As you watch the election results come in tonight, you’ll notice that they don’t actually come in a predictable order. Loose races can be called earlier than tight races, and the ballot-counting is more efficient in some states than others. So while I’ve arranged the following guide to today’s race in order of when the polls close, the results in the races discussed will not necessarily be reported in this order.
Calls for House results are in bold, while calls for Senate results are in bold and italics. All Times Eastern Standard.
6:00 PM — Polls close in the portions of Indiana and Kentucky that are in the Eastern Time Zone. Kentucky’s 3rd and 4th District are both entirely in the Eastern portion of the state, and both are held by vulnerable Republican incumbents.
In Kentucky-4, conservative Democrat Ken Lucas is back in the race after leaving the seat to fulfill a term-limits pledge. Essentially, he and Republican Geoff Davis both have some of the advantages of incumbency. Polls have pointed in both directions, but I give a slight edge to Davis (Rep. hold). The polls have really been all over the place in Kentucky-3, which includes the Louisville area, where Anne Northup (R) is facing a challenge from John Yarmuth (D). The Louisville Courier-Journal poll, a traditional poll in which calls were made by human operators, showed Northup winning handily, while Yarmuth has led in the so-called robopolls by SurveyUSA and RT Strategies/Constituent Dynamics, where questions are asked by recording and answers are given by pushing buttons. Since the robots outperformed the humans in the last cycle, I’ll call this one for Yarmuth (Dem. gain). If I’m wrong: If KY-3 and KY-4 both change hands, the Democratic wave that some have predicted may be coming. If neither changes hands, Team Dean may be in for yet another disappointing night. And if there’s an upset in IN-7, the Democratic takeover instantly becomes much less likely.
7:00 PM — Polls close in the rest of Indiana and Kentucky, the Eastern Time Zone portion of Florida (that’s everything but the panhandle), most of New Hampshire (it varies by precinct), and statewide in four other states, two of them with hot races: Georgia and Virginia.
In the Virginia Senate race, George Allen faces Jim Webb, and they’ve been close to tied in most polls. The latest SurveyUSA poll, shows Webb surging ahead, but it’s so far out of line from other polls that have shown the race a tie that I’m inclined to discount it as an outlier. With low confidence, I’ll predict an Allen victory (Rep. hold). If I’m wrong: A Webb win would indicate that the dysfunction of Allen’s lackluster campaign extends down to the get-out-the-vote (GOTV) level.
In the House, Georgia’s 8th and 12th districts may see a rarity in this cycle: Republican gains. I’ll predict that Republican challenger Mac Collins wins in GA-8 (Rep. gain) while Democratic incumbent John Barrow hangs on in GA-12 (Dem. hold), but I wouldn’t be surprised to see those reversed, or to see Republican victories in both districts.
Republican incumbents are in serious danger in Indiana’s 2nd, 8th, and 9th districts. I expect them all to be defeated (Dem. gain times 3). If I’m wrong: If Republican GOTV operation can pull out poll-defying victories in Indiana, this could be a sign of more to come as the night wears on.
In Florida, my hunch is that Republican GOTV can overcome the marginal Democratic leads in the 13th and 22nd districts (Rep. hold times 2). In Florida’s 16th district, Republicans won a victory when courts allowed them to post a sign at polling places that makes clear that a vote for Mark Foley is a vote for Joe Negron. Will it be enough? I’m going to go out on a limb and say that it will (Rep. hold). If I’m wrong: The sort of massive Democratic blowout that people like Stuart Rothenberg predict is only possible with victories in Florida (though still not probable).
7:30 PM — Polls close in West Virginia and Ohio, as well as in many precincts in North Carolina. No incumbents of either party are in real danger in West Virginia. The same can’t be said for Ohio, where a Republican party that has been plagued by scandal is headed into a buzzsaw.
In the Senate race, Mike DeWine is going to lose to Sherrod Brown (Dem. gain). Republicans will also face congressional losses in Ohio: certainly in the 18th district, where Rep. Bob Ney resigned following revelations of his involvement in the Abramoff scandal, and probably in Districts 1 and 15, as well (Dem. gain times 3), though Jean Schmidt can probably pull through in District 2 (Rep. hold). If I’m wrong: Upsets in Ohio would mean that Republicans have a serious shot at holding the House.
8:00 PM Polls close in the rest of Florida and New Hampshire, as well as in the Central Time Zone portion of Texas, which includes the 22nd District, where Tom DeLay’s late resignation left the ballot without a Republican; I don’t believe that Republicans rallying around Shelley Sekula-Gibbs can overcome the problem of the cumbersome write-in process (Dem. gain). (Polls also close now in the Eastern Time Zone portion of Michigan and the Central Time Zone portion of South Dakota.) Polls close statewide in over a dozen states, seven of them with hot Senate or House races: Connecticut, Maryland, New Jersey, Tennessee, Missouri, Pennsylvania, and Illinois.
In New Hampshire’s 2nd District, Paul Hodes is making a surprisingly strong challenge against incumbent Republican Charlie Bass. Bass beat Hodes by 20 points when they faced off two years ago. But the financial advantage that belonged to Bass then belongs to Hodes now, Hodes is leading in most of the polls, and Bass seems to have been caught off guard: The Evans-Novak Political Report has reported Republican grumblings about “lackadaisical staffers” and “extremely disorganized” GOTV. All that adds up to a Dem. gain.
Joe Lieberman is squashing Ned Lamont in Connecticut, which counts as a Dem. hold (I believe that Lieberman will keep his word and caucus with the Democrats). But some Nutmeg State observers say Lieberman’s independent run may have coattails for struggling Republicans. If this is true, then Republicans may defy the polls and hang in there in Connecticut’s 2nd, 4th, and 5th districts (Rep. hold times 3). If I’m wrong: As in Florida, Connecticut victories are necessary for a true Democratic blowout.
In Maryland, Michael Steele has run one of the best campaigns in the country, running even with Democrat Ben Cardin in a state where Democrats enjoy a two-to-one registration advantage. (It’s not hard to see why: Even in his worst nonpartisan poll in the past two months, a Washington Post poll that showed him down by 11 points, 59% of respondents thought that the statement “He has an appealing personality” applied more to Steele than to Cardin.) I wouldn’t be at all surprised by a Steele upset, but in the end it looks like this just isn’t the right year. Dem. hold. In New Jersey, the momentum that Tom Kean seemed to show earlier in the fall has stopped showing up in recent polls, and New Jersey isn’t a place where Republicans are known for pulling off upsets. Dem. hold. If I’m wrong: If there’s an upset in either of these races, it’s difficult to see how the Democrats can possibly take the Senate.
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