Political Hay

Losing the Senate Too

It all comes down three races too close too call.

By 11.6.06

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Going into this election I feel very confident. Specifically, I'm confident that my perfect prediction record from 2004 will not survive this evening. Three Senate races -- Missouri, Montana, and Virginia -- are very difficult to call as the races are very close and neither side seems to have a decisive advantage. Thus, the chances of getting a race wrong are very high.

If you wish to see which races I have taken off the competitive list, please see my previous column on the Senate races. Otherwise, let's get to it.

Arizona: The best Democrat Jim Pederson has been able to do in the last two weeks is get within 5 points of Senator Jon Kyl. The Democratic wave will have to be a tsunami for Pederson to win. Republican Hold.

Connecticut: You can expect the Netroots to keep crowing about how they defeated Senator Joe Lieberman in the primary of 2006. It will seem silly, since Lieberman will beat Ned Lamont in the general election. But then, when have Netroots ever not been rather silly? Lieberman Wins.

Maryland: Were this 2002 or 2004, I would predict a win for Michael Steele. He's a great candidate and has won the endorsement of some prominent black leaders in Maryland. He's even close in a few polls. But this is a Democratic year, and Maryland is a blue state. I wouldn't be all that surprised if Steele pulls off an upset, but my money is on Ben Cardin. Democratic Hold.

Michigan: Would Mike Bouchard have made a good Senator? We'll never know. Debbie Stabenow has never trailed in any polls and most of the recent ones have her leading by double digits. Democratic Hold.

Minnesota: Republicans will spend the winter wondering what went wrong here. An open seat with a good candidate in Rep. Mark Kennedy. Yet relative unknown Amy Klobuchar is about to become the next Senator from the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Democratic Hold.

Missouri: This is the toughest race to call. After running a shameful ad with an Iraq War veteran making an unsubstantiated claim about waiting six months for medical treatment, Democratic State Auditor Claire McCaskill should have been dead in the water. But after running the even more shameful Michael J. Fox ad, McCaskill looks to have regained momentum. If she wins, you can bet that Democrats will repeat such cynical and disgusting tactics for years to come. Yet, it is still close, and Jim Talent may yet triumph. Unfortunately, he is under 50% in most of the polls, dangerous territory for an incumbent. Thus, I'm putting this down as a Democratic Gain.

Montana: While Democrat Jon Tester has led in almost every poll since April, Senator Conrad Burns has gained momentum in the last week, making the race suddenly very tight. One recent poll even shows a tie. However, Burns has never broken 50% in any poll this year, a very bad place to be as a Republican in a Democratic year. Burns's momentum may still help him prevail, but I'm betting on a Tester win. Democratic Gain.

New Jersey: Tom Kean, Jr. is still within striking distance here. A GOP pickup is possible -- but not likely. Bob Menendez has led in every poll but one (which was a tie) since mid-October. In most other states, Menendez would be reeling from corruption accusations. But for New Jersey voters, corruption is like a bowel movement. It stinks, but it is a daily occurrence that no one cares about. Democratic Hold.

Ohio: Picture in your mind a big airplane engulfed in flames taking a nosedive toward the ground. That is the Ohio GOP this year. And Senator Mike DeWine is a passenger. Sherrod Brown -- a.k.a. Howard Metzenbaum, Jr. -- will be the next Senator from Ohio. Democratic Gain.

Pennsylvania: Any Senator who has this exchange with Barbara Boxer over abortion deserves to be in the Senate in perpetuity. Unfortunately, Pennsylvania voters appear to disagree. While Rick Santorum was closing the gap in early October, his momentum stalled and he never restarted it. Bob Casey now leads by double digits in most polls, suggesting that his "non-entity" strategy was a smart one. Democratic Gain.

Rhode Island: A recent Mason-Dixon poll gave Republican-In-Name-Only Lincoln Chafee a one-point lead. My best guess is that it is a fluke, as every other poll since late August has shown Sheldon Whitehouse ahead. In terms of policy, Whitehouse's victory won't make a big difference. In terms of who controls the Senate, it will. Democratic Gain.

Tennessee: This is the GOP's one bright spot this year. After being neck-in-neck with Harold Ford, Jr. for most of the year, Mayor Bob Corker is peaking at the right time. He has been pulling away from Ford these last two weeks, with most polls showing Corker getting 50% or better of the vote. Republican Hold.

Virginia: As a Republican, you know your campaign has been ham-handed when your party is reduced to criticizing your Democratic opponent for not being feminist enough. Senator George Allen has done just about everything to lose this race, and recent polls suggest that he will. An amendment to the state constitution banning gay marriage may drive enough social conservatives to the polls to save Allen. But with Allen's terrible campaign and this being a good year for Democrats, the smart money is on Jim Webb. Democratic Gain.

Washington: Stick a fork in Mike McGavick. Senator Maria Cantwell wins this one going away. Democratic Hold.

Democrats 51, Republicans 49 -- can you say Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid? If that triggers your gag reflex, don't feel too bad. As I noted, Missouri, Montana, and Virginia are very hard to call, and if any one of them goes against my prediction, the GOP will hang on to the Senate.

Final thought: About two years ago it looked like the Republicans had an outside chance of getting a veto-proof 60 Senators. Now they are struggling just to maintain their majority. How disappointing.

David Hogberg is a writer living in the Washington area. He also hosts his own website, Hog Haven.

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David Hogberg is a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research.  Follow David Hogberg on Twitter.