Sense of the Senate
A lot of the pundits are suggesting that the Democrats can take the six seats they need to regain control of the Senate. Here's the landscape as I see it.
Strong Dem: Pennsylvania and Ohio. It seems like the two Rust-Belt states have finally crapped out on Bushonomics and the war in Iraq. Sherrod Brown is running a straight populist campaign and pounding Sen. Mike DeWine on jobs and the economy, and Bob Casey simply has to mention the name Rick Santorum to get Pennsylvania voters on his side (even Atrios, who was not Casey's biggest supporter). Both candidates are helped by strong campaigns in the governor's races at the top of the ticket, as Ed Rendell and Ted Strickland appear to be cruising to victory. These races look real real good.
Likely Dem: Rhode Island. Lincoln Chafee, whose bewildered, out-of-it visage always reminds me of Norville Barnes from The Hudsucker Proxy ("You know, for kids!"), has tried vainly to run this race into the gutter but it doesn't appear to be working against former state Attorney General Sheldon Whitehouse.
"Eight years as a top law enforcement official in Rhode Island and not a single successful conviction of a public official," Chafee said during a debate Monday night with his Democratic challenger, Sheldon Whitehouse. "He's always looking after the power brokers and his own political career."
The attack left the former state attorney general seething. Chafee is "just making this stuff up entirely out of whole cloth," Whitehouse shot back. A similar onslaught knocked Stephen Laffey off course in the final weeks before the GOP primary, forcing the Cranston mayor to deny that he had taunted firefighters and doctored his résumé. Robert A. Weygand got a dose of nice-guy negativism in 2000, when Chafee accused the Democratic former congressman of "embroidering the truth" about the age of his dog.
What happened to the affable fellow who drives a hybrid and studied classics at Brown University? Well, his political career is on the line, and the gutter seems the best hope for salvation. Chafee has slogged through two tough campaigns this year, against a conservative primary opponent and now in the general election against Whitehouse. He survived the first round. Next week, polls suggest, he may not be so lucky.
The most brilliant ad Whitehouse made was the one he made saying how important it is to elect a Democratic Senate and saying "A vote for Chafee is a vote for Bush." In a state where Bush has a 22% approval rating, that's powerful.
Leaning Dem: Montana and Virginia. The national party is apparently freaking out about Montana, but polling and early voting shows a tight but measurable advantage for organic farmer Jon Tester over Sen. Conrad "Bush and I have a secret plan for Iraq but we're not telling you" Burns. In Virginia, Sen. George Allen seems to be in free fall, between the thuggish beating of Mike Stark incident and rumors that his campaign is out of money. Jim Webb is running a great campaign, and popular Democratic governors Mark Warner and Tim Kaine are surgically implanted at his side. Tester and Webb in the Senate would be great for the country, they are both men of intergrity and purpose. They were the first two candidates I gave money to this election season.
Toss-Up: Missouri. This race between Sen. Jim Talent and Claire McCaskill has been neck-and-neck for 6 months. It's almost exactly even, and control of the Senate could hang in the balance. I hope the stem cell research issue will help McCaskill, especially after the ugliness of the Michael J. Fox/Rush Limbaugh dust-up.
Hopeful: Tennessee and Arizona. Jim Pederson has seemingly come from nowhere and Harold Ford Jr. appears to be losing steam. I still believe that the miscegenation "Playboy party" ad hurt him and this country is not nearly over race as much as anyone thinks. Pederson I wrote about yesterday.
I don't think any Democratic-held seats are currently in trouble. I think New Jersey and Maryland will stay in Democratic hands.
So the projection is 5-6 seats, with hope for a miracle in Tennessee or Arizona pushing it up to 7. Historically in the Senate close races typically all go to one side or the other, as they reflect the national mood of the country (hard to gerrymander a whole state). The wildcard here, of course, is Connecticut. If Joe Lieberman holds control of the Senate in his hands I think he isn't to be trusted. He's bolted the party once and is holding it up for seniority; if the Republicans make a nice, fat offer I could see him switch parties. Ned Lamont, simply put, HAS to win. And I'd put his chances below Missouri but ahead of Tennessee. I got an email from someone on the ground there who had this to say:
I was talking to Tim (Tagaris, Lamont's online guy) and told him about a friend of mine who is no dummy and I
wouldn't really consider him a low information voter yet he was confused about the Lamont Lieberman thing. He thought lamont was the independent. so that of course got me off on this whole thing where now I'm convinced that all sorts of people are confused about that and Tim concurred and said he thinks Ned will get a lot of straight Dem voters who thought Joe was the Dem nominee and Alan (Schlesinger, the Republican nominee) will get a lot of straight Republican voters who thought Joe was their only option (especially as Alan is right next to (Republican Governor) Jodi Rell on the ballot.) and even my father today was like "that ballot position is pretty rough for Joe." Joe even has an ad about how to find him on the ballot.
Let's just say it involves a bloodhound.
Anecdotal but it does make sense, as Lieberman's run a low-information campaign designed to promote himself as the guy who saved the Naval base and works hard for the locals, and now he might get burned by the same low-information voters who punch the Democrat's name without even thinking.
I will not be doing this for all 435 House races.