Akin's name on the ballot results in only a 2-point Republican win rather than a 12-point Republican win.  But this is assuming Akin doesn't open his mouth again, which is a sketchy proposition.

D:48 - R:48

Sonoran Poll Desert

New Mexico
Martin Heinrich (D) vs. Heather Wilson (R)

Richard Carmona (D) vs. Jeff Flake (R)

Shelley Berkley (D) vs. Dean Heller (R)

Polling has shown Heinrich and Heller with consistent single-digit leads and support in the high 40's.  Polling in Arizona's Senate race has shown ... hardly anything because the race has only been polled two times in the last three months.  Both of those polls show an unexpected tie, but support for both candidates in the low 40's with a large number of undecideds.  Arizona is a red state, and polls conducted before Arizona's primary showed Flake with a huge lead over all Democrats.  But since Arizona isn't predicted to be close in the presidential race, few have bothered to poll for the Senate race.  I can't imagine that this poll desert will last, but since I don't have much information to go on, I'm going with the consensus and saying Flake will win.

D:49 - R:50

The Swing Senator

Cynthia Dill (D) vs. Charlie Summers (R) vs. Angus King (I)

When Olympia Snowe announced she would retire earlier this year, there was a brief period of time when the nation cared about Maine politics.  That window of time closed by the end of June when three polls showed former governor Angus King with a 25 point lead over all comers.  The comers do not include popular Democratic representative Chellie Pingree, who would most likely be able to beat any single Republican for the seat.  This got Republicans talking about how King must have made a deal with Democrats to keep their good candidates off the ballot in exchange for King caucusing with the Democrats if he were to get elected.  King basically said "Hogwash!" and that he was running to bring bipartisanship back; he wouldn't decide which party, if any, to caucus with until after the election.  But the consensus among political reporters is that the Obama-voting same-sex-marriage-supporting Obamacare-backing environmentalist will probably caucus with Democrats.  Just a hunch.

D:50 - R:50

Obama wins, Biden breaks ties (seems like I say this every time; one of these days it may come true), and the Dems control the Senate.  That's my official guess.  But a lot of chips have to fall the Dems way in order for this to happen.  I'm predicting all Democratic wins in the blockbuster races in Florida, Ohio, Virginia and Massachusetts.  Going 4 for 4 in those races seems sort of unlikely.  Really, what was I thinking? It's like I started working on this post a month ago and only just now got around to finishing it. 

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