Sunday, October 31, 2010

Fantasy Redux

Newly elected Republican Senators from Florida, Nevada, Washington, California and Illinois turn the Senate red. That was my fantasy election result in August.

OK, let's see how that is working out.

Florida shows Republican Rubio way ahead with "independent" Crist trailed by Meeks. Clintonian machinations to eject Democrat Meeks from the race to benefit Crist seem to have failed. Why anyone ever thought that Crist would siphon votes from Rubio, rather than Meeks is beyond me. Crist was exposed as a hypocrite interested solely in his political career by the very fact of his independent candidacy, so I have to wonder why anyone ever thought he would be a viable candidate. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to conclude that Rubio takes Florida.

In Illinois, Republican Kirk has a small lead on Democrat Giannoulias, but not beyond the margin of fraud. The formerly all-powerful Daly machine has not aged well, but its still out there. This one will turn on the get out the vote efforts where the Democrats probably have an edge. Still, Republicans in general are fired up like seldom before. I have doubts, but I think Kirk wins.

Nevada shows Republican Angle leading Democrat Reid but not by much (more than Kirk's lead in Illinois, but apparently more volatile), with the lead trading hands a couple of times in the last month or so. Angle was supposed to have no chance at all, and she's been ducking the press (never a good sign). This is too close to call based on the polls. Even so, I think Angle takes it, although that's probably less the product of educated guesswork than wishful thinking. Of course, the "careful what you wish for" gods are already scheming to make the odious Chuck Schumer leader of whatever Democrats remain in the Senate.

Washington is not only too close to call, its downright weird. First, the Democratic candidate, Patty "Osama bin Laden is building day care centers and hospitals, why aren't we" Murray is virtually tied with Republican Dino Rossi, the lead having traded hands back and forth six times over the course of six weeks, depending on what polls you look at. The weird part is most of the people who are going to vote already have, so each successive poll is less relevant to the outcome than the previous one.

The polls in California are tightening, and Real Clear Politics moved the state into the tossup column today because Democratic "Call me Senator" Boxer slipped to within 5% of Fiorina, the Republican candidate, on the "average of polls" method they use. California is probably a bridge too far for the Republican wave to reach. This is, after all, the state that appears to be poised to elect Governor Moonbeam Medfly.

That was the fantasy in August. It's worked out pretty well (two wins, one of which is solid, another wishful thinking win, one too close to call and one loss) but other things have changed.

First, I was assuming a Republican pick up in Delaware. Then Castle lost the primary to O'Donnell and, as pretty much everyone from Delaware predicted, O'Donnell is trailing Democrat Coons badly in the general election. The assumed pickup has become exceedingly unlikely. The predicted wins in Florida, Nevada and Illinois would, given that Delaware pickup, yield a slim Republican majority. Picking O'Donnell in the Delaware primary seems likely to prove costly.

Second, in August, West Virginia looked like a mortal lock for Democrat Manchin to succeed the late former Klansman and conscience of the Sentate Robert Byrd. Manchin lost the lead to Republican Raese, but has rebounded to a small lead by dissing Obama. Maybe Raese can eke out a win and cancel out the loss of Delaware.

Of course, if Murkowski wins her write in campaign in Alaska, there is no guarantee who she will caucus with. She is the protege of Mitch McConnell, but will be (quite reasonably) seriously pissed off at Republicans in general based on her primary loss to Miller.

Then things get really interesting. In a 51/49 Senate, do the Democrats try to entice someone to cross the aisle? If so, who? The obvious candidates are the ladies from Maine, Susan Collins and/or Olympia Snowe. Both have 2009 ratings of 48 from ACU. That's UP from 12 (12!) for Snowe and 20 for Collins in 2008.

If there is any poaching, it should be a bipartisan sport. Will it be? The Republicans had no answer to the defection of Jim Jeffords the last time around. If the Republicans fight back, who should they talk to? The names of Ben Nelson and Joe Liberman have both been mentioned. But Nelson voted for ObamaCare, which would make it tough for him to survive a Republican primary. Lieberman has already formally left (or been abandoned by) the Democrats, but his ACU rating is only 20 and his split was based on foreign policy, not domestic. Additionally, Connecticut is not generally kind to Republicans. Evan Bayh (Indiana, 2009 ACU rating 40) has presidential ambitions that probably rule out party switching. Lieberman is the most likely choice listed above. One long shot that I haven't seen spoken about anywhere else is Lautenberg of New Jersey, the last minute Democratic pinch hitter for the ethically tainted Robert Torrecelli in 2002. God knows Lautenberg won't defect to the Republicans, but he is presently the oldest Senator, having been born in 1924. What if he needs to be replaced? Chris Christie, New Jersey's governor, would almost certainly replace him with a solid conservative Republican.

Fantasies never really end, do they?

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