There has been a lot of talk this year about the Democrats getting to 60 Senate Seats after this election. Here is what to watch for this evening.
First the Democrats should pick up four very easy Senate seats in Virginia, Colorado, New Mexico, and Alaska. While these should be easy wins, Alaska due to Ted Stevens conviction, three of the Senators being replaced are legendary Republicans. John Warner (VA), Ted Stevens (AK), and Pete Domenici (NM) were easy wins every six years for Republicans so losing these seats is a major power shift.
Those four seats take the Dems to 55 seats and are pretty much locked in my humble opinion unless something crazy happens in Alaska because of Palin being on the ticket,,, who said Stevens should resign.
The next three seats I think favor Dems and feel strongly that they will win against three incumbent Republicans.
- Jeanne Shaheen is up nearly 10 points on the RCP average against Senator John Sununu. I think Sununu is a good Senator but is stuck in the wrong election cycle and Shaheen is a former Governor and very good candidate.
- In Oregon, State House Speaker Jeff Merckley is up 5.3 points according to RCP averages against Gordon Smith. This is a seat Dems didn't think they had a good chance at and Merckley was not their first choice to run, but he should pull this one out on the coattails of Barack Obama who is up 15+ points in Oregon.
- The tightest of these three is in North Carolina where Elizabeth Dole is very surprisingly in trouble. Up until the past week I thought Dole would pull this race out, but with the Obama campaign Get Out the Vote Operation being so strong and a controversial TV ad that backfired it would be surprising if challenger Kay Hagan doesn't pull this one out.
So if these 7 seats go Democratic they will be at 58 seats and have there will be four races left to determine the outcome.
The Democrats have one seat that isn't locked down and that is in Louisiana where Senator Mary Landrieu is in a usual competitive race. The past 4 polls there have Landrieu up 17, 13, 10, and 19 and above 50% in all of them. Being above 50% is key because if she wins with 49% then she will have to compete in a runoff. But Landrieu should hold her seat for another term keeping a red southern Senate seat in the Democrat column.
So that leaves three races to really watch this evening. Two are in very red states that few thought would be in play.
- First though is the toughest race of the year in Minnesota with Al Franken and incumbent Norm Coleman. The parties and Senate Committees have poured more resources into this race that any other. I have long been a fan of Frankens humor, but never thought he had much of a chance to really win this seat. But with Obama looking very strong in Minnesota this should help Franken. This which has an independent third candidate polling over 15% will be a very close race decided late into this evening.
- Georgia. Six years ago Saxby Chambliss beat Max Cleland in a race most Democrats still are angry about. This year Democrats never thought they had a chance in as Georgia has skewed more red in the past 20 years. Chambliss has caught a lot of heat for supporting the bailout and challenger Jim Martin is within the margin of error in many polls. If the Atlanta turnout, particularly in the African American districts is 80-90% for Obama then Martin may be able to do one of two things. Either he could upset Chambliss, or force a runoff if Chambliss doesn't get to 50%.
- Kentucky. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is in serious trouble as I wrote last month. The Democrats followed my advice and Bill and Hillary Clinton made multiple trips to support challenger Bruce Lunsford who is within a couple points of the very powerful McConnell. Just as in Georgia the African American turnout could flip this seat. If in the West End of Louisville the turnout is huge Lunsford could shrink the lead of McConnell and win the race.
So how do I think it's going to go? I think Franken wins in Minnesota, Chambliss loses in Georgia, and that McConnell barely hangs onto his seat. I almost see a sweep, but since Obama had a very limited Kentucky effort I think that will save McConnell.
So that means the Dems will be at 60 seats and have to decide if they go to 59 by how they handle Joe Lieberman.
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
This is where surprises happen. The Dems will surely pick up seats in the area of 15-42 and have benefited from a slew of Republican retirements and stupidity from people like Michelle Bachman and Robin Hayes.
I think that John Murtha will survive in Pennsylvania for the Democrats and that overall they will pick up 33 seats. The one thing that can happen in the house unlike the Senate is a blindside and with an 80% turnout expected in some places there will be a few safe incumbents who are voted out of office tonight.
I can't name them, but I expect it will happen to both parties, but to a few more Republicans than Democrats.
While many people only get interested in Presidential politics I am a geek about the Congress and will be very interested to watch these returns come in to see how they effect both the Senate and Presidential campaign.
Come tomorrow sure I will look stupid once again!