Let’s start off this Monday with a positive note. It is all but certain that the GOP will gain Senate seats tomorrow. The only question is how many?
Barring the electoral upsets for all eternity, Barack Obama will win Illinois, changing that seat to the Democrats, and Johnny Isakson will gain Georgia for the Republicans. That leaves the Senate where it is today, with the GOP having a 51-49 advantage.
Here is a run down of the contested seats:
Alaska: The polls are sparse on this race, although they seem to give Democrat Tony Knowles a small edge. At first glance it seems that Frank Murkowski’s appointment of his daughter Lisa has brought her political career to an abrupt end. However, Knowles is a former governor of Alaska, so his name recognition is maxed out, and he can’t get above 48% in any of the polls. Plus, Bush will win Alaska by at least 20 points, suggesting he will have some coattails. My best guess is he will pull Murkowski across the finish line, albeit barely. REPUBLICAN HOLD.
Colorado: In mid-October beer tycoon Pete Coors seemed to be pulling into the lead. But since then Attorney General Ken Salazar has jumped ahead. In the last week the race has tightened, with Coors gaining some ground — can he make it? Probably not. Salazar will attract Hispanic voters whose numbers have increased in Colorado since 2000, and while Bush will likely win Colorado, it won’t be a large enough one to have any coattails. DEMOCRATIC GAIN.
Florida: The polls have this one as a squeaker. Democrat Betty Castor is neck-in-neck with Republican Mel Martinez. Martinez has managed to put Castor on the defensive with the “Sami Al-Arian” issue. Al-Arian is a former professor at the University of South Florida awaiting trail for his ties to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a terrorist organization. Castor failed to fire Al-Arian while she was president of the USF. Furthermore, Martinez will probably get huge Cuban support, since he himself is a Cuban refugee. Slight edge to Martinez. REPUBLICAN GAIN.
Kentucky: This is a bit of surprise, but recent polls show this race between incumbent GOP Senator Jim Bunning and Democrat “Dr.” Dan Mongiardo tightening. First, there are some questions about Bunning’s health. Second, the teachers unions are mad at GOP Governor Ernie Fletcher for (gasp!) making them pay for their health insurance and are hoping to take it out on Bunning. Not likely to happen. Mongiardo’s charge came too late, and Bush will carry Kentucky by 15 points at least, aiding Bunning. REPUBLICAN HOLD.
Louisiana: The only question in this race is whether GOP Representative David Vitter will hit the 50% + 1 mark, thereby avoiding the December run-off in Louisiana. Some recent polls have him very close. Louisiana is the only Southern state to have never elected a Republican senator, so the GOP is due. Vitter is a strong candidate and here’s betting that he will avoid a December race. REPUBLICAN GAIN.
North Carolina: In early September this was Erskine Bowles’ race to lose. It looks like he has lost it. He has maxed out his name recognition, and the best he can do in recent polls is 46%. His opponent, Richard Burr, is a solid candidate who has shored up the conservative base by trotting out former Senator Jessie Helms at some campaign stops. Stick a fork in Bowles. REPUBLICAN GAIN.
Oklahoma: This race was former GOP Rep. Tom Coburn’s to lose. Thanks to a loose lip, by early September he was dangerously close to doing just that. Apparently he’s figured out how to button it, and the last four polls show him taking a small lead over Democratic Rep. Brad Carson. Latest polls have Bush carrying Oklahoma by 30 points! If he has coattails any place, it will be the Sooner state. REPUBLICAN HOLD.
South Carolina: Republican Rep. Jim DeMint made this a close race by advocating a national sales tax. A mid-October poll showed Superintendent of Schools Inez Tenenbaum closing the gap to 3 points. But DeMint has recovered by emphasizing his anti-tax actions since he has been in Congress. Current polls show him opening up the lead again. REPUBLICAN GAIN.
South Dakota: The Republicans are about to put a huge scalp on their walls. Minority Leader Tom Daschle has not cracked 50% in any polls since mid-September. That’s very dangerous territory for an incumbent, especially one that has the stature that Daschle does in South Dakota. The latest polls show a lead for John Thune or a tiny lead for Daschle. Given that Bush will carry South Dakota by at least 14 points, Thune will win. REPUBLICAN GAIN.
Wisconsin: This one is barely worth mentioning except that one poll did show the race here tightening up a bit again. But it is too little too late, and it is too bad because Tim Michels would have made a good Senator. Russ Feingold will win this going away. DEMOCRATIC HOLD.
By my count, that is a pick up of four seats for the GOP. Whatever else happens Tuesday, the best the Democrats can hope for is a Kerry win. The House will be majority Republican, and the Senate even more so.
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