Archive for the '2010-general' Category

What remains on the table

The AP finally corrected its massive New Haven mistake, and Dan Malloy is now leading by 4,300 votes - a 12,000-vote swing since the AP’s evening numbers. With the remaining ten precincts all located in Bridgeport, Malloy looks in a good position to become Connecticut’s first Democratic Governor since 1991.

Tom Foley is threatening legal action due to polls remaining open late in parts of the state on Tuesday Night, so hopefully the chaos following AP’s mistake (which allowed Foley to suggest he was the rightful victor) will not unfairly delegitimize Malloy’s victory.

Connecticut’s turnaround means that Democrats are now in a position to sweep all four of the gubernatorial races that remained too close to call on Wednesday morning: Connecticut, Oregon, Illinois, Minnesota.

Oregon is already settled: The Governor’s race was called for John Kitzhaber last night. Just as in 2008, Portland reported late, putting the Democrat on top. Kitzhaber will have to deal with a divided government, however: The state House will be deadlocked at 30-30 and the state Senate might be deadlocked 15-15, though it will be 16-14 for Democrats if an incumbent’s 200-vote lead holds.

Illinois is quite a comeback story: Governor Pat Quinn has extended his lead to 20,000 votes - and all precincts are in. Provisional ballots remain to be counted, but most of them are reportedly in the Chicago area rather than downstate so it’s very hard to see how they allow Bill Brady pulls ahead. The race is close enough  for the Republican to ask for a recount, but 20,000 is a big margin to overcome.

The situation is similar in Minnesota: All precincts are now reporting, and Mark Dayton is clinging to a 9,000-vote lead. This is enough to trigger an automatic recount, but despite the parallels to the 2008 Senate race Dayton’s lead is 12 times larger than Norm Coleman’s was immediately after the election. The GOP can pursue its options, but Dayton supporters can breath easily.

With Oregon already under their belt, Democrats would limit the damage at the gubernatorial level if they hold on to their leads in and clinch Illinois, Minnesota and Connecticut. The GOP would then gain a net 5 governorships, which is certainly a large number but Republicans were hoping for gains approaching the 8-10 range. (That said, the GOP’s victory in Florida is a very big deal - and is by itself enough to offset any regret the party might have elsewhere.)

At the Senate level, two races remain have yet to be called: Washington and Alaska.

With ballots allowed to be postmarked on Election Day, Washington counts notoriously slowly. But Patty Murray currently leads by 28,000 votes and she is likely to keep that edge given the large number of ballots still to be counted in King County and given that she is more than meeting the benchmark she needed in that Democratic stronghold.

In Alaska, “write-in candidates” are leading Republican Joe Miller by 13,000 votes (41% to 34%), which seems like a big enough margin that Lisa Murkowski looks like the favorite going forward. Election officials will start going through write-in ballots next Wednesday, and Murkowski has to hope that no more than 13,000 of the 83,201 “write-in” ballots: (1) were cast for another write-in candidate, (2) misspelled her name so badly as to be invalidated.

If Murkowski prevails, four of the five most emblematic Tea Party candidates will have lost on Tuesday: Miller, Angle, Buck and O’Donnell. Only Rand Paul would have made it to the Senate. (You could argue Marco Rubio should count, but he really is far more of an establishment candidate than any of those I just mentioned.) However, the Tea Party scored a lot of juicy victories in House races, some of them in big upsets.

Republicans have already secured a net gain of 58 seats, but 10 House races are still uncalled: CA-11, CA-20, AZ-7, AZ-8, IL-8, KY-6, NY-25, TX-27, WA-2 and VA-11. (WA-9 was called for Democratic Rep. Adam Smith yesterday afternoon.) All are Democratic seats.

Democrats are currently trailing in 4:

  • TX-27: Rep. Solomon Ortiz is trailing by 800 votes in TX-27 with all precincts reporting, and media reports do not suggest the existence of large number of absentee or provisional ballots.
  • CA-20: Rep. Jim Costa is trailing by 17,000 1,700 with all precincts reporting, but a staggering number of provisional ballots remain to be counted - and most of them reportedly come from the counties that have favored Costa. KMPH reports that 98,000 provisional ballots have to be counted in Democratic Fresno and Kern Counties and just 500 in Republican Kings County! If those numbers are even remotely correct, Costa is favored to hold on.
  • NY-25: After leading by about 6,000 votes early Wednesday afternoon, Rep. Dan Maffei suddenly found himself trailing by 600 votes once the final precincts reported from a conservative county. Thousands of absentee ballots remain to be counted and count still change the outlook, with some reports suggesting that more come from the Maffei-friendly county. The race remains too close to call.
  • IL-8: In what would be the biggest upset of the year, Melissa Bean is trailing by 550 votes with all precincts reporting. But thousands of absentee ballots remain, and one paper calculates that Bean could pull it off if they break the way already counted absentee ballots do.

Democrats currently lead in 6:

  • CA-11: With all precincts reporting, Rep. Jerry McNerney is clinging to a 121-lead. With thousands of absentee ballots still to be counted, this could go either way.
  • AZ-7: Many provisional ballots remain, but it would be a surprise if Rep. Grijalva lost his 2% lead.
  • AZ-8: Rep. Giffords leads by 2,000 votes but a huge number of provisional ballots remain to be counted in unpredictable Pima County (47,000, to be exact!). It will probably take a while before we get a call here.
  • KY-6: Rep. Ben Chandler’s lead shrank to 600 votes, but all precincts are now reporting. We await the count of absentee ballots, but media reports suggest they should not be enough for Andy Barr to overtake Chandler’s lead.
  • WA-2: Only 70% of ballots have been counted, so it’s far too early to tell whether Rep. Larsen can keep his current 500-vote lead.
  • VA-11: With all ballots apparently counts, Rep. Gerry Connolly leads by slightly less than 1000 votes. We now move to a routine recanvass. Fimian could then ask for a recount, but if the recanvass doesn’t allow him to close the gap it will be hard to see Connolly going down.

That leaves us with down-ballot races, and while I am not going to go through all of them, two I am following are California’s Attorney General race and the New York state Senate.

In California, Democrat (and progressive-favorite) Kamala Harris seized a lead late on Tuesday night - but it has since been shrinking. With tens of thousands of absentee and provisional ballots remaining to be counted, she is up by about 8,000 votes. And in New York, the GOP will capture a 32-30 seat majority in the chamber if current leads hold, but three seats have yet to be called.

One last thing: Some of you might remember that back in the spring I was perplexed (to say the least) at the DSCC’s disdain towards Elaine Marshall. Given the political environment this fall, I certainly don’t think she could have won had she been treated differently. But I just wanted to point out that Marshall ended up running stronger than Robin Carnahan in Missouri, Paul Hodes in New Hampshire and Lee Fisher in Ohio.

Results thread, part 2: Dems suffer staggering losses in House and legislatives races, limit damage in statewide races

5:30pm: All is not lost for Melissa Bean in IL-8, but it might take a few days to know the final results in a district few people had on their list. (It’s one of three districts I listed as “likely Democratic” in which the GOP is leading.) She has closed the gap to 550 votes and 9000 absentee ballots remain; an extrapolation based on the absentee ballots already counted suggest she could survive. Another Democrat who looked to be in rough shape but could pull it out is Jerry McNerney in CA-11; with all precincts reporting, he is ahead by a small 121 votes so that race will be decided by the remaining absentee ballots.

Things are a bit more clear in other remaining House races: CA-20 has yet to be called, but Democratic Rep. Costa is trailing by 2% so it’s hard to see absentee ballots saving him. Rep. Grijalva has claimed victory in AZ-7. In AZ-8, Rep. Giffords is on top by 2000 votes but there are a lot of provisional ballots to be counted. In KY-6 and VA-11, Democrats Ben Chandler and Gerry Connolly are ahead by 600 votes and 1000 votes with all precincts reporting. And that leaves us with NY-25 and the Washington seats, where we’re just waiting for additional counts.

4:30pm: Let’s continue deciphering through the results. As I have already pointed out several times, the true site of the Democratic bloodbath is at the legislative level. Hundreds of Democratic seats flipped to Republicans, wiping off much of the party’s bench in many states. In New Hampshire, the Senate went from 14-10 Democratic to 19-5 Republican; the Assembly went from 222-176 Democratic to 296-104 Republican - just staggering losses. In the Michigan House, a 23-seat Democratic advantage became a 13-seat Republican advantage. In the Iowa House, a 13-seat Democratic advantage became a 22-seat Republican advantage.

In the Texas House, which Democrats once had some hope of picking-up, they collapsed from 73 seats out of 150 to about 50. In the Montana House, a 50-50 tie has been transformed into a 40-seat Republican advantage. In North Carolina, Republicans not only seized both chambers for the first time in 120-years, but they did so very decisively! In the Tennessee House, a 2-seat Republican edge is now a 31-seat Republican edge. In the Michigan Senate, Republicans now hold 71% of seats; in the Ohio Senate, 69% of seats! And the list goes on, with staggering Democratic losses in places like Minnesota (which I already mentioned), Wisconsin, Alabama, Arkansas and Pennsylvania.

Here again, California bucked the trend; both chambers remained pretty much stable. Democrats also appear to have saved endangered majorities in the Nevada Senate, the Colorado Senate and both chambers of the Washington legislature.

Democrats can also point to strong results in other down-ballot races, none more important than Kamala Harris’s apparent victory in the California Attorney General race. The San Francisco DA appears to have prevailed by about 15,000 votes (the race has yet to be called, but all precincts have reported). This means that California really was golden for Democrats in general, as they swept all statewide offices, but for progressives in particular. Eric Schneiderman clinched his victory last night, but he is another very bright spot for the left.

However, Richard Cordray and Dan Gelber’s defeats in Ohio and Florida’s Attorney General races are tough blows for Democrats; Cordray in particular had launched investigations into foreclosure fraud (he lost to former Senator Mike DeWine). Another victory for conservatives, this one in Iowa: They failed to get one of their own elected Attorney General in a fiercely contested race, but they managed to oust all three of Iowa Justices who were up for retention this year over their vote to legalize gay-marriage.

12:30pm: Dan Malloy will be the next Connecticut Governor, a comforting pick-up for Democrats who have been chasing this governorship since 1991! Malloy was the slight favorite through the fall but Foley mounted a late surge that nearly overtook the Stamford Mayor. Democrats will now have full control of state government, as they held on to their legislative majorities.

However, it’s becoming increasingly clear just how brutal Election Day was for Democrats at the state level. No result is more shocking than Minnesota: Democrats had a 87-47 majority in the state House and a 46-21 majority in the state Senate. They lost control of both, in what amounts to an unbelievable bloodbath of incumbents. (And yet, Democrat Mark Dayton is clinging to a 9,000 vote lead in the Governor’s race.) And it also looks like Democrats will lose control of the New York state Senate after all, which will be rough both in terms of state government and very importantly of redistricting. On the other hand, Democrats can look towards Hawaii, where they picked-up a state Senate to expand their majority to… 24-1!

11am: Good morning everyone! The dust is settling on last night’s bloodbath, but Democrats just got an important call in Colorado: The Denver Post project Senator Michael Bennet has won re-election, yet another remarkable save for the party given how brutal things got down-ballot. This means that some of the Tea Party’s most prized candidates (Sharron Angle, Ken Buck and Christine O’Donnell) went down last night; I doubt the GOP would have lost these races had these three candidates lost their primary. This leaves Washington as the sole Democratic-held seat left on the map, and at the moment Democrats look likely to prevail; that would leave the GOP at +6.

But on the gubernatorial front, the GOP just got one of their best results of the night: In what was one of Election Day’s biggest prizes, the Florida governorship went to Rick Scott. Alex Sink substantially outperformed compared to nearly all other Democrats in her state, but FL just sung too far to the right this year - as early voting patterns had already predicted. However, Florida voters also deprived Republicans of their gerrymandering power, which should be huge in 2012: Amendments 5 and 6 both passed with more than 60%, so politicians will now be bound by tight rules in drawing new maps. Florida has some of the most gerrymandered maps in the country, so this should bode well for Democrats improving their current share of 6 House seats out of the state’s 25…

Another gubernatorial pick-up the GOP just secured: Maine, which elected a staunch conservative in a 3-way race (Paul LePage). Democrats do have some good news to celebrate at the Governor’s level, however: Peter Shumlin will be the next Governor of Vermont, while Mark Dayton and Pat Quinn are holding on in Minnesota and Illinois - the latter being one of the night’s most stunning survivors. In Connecticut, Democrat Dan Malloy trailed all night but he has now taken a small lead over Tom Foley; that would be an important pick-up for the party. Oregon remains close.

At the House level, MI-9 has been called for Democrats, and I can’t imagine AZ-7 and AZ-8 won’t be called soon either. Rep. Gerry Connolly held on as the final VA-11 precincts were counted, but this could go to a recount; but Rep. Costa, who led when I went to bed last night, is now trailing in CA-20 by 700 votes. In CA-11, Rep. Jerry McNerney is ahead by 121 votes with all precincts counted; this should go to absentee ballots and probably a recount.

4:50am: This will be my final update for the night. And I don’t need to tell you how brutal this was for Democrats: A House swing of about 60 seats was an unthinkable outcome just a year ago - and as I point out below it is still plausible that the final number approach the 70-seat mark for the GOP!

There are some silver-lining for House Democrats, starting with the fact that the biggest losers seem to be Blue Dog incumbents; also, the many House districts they had grown worried about that they saved (all the Massachusetts, Iowa and Maine districts). And Democrats looking for consolation would do best to look at the Senate, where Harry Reid’s unlikely victory and Michael Bennet and Patty Murray’s competitive showing means that the GOP might be held to a gain of 6 seats - a showing that is at the lower-end of what was the range of realistic outcomes. (Both CO and WA remain too close to call, however.) That said, Democrats will only control 52-53 Senate seats next year, a far tougher proposition than the 111th Congress’s 59. And Joe Sestak and Alexi Giannoulias’s close losses have to depress Democrats.

But it is at the local level that the GOP has the most to celebrate. Here, it really was a bloodbath. Just take a look at the Minnesota House: Democrats had a 87-47 majority going in, but Republicans seized control of the chamber! The same thing happened in Michigan’s House. The GOP also has full control of the North Carolina legislature for the first time in 120 years; they picked-up both chambers of Wisconsin and New Hampshire’s legislature. In Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana, they seized the state House to complement their already existing Senate majority. And contrary to what I wrote earlier, it does look like the GOP captured the narrowest of majorities in the New York Senate. This will mean Republicans will have a lot of latitude to implement policies at the state level, not to mention they’ll have control over redistricting in a lot of states.

Also: Longtime Rep. Jim Oberstar has fallen in MN-8, so make that +59 for the GOP and another depressing loss for Democrats.

And one last comment: If Democrats had to pick just one state in which to do uncharacteristically well in (in fact, sweep most everything), they would probably have to choose California. And that’s what has happened.

4:30am: A recap of what’s left uncounted:

  • Senate: Republicans stand at +6. Colorado and Washington are outstanding, and Democrats are at this hour optimistic they will hold both. That said, there is still a long way to go in Washington and Ken Buck is still 9000 votes ahead in Colorado - a margin Democrats are hopeful they can overcome since Denver and Boulder are underreporting. Alaska has also not been called, but Scott McAdams is out of the running so the race will remain in GOP hand; we might not know for weeks whether Lisa Murkowski or Joe Miller win the race.
  • House: Republicans stand at +58. (I shouldn’t have put KY-6 and IL-8 in the Democratic and GOP column, respectively, so I pulled them back.) The following House races are still uncalled: AZ-7, AZ-8, MI-9, VA-11, WA-9, NY-25, and KY-6 (where Democrats are currently ahead); IL-8 and MN-8 (where Republicans are currently ahead); and CA-11, CA-20 and WA-2, where things are pretty much tied. So we’re talking about a wave that could still go as high as +70!
  • Governor: Democrats holding on to an unlikely 9000-vote lead in Illinois and a more expected 9000-vote lead in Minnesota; they are also slightly ahead in Vermont. Republicans, meanwhile, remain ahead in Florida, Connecticut and Oregon. Each of these races could still turn around. Connecticut, for instance: Only 26% of New Haven and none of Bridgeport has reported, which could be enough for Dan Malloy to close the 11,000 vote gap.

4am: California is a bright spot for the left tonight. First, voters elected Democrats in all but one of the statewide races; that one race is the Attorney General contest, which is too close to call. Second, they rejected Proposition 23, which would have suspended the state’s law aimed at battling global warming. Third, they passed Proposition 25, which allows the budget to be passed by a majority-vote rather than a 2/3rds-vote. This enhances the powers of state Democrats; and given that the party will also control the Governor’s Mansion thanks to Jerry Brown’s victory, this should change the tenor of California’s fiscal debates over the next few years.

3:55am: Make it +59, as Rep. Walt Minnick has been defeated by Raul Labrador in ID-1. This is just a brutal district for Democrats, but Labrador had been almost entirely abandoned by Republicans so this has to be considered an upset victory for the GOP.

3:50am: Coleen Hanabusa has picked-up Hawaii’s 1st District from GOP Rep. Charles Djou. This is Democrats’ third-pick of the night (really, Dan Seals, really?). And that will be it for them, since CA-3 was just called for GOP Rep. Lungren despite Bera’s surprisingly strong challenge. My count now leaves the GOP at +57 in the House, with 10 Dem-held districts still up in the air.

3:40am: Dan Malloy trails by 25,000 votes in Connecticut’s gubernatorial race after a late surge by Republican Tom Foley that had been picked-up over the past week-end. His hope: Bridgeport hasn’t reported anything, which will close the gap, but he will need more. Can he find it? The situation is similar in Florida, where Alex Sink still trails by 55,000 votes as state officials have apparently decided to stop counting for the night.

3:25am: Of the 11 important House races that have yet to be called. Democrats are at the moment slightly ahead in AZ-7, AZ-8, HI-1, MI-9, VA-11 and WA-9. Republicans are slightly ahead in ID-1 and MN-8. CA-11, CA-20 and WA-2 are just very very close at the moment.

3:25am: Ken Buck’s lead has collapsed to 700 votes in Colorado, and there’s still a long way to go. If Democrats pull off that race and also win Washington, where they’re feeling confident, they’ll have managed to hold their losses in the upper-chamber to just 6 seats - the lower-end of realistic outcomes. That would be a surprisingly good result given that the House landscape was far more brutal.

3:10am: By my count, Republicans have clinched 61 Democratic-held House seats at this point while losing 2, putting them at a net +58. Also by my count, the result in 11 races (one of them held by the GOP) remains up in the air: CA-11, CA-20, AZ-7, AZ-8, HI-1, ID-1, IL-8, MI-9, MN-8, VA-11, WA-2. (KY-6, CA-47, NY-25, WA-9 have not been called yet, but Democratic incumbents look like they’ve hang on.) That means the GOP’s upper-limit at this point is a staggering +68! I might have forgotten districts, however.

2:50am: With all precincts reporting, Rep. Dina Titus is trailing by 2000 votes in NV-3, another tough loss for Democrats. The formidable Harry Reid machine was not enough to pull her across the finish-line… In better news for Democrats, Rep. Jim Matheson held on in UT-2 thanks to the late counting of the Salt Lake votes.

Also: I apologize for dropping the ball on keeping an overall look of the House, I will try to pull that together soon so we know where we stand more clearly.

2:40am: If this holds, it would be an important save for Democrats - one I am surprised they managed given how rough things got for New York’s House incumbents: It appears that the New York state Senate will remain in Democratic hands, as both parties picked-up two seats. Two Democratic-held seats have yet to be called, but one has finished counting and the GOP would have to win both to secure control. For Democrats to take full control of state government would mean the ability to draw the new legislative and congressional maps, which would put freshmen Republican House members on the defensive.

2:30am: I admit I underestimated Pat Quinn’s survival skills, as the Illinois Governor is hanging on by 8000 votes with 93% reporting. Two more very tight Democratic leads in Vermont and Minnesota. And a fourth gubernatorial race that has yet to be called is Florida, where Rick Scott has a 55,000 vote lead; but Democratic counties are underreporting. We’ve stuck at 89% reporting for at least an hour, however.

2:20am: Oregon joins Massachusetts in saving all of its vulnerable Democrats, with OR-5 the last to be called. The gubernatorial race is too close to call: Republican Dudley is leading 50-48, but Multnomah County (Portland) is underreporting.

2:15am: Rep. John Salazar goes down in CO-3. He had picked-up this red-leaning seat in 2004, another tough year for his party, so Democrats were hoping he could outperform yet again. Also in Colorado, Republicans captured a majority of the state House. And yet, Michael Bennet isn’t out of it - far from it: The Senator trails by 9,000 votes with 80% of ballots reporting, but Boulder and Denver are both underreporting.

Democrats can still hope to hold the GOP at a relatively disappointing 6-seat Senate gain, but they’ll have to win both Colorado and Washington.

2:10am: While we weren’t looking, IN-2 was called for Rep. Joe Donnelly and NM-1 was called for Martin Heinrich, both important saves for Democrats. Also, Rep. Carnahan barely survived in MO-5; he wasn’t expected to lose, but given how rough Missouri turned out to be for Democrats, they should be relieved he hang on. In ot

her races we were following early in the night, Rep. Chandler is hanging on by 600 votes in KY-6 (99% reporting) and Rep. Connolly is hanging on by 500 votes in VA-11 (99% reporting). Both races should go into overtime, with a fair amount of absentee ballots to be counted in VA-11.

2am: Note that New York Democrats are now saying that they will keep the New York Senate. I’ll try to look at the race-by-race picture now; if true, it would be an important save for Democrats, who would be able to gerrymander the state map to take out some of the 5 Republicans who were just elected to the House tonight. Speaking of New York, Rep. Tom Bishop has been called the winner in NY-1; Rep. Dan Maffei appears like he’ll survive in NY-25.

1:55am: If you thought the House was brutal for Democrats, the state legislatures are just a bloodbath. The GOP has seized control only of chambers that looked well within its reach (the Ohio House, the Indiana House and the Pennsylvania House, both chambers of the New Hampshire ), but also of chambers that looked like probable Democratic holds: the Michigan House, both chambers of the North Carolina legislature. The GOP will also control both chambers of the Wisconsin legislature, giving them full control of that’s state government given Scott Walker’s election to the Governor’s Mansion.

1:50am: Here’s a nice victory for Democrats: Neil Abercrombie will the next Hawaii Governor. In HI-1, Coleen Hanabusa has the early lead against GOP Rep. Charles Djou in what would be just the third pick-up for Democrats (oh Dan Seals…)

1:40am: Who knew places like Georgia and North Carolina would be so much more kind to Democrats than New York or Pennsylvania? I just noticed that Rep. Bishop has pulled ahead by 2% in GA-2 after trailing for much of the night; Rep. Barrow defended GA-12. That means conservative Rep. Marshall is the night’s only Georgia loser - that’s one loss Democrats can live with. But the GOP can smile in the gubernatorial race. While it was clear Nathan Deal was the favored going into Election Day, it looked like he might miss the 50% threshold to avoid a runoff; he easily cleared it, and he will be the next Georgia Governor. Democrats once were hopeful about this race.

1:25am: Democrats have now lost two seats in Arizona, with Rep. Mitchell losing re-election in AZ-5. However, Democrats are holding on to narrow leads in AZ-7 and AZ-8, which would both be important saves for the party; the night isn’t over there, however. And Democrats can also be relieved for having saved CA-18… though a lot of California races remain on the table: CA-20, CA-11 and CA-47.

1:20am: Democrats are holding on to small leads in Minnesota and Vermont’s gubernatorial races. But a lot of ballots remain to be counted, and Mark Dayton’s Minnesota lead seems particularly tenuous to me as GOP-leaning districts seem to have undercounted their votes. Florida also remains on the table, as Alex Sink has narrowed Rick Scott’s lead to less than 60,000 votes.

1:10am: Rep. Bill Owens saves his seat in NY-23, even though Rep. Scott Murphy loses in NY-20. I would have expected it to be the other way around. I believe this means that the GOP has netted five seats in NY so far (NY-13, NY-19, NY-20, NY-24, NY-29), and they are still in the hunt in NY-1 and NY-25. Democratic incumbents are narrowly in the lead in both. And in IL-8, Rep. Melissa Bean now trails by just 700 votes; the remaining precincts are in Democratic-leaning territory, but there just aren’t a lot left.

1am: Rep. Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin loses re-election to Kristi Noem in SD-AL, which is among the most important results of the night. The race had long looked like a toss-up, and Democrats will have to move quickly to find out who they’ll be able to run for Senate in 2014 when Tim Johnson probably retires. Republicans have also picked-up open WV-1 , though Democrats should not too sad about this race since their nominee Oliverio had shown signs that he would consider a party switch.

11:55am: Rep. Steve Kagen has fallen in WI-8 and the GOP picked-up the open WI-7 - these two were expected. But here are a Democratic incumbents who survived tough battles and can go on to fight another day: Rep. Ron Kind in WI-3, Rep. Peterson in MN-3, Rep. Peter DeFazio in OR-4, Rep. David Wu in OR-1, Rep. Carolyn McCarthy in NY-4.

11:50am: Reps. Bobby Bright and Mike McMahon lose AL-02 and NY-13, respectively, in what continues to be an unthinkably large GOP tsunami. Note that with Bright’s loss, the Blue Dog Caucus’s most conservative wing has really been decimated; Marshall, Bright, Taylor, Boyd… Who remains besides Dan Boren? In other dismal news for Republicans, Ken Buck has taken a 3% lead in Colorado’s Senate race.

11:47am: Republicans pick-up AZ-1, MI-7 and open NH-02. The latter two races had looked like they were trending Democrats’ way in recent weeks. Democrats are catching very few breaks at the House level, and most of what had looked like toss-ups is going against them.

11:40am: Harry Reid’s victory has been confirmed by the AP and NBC News. It is truly incredible that an incumbent so unpopular was able to win re-election in what has to be one of the most atrocious nights for his party in modern history. And speaking of Democratic survivors, longest-serving congressman Rep. Dingell managed to pull himself across the finish-line in MI-15 and Martin Heinrich is holding on in NM-1.

11:32am: Democrats are scoring victories here and there, but overall it’s hard to know which disaster to highlight. Rep. Melissa Bean is trailing in IL-8; Rep. Solomon Ortiz is trailing in TX-27; Rep. Grijalva is in a tight race in AZ-7. We really shouldn’t be talking about any of these races.

11:30am: Fox calls Harry Reid the victor in Nevada’s Senate race. Wow. Just wow. If this holds, what a save by the Majority Leader. If I had told you a year ago that Democrats would have an atrocious Election Day, who would have imagined Reid would be among the survivors? If Fox’s call holds, this would be as important a save as any for Democrats.

11:25am: Dan Seals has lost IL-10 for the third time in a row. Remind me again why Democrats thought it’d be a good idea to nominate him again? This was as winnable a seat as any Democrats had this year, just brutal that they lost it. Even more brutal: Rep. Melissa Bean is now trailing in IL-8. I had left this race on my chart as “likely Democratic,” and it would be a big big upset.

11:25am: Illinois’s Senate seat has been called for Republican Mark Kirk, yet another brutal loss for Democrats. Republicans have now captured 6 Democratic seats, and all eyes turn to Nevada, Colorado and Washington. While Democratic incumbents are leading in all three at the moment, the same was true in Illinois and Pennsylvania just a few hours ago. This is really a big loss for the party; Joe Sestak might have been the clear underdog, but Democrats had hope Giannoulias would prevail due to Illinois’s clear Democratic leanings.

12:20am: Due to bizarre technical issues, I am no longer able to update my original results thread - so I have moved the party here.

Election Night results thread: Rep. Boucher’s fall first surprise of the night

11pm: Reps. Ed Perlmutter, Jim Himes and Chris Murphy survive in CO-7, CT-4 and CT-5 - all of them good saves for Democrats. The party is headed towards gigantic House losses, so it’s hard to believe things could have been worse. But it could have.

11pm: Rep. John Hall and Rep. Michael Arcuri are the latest Democrats to lose, in NY-19 and NY-24. Two very tough losses for the party - especially Arcuri, who looked to be doing better than some of his colleagues. Democrats also lost NY-29, which was expected. Democrats are also on their way to losing many other seats in the state. That’s relatively surprising because they just scored a major victory in a statewide race: Eric Schneiderman will be the state’s next Attorney General, a big win not only for Democrats but for progressives.

11:55pm: Rep. Carol Shea-Porter has lost her re-election race in NH-1, four years after winning it in the most stunning of upsets. She also pulled a comeback in 2008, but this unconventional politician couldn’t pull off three in a row. Democrats are also down in NH-2, but they haven’t lost all hope yet. Democrats did win a key race in Massachusetts, however: Republicans were very hopeful about open MA-10, but Democrats ended up keeping that seat.

11:50pm: Two hugs wins for Republicans as Pat Toomey wins Pennsylvania’s Senate race and John Kasich wins Ohio’s gubernatorial race. Both men were slight favorites going into Election Day, but early returns had made Democrats hopeful. I don’t need to tell you why these races are important. Toomey is the 5th Republican pick-up in the Senate.

11:45pm: Allen West picks-up FL-22. I realize this had been a toss-up for months, but given his background his victory is one of the most stunning of the cycle. In better news for Democrats, Rep. Tim Walz has survived what may be one of his toughest re-election battles.

11:40pm: The tough losses keep accumulating for Democrats. Losing Ike Skelton in MO-4, for instance, is brutal - and yet another huge pick-up for the GOP. Another major result occurred in MS-4, where longtime Rep. Gene Taylor lost his re-election race. Few would have expected this to be possible as of September. This means that some of the most conservative House Democrats have gone down (Taylor, Marshall, Boyd, Childers).

11:35pm: Another state that is remaining friendly to Democrats is Oregon, where all incumbents are leading at the moment. In fact, Kurt Schrader has been called the winner in OR-5, which looked like the weakest Democratic seat. SUSA even had him trailing by 10% two weeks ago.

11:30pm: Democrats keep all of their Iowa House seats, namely IA-1, IA-2 and IA-3. The GOP was particularly optimistic about IA-2, but had also spent a lot of money at Rep. Braley in IA-1; and Rep. Boswell in IA-3 is always an underperformer, so this is good for Democrats. However, Republican Terry Branstad will be the state’s next Governor.

11:25pm: As you would expect, the GOP wave is extending down-ballot. It’s hard to know where to turn given how much bad news is accumulating for Democrats at this point, but here are a few major developments: (1) the Michigan House switched to the GOP despite the fact that Democrats had a 67-43 lead going in. (2) All three Iowa Justices who were up for retention are currently trailing. (3) Republicans won Ohio’s race for Secretary of State, a key contest. A bright spot for Democrats: Amendments 5 and 6 are above 60% at the moment in Florida, which could mean that redistricting is taken out of the GOP’s hand.

11:15pm: The California respite aside, the Republican tsunami continues: Open AR-2 has been called for the GOP, as has OH-1, where Rep. Steve Driehaus lost re-election. But here’s a big disappointment for Democrats: Bill Foster lost his re-election race in IL-14. Speaking of Illinois, Alexi Giannoulias’s early lead has evaporated as the Democrat now trails by 2% against Mark Kirk in the Senate race with 84% reporting; but Pat Quinn is still hanging on. Democrats should take what they get at this point.

11:10pm: Barbara Boxer and Jerry Brown have won crucial victories in California, in two races that should go a long way towards comforting depressed Democrats. This means Democrats will keep control of the U.S. Senate, no matter what happens in every still-uncalled race. In races I did not mention earlier because there were absolutely not competitive, Senators Ron Wyden and David Vitter won re-election in Oregon and Louisiana.

10:57pm: RI-1, ME-1, ME-2 and CT-4: Here are some crucial saves for Democrats. David Cicilline saves himself in RI-1 and becomes the fourth openly gay politician elected to Congress; last-minute polls showed a tightening race. Rep. Jim Himes wins re-election in CT-4. And both of Maine’s incumbents held on, key saves given Democrats had grown very worried in the last two weeks.

10:53pm: The situation is growing very critical for House Democrats: Reps. Patrick Murphy (PA-8), John Spratt (SC-5), Zach Space (OH-18) and Boccieri (OH-16) are all ousted. OH-16 was expected, but the first three were toss-up races - the type of races Democrats are losing massively. Patrick Murphy was considered a rising Democratic star, and Spratt is a longtime veteran. Just tough losses. At least Democrats are saving those seats they need to win to avoid a 85+-seat debacle; places like MO-5 and PA-17

10:50pm: Democrats were growing optimistic about the Senate, but they might have been smiling too soon. Alexi Giannoulias and Joe Sestak are narrowly trailing in two crucial races, albeit narrowly. The situation remains unclear in Colorado, while Michael Bennet leads by 5% in Colorado with 44% reporting.

10:42pm: Another tough loss for Democrats is Rep. Earl Pomeroy, this one in ND-AL. But the party scored a pick-up in heavily Democratic LA-02. Rep. Cao’s short tenure is over, as had been expected within an hour of his 2008 shocker.

10:37pm: Did I say Illinois and Ohio were rough for Democrats? Just look at Pennsylvania. I already said PA-10 and PA-11 have been called for the GOP, and so has PA-3 at this point. Republicans are also ahead in PA-8 and PA-7, and are trailing by just 2% in PA-4 and PA-12. Could they lose seven seats in the state? And while Joe Sestak is performing surprisingly well, he is now up by 7,000 votes with 75% votes reporting.

10:35pm: Three House incumbents just went down in key districts Dems were hoping to win: Travis Childrers out in MS-1, Frank Kravotil out in MD-1, and Carney in PA-10. The worst news of the three is the latter, as Democrats were hoping Carney could hold on and public polls had shown a dead heat. MS-1 and MD-1 are less surprising, but Democrats spent a fair amount of money in both. The night is rough for Democrats.

10:30pm: Nikki Haley and John Hickenlooper will be next Governors of South Carolina and Colorado. Two key holds for Republicans and Democrats, respectively. Democrats had grown hopeful about South Carolina, and Republicans about Colorado. But the dynamics of each race were just too tough for Shaheen in SC and Tancredo in CO.

10:28pm: Ohio and Illinois are a disaster zone for House Democrats. They are trailing in OH-1, OH-06, OH-15, OH-16 and OH-18; and in IL-10, IL-11, IL-14 and IL-17. Just brutal. At least, Democrats defended OH-13, which they were once worried about, but Dan Seals’s deficit in IL-10 is just stunning. If he goes down, can Democrats stop nominating him to this seat? This would be his third consecutive defeat. These two states alone could mean huge losses for House Democrats.

10:23pm: Rep. McIntyre survives in NC-7, a rare Republicans had grown increasingly interested in. That leaves NC-2 as the sole seat Republicans could pick-up in the state, and Bob Etheridge has pulled ahead after trailing; the race remains very tight, however. I would not have expected NC-2 to be the tightest district in the state. Another Democratic save: Rep. Rush Holt in NJ-12.

10:20pm: The night is not going well for Blue Dogs, as one of the House’s most conservative members (Rep. Jim Marshall of GA-8) lost his re-election race. The race had shifted to “lean GOP” in the final stretch, but this is still a big get for Republicans. More worrisome for Democrats is GA-2, where Rep. Bishop is losing by 10% with two-thirds of the vote reporting.

10:15pm: Senator Russ Feingold has lost his re-election race in Wisconsin. That sentence would have been shocking 5 months ago, but came to be expected in October. In any case, it now puts Republicans at +4 in the Senate - but it remains to be seen how much higher they can go, with exit polls showing small (very small) Democratic edges in Colorado and Nevada, and with Giannoulias and Sestak running very competitively in Illinois and Pennsylvania.

10:10pm: Win one, lose one. Rep. Paul Kanjorski loses his seat in PA-11, but Rep. Larry Kissell survives in NC-8. But so much for my repeating that North Carolina is going comparatively well for Democrats: Republicans unexpectedly picked-up BOTH chambers of the state legislature - a 120-year first! That’s big.

10:05pm: The next Pennsylvania Governor will be a Republican, as the race is called for Tom Corbett. He managed to run ahead through the year, a big achievement considering Pennsylvania is a tough state for the GOP - as we’re seeing in the Senate race, which is amazingly close.

10pm: MI-1, which had been left open by Bart Stupak, was called for Republicans. A tough loss for Democrats, who had grown hopeful they could save the day in this district after a series of polls showed Republican Dan Benishek failing to pull ahead. In two races we’ve been following for hours, Rep. Chandler and Rep. Donnolly are holding on by about 1000 votes with 98% and 99% reporting; no call yet.

9:55pm: I forgot to point it earlier considering how unsuspenseful the race has gotten, but Andrew Cuomo will be the next New York Governor. Carl Paladino didn’t pull off another shocker.

9:50pm: A major relief for Democrats as Deval Patrick won re-election in Massachussetts. He held a consistent lead for months, but a very narrow one. Also: Martha Coakley won re-election as Attorney General, remember her? In fact, Massachusetts as a whole is going well for Democrats. Despite fear they’ll suffer upsets left and right, all their incumbents are now comfortably ahead. MA-10 remains close, but the Democratic candidate is up 47% to 42% with nearly half reporting.

9:45pm: Rep. Heath Shuler wins re-election in NC-11, confirming that this is one state in which Democrats are saving face. In KY-6, 98% is now counted - and Rep. Chandler is up by less than 1000 votes. Another Democratic save: IL-12, which has been called for Rep. Costello.

9:40pm: Rep. Lincoln Davis loses in TN-4, a very tough loss for Democrats considering they were not worried about this race until a few weeks ago. Another tough news for Democrats: Dan Seals is trailing by 4% in IL-10 with 80% of the votes reporting.

9:35pm: Gerry Connolly has pulled narrowly ahead in VA-11, a race Democrats really should want to win at this point given their losses elsewhere in Virginia. On the other hand, the key open seat PA-7 is looking good for Republicans.

9:25pm: Another Democratic loser is Rep. Boyd in FL-2. Democrats thought they’d win this seat back in the spring, but FL-2 had moved to the lean Republican column this fall; he was the sole Democrat to support Bush’s Social Security reform back in 2005, so this is mostly a hit for the Blue Dog Coalition. But here’s a great hold for Democrats in general and progressives in particular: Barney Frank survives in MA-4!

9:20pm: Gerry Connolly could still save himself in VA-11, as he has pulled within 200 votes despite Fairfax County underreporting. Things are going terribly for Rep. Shea-Porter in NH-1, however: She’s down 16% with 20% of the vote in; that’s not a big surprise, as Democrats had moved their hopes to defending NH-2, where it’s currently a 2% race.

9:15pm: Maryland Governor O’Malley has won re-election, a race that Democrats were once worried about. Ohio has become very interesting: Ted Strickland is leading by 1,200 votes with 30% of precincts reporting! In Florida, things are looking very tough for Democrats in what would be a crushing defeat: Rick Scott leads by 5% with more than half of votes reporting.

9:05pm: Glenn Nye loses re-election in VA-2, which means Democrats have now lost three seats in that state. All they can now hope for is to survive in VA-11. Also, Rep. Sutton is now ahead in OH-13, which is a relief for Democrats considering they had given up worrying on the race once the Republican had been hit by sexual harassment suits. Interestingly, the party is holding on in North Carolina: All Democratic incumbents are currently holding, though Reps. Shuler and Etheridge’s leads are tight.

9pm: Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer win re-election in New York. No surprise, but once upon a time Democrats were worried about Gillibrand’s chances. Another interesting race we’re keeping track on: Rep. Chandler is holding on by 1,000 votes in KY-6 with 95% reporting.

8:57pm: Another tough loss for Democrats is VA-5, where Tom Perriello loses his seat to Robert Hurt. The seat was long rated “lean Republican,” but Democrats had been increasingly optimistic about their chances. Republicans are also looking in great shape in VA-2 and are leading in VA-11. A very rough night for Virginia Democrats.

8:55pm: A big loss for Democrats, as Rep. Baron Hill goes down in IN-9. The seat was pretty much the definition of a toss-up going into Election Day.

8:50pm: Believe it or not, but Rep. David Price is narrowly trailing in NC-4. He should win since Durham County has barely reported, but his big deficit in Wake County is a big warning sign for Democrats. Interestingly, the party is doing well in most other state districts: Incumbents are leading in NC-2, NC-7 and NC-8 at the moment.

8:45pm: Alan Grayson has lost his seat in FL-8, an important pick-up for the GOP albeit one that had come to be expected in the final weeks. Two very tight races right now are WV-1 and NC-11, with the Democratic candidates narrowly trailing at the moment.

8:33pm: Big, big, big save for Democrats: Joe Manchin wins West Virginia’s Senate seat and most probably ensures Democrats hold the Senate. Two other calls form Southern states: Blanche Lincoln loses her seat in Arkansas (as expected) and Richard Burr wins re-election in North Carolina.

West Virginia was one of four key Senate battlegrounds throughout October, and there was a point in September at which John Raese looked to be inching decisively away; but Manchin’s victory means Republicans need to win Washington and California to get the Senate - and that looks unlikely, to say the least.

8:28pm: A huge victory for the GOP in VA-9, where Rep. Boucher fell. This is the first semi-surprise of the night, and the clearest sign yet that this will be a rough night for Democrats.

8:25pm: Connecticut’s Senate race called for Dick Blumenthal. This is no surprise, but still a relief for Democrats to avoid a bad surprise here.

8:22pm: The GOP scores its first pick-up as FL-24 is called for Sandy Adams. I had rated the race “likely Republican” and this was one of the first districts to look like a GOP pick-up this fall, so no surprise for now. Meanwhile in KY-6, Chandler’s lead has shrank to just 500 votes…

8:20pm: Contradictory signs out of Ohio. On the one hand, Ted Strickland is competitive; he leads by 4% with about 10% of precincts reporting. But Democrats are facing the prospect of heavy losses at the House level: It might still be early, but Rep. Sutton is trailing for now against Tom Ganley, the Republican who had been hit by two sexual harassment suits… Not the type of district Democrats want to be worrying about tonight. Democrats also trail in OH-1, OH-16 and OH-18.

8:08pm: Democratic Rep. Joe Donnelly is now ahead in IN-2 as his counties start reporting; but KY-6 has tightened with Ben Chandler now leading by just 2% in KY-6 with 71% reporting. Virginia still looks rough for Democrats, with Rep. Boucher trailing by 6% and not performing at the level he needs to be. Another interesting House result: With nearly a third of votes reporting, high-profile Democratic Rep. Allan Grayson trails by a massive 20% in FL-8. In crucial FL-22, Allen West leads by 10% among early votes - a worrisome sign for Democrats.

8:05pm: Two races go Democrats’ way: Governor Lynch survives in New Hampshire and John Carney picks-up the GOP-held DE-AL. The party was favored in both, but they were growing worried about Lynch’s situation in NH as some polls had found a tightening race.

8pm: Major Senate calls in Florida, New Hampshire and Delaware - albeit none of them surprising: Marco Rubio, Kelly Ayotte and Chris Coons will be joining the Senate. The first two races were once expected to be highly competitive but the GOP put them away months ago; and Delaware was a sure loss until O’Donnell’s September primary victory.

7:55pm: With 54,000 votes already counted in NC-4, Rep. David Price trails by 33 votes in NC-4; that’s Durham, in absolutely no way a district Democrats can afford to be competitive. Another worrisome sign for Democrats: Rep. Gerry Connolly’s numbers in VA-11.

7:50pm: The GOP is hoping for a Virginia sweep - VA-2, VA-5, VA-9 and VA-11. That would sure be rough for Democrats, and at the moment Republican nominees are ahead in each district. It’s very early in VA-11, however, and Virginia Tech’s Montgomery County has yet to report anything.

7:45pm: Democratic Rep. John Yarmuth wins re-election - and the first call in a seat I had on my chart goes Democrats’ way. Sure, KY-3 was rated “likely Democratic” but a number of polls had shown the race within the margin of error.

7:43pm: Virginia returns are looking tough for Democrats, with Tom Perriello trailing by 14% (17% reporting) while Rick Boucher is trailing by 6% in VA-9, which Democrats were optimistic about until a few weeks ago. Meanwhile, Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur wins re-election in OH-9: this is the district where the GOP candidate drew attention for wearing Nazi uniforms.

7:40pm: Ohio’s Senate race is called for Rob Portman, a hold for the GOP. A few months ago, that would have been considered big news but Lee Fisher’s chances had collapsed so low over the past three months that the Democrat transferred his money to the state party!

7:36pm: Kentucky’s two endangered Democrats are continuing to survive, with Rep. Chandler up more than 6% with 58% reporting and Rep. Yarmuth slowly inching upward in KY-3 (he now leads by 7% with 20% reporting). Indiana looks more problematic for the party, with Rep. Donnelly trailing big but the counties he needs haven’t started reporting yet; Rep. Hill is also down in IN-9.

7:35pm: CNN’s exit polls bring two more pieces of good news for Democrats. Joe Manchin leads by 7% in West Virginia while Ted Strickland is up 3% in Ohio’s gubernatorial race. At the very least, that suggests the latter race will be competitive - something that wasn’t entirely clear going in.

7:30pm: A lot of votes have already been counted in Florida - which means a big dump of early votes that were taken care of fast - and the news is good for now for the GOP: Rick Scott leads 53% to 47%, which is already a 50,000 vote difference. But the batch seems to be from GOP territory since Marco Rubio’s 53% seems very high.

7:25pm: The exit polls are a bit more reliable now that they are posted on CNN’s website, and here’s an early surprise: The exit poll has Niki Haley up just 3% in South Carolina. Final result should obviously be different, but the DGA might come to regret not having played here.

7:20pm: The first House seat has been called for Democrats! Unfortunately for them, it’s not a competitive one: Rep. Welch holds on in VT-AL.

7:10pm: Eyes are already shifting away from Indiana and Kentucky, with Virginia and Florida now counting ballots. But let’s look at IN-2: Rep. Donnelly trails by a daunting 19% with 7% reported, but that doesn’t mean much since the district’s two Democratic counties haven’t started reporting at all while Donnelly isn’t underperforming compared to where he needs to be in the three counties that have reported votes. Another district attracting early attention is KY-6, where Rep. Ben Chandler is up by 8% with 22% of precincts reporting.

7pm: Polls are now closed in a new batch of states - and we have two more Senate calls: Pat Leahy and Jim DeMint will be returning to the Senate. Absolutely no surprise there. Also, Democrats are perhaps a tiny bit more optimistic they’ll be able to avoid cataclysmic losses (at least in the Senate) than they were an hour ago as exit polls have them doing slightly better than expected. Relatedly, Marc Ambinder tweets that the Illinois exit (the worst of the bunch for Democrats) is not credible and that South Carolina’s gubernatorial race looks tighter than expected.

6:55pm: Rand Paul has been called the winner in Kentucky’s Senate race. And Dan Coats has been called the winner in Indiana’s Senate race - the first congressional pick-up of the night. +1 GOP. While neither call is surprising, it’s worth remembering that at the start of 2010, Indiana was on no one’s list of vulnerable Senate seats; and until mid-October, Democrats had high hopes of beating Rand Paul, whose primary victory had plunged Republican officials in consternation back in the spring.

6:40pm: I cannot emphasize just how much salts you should use when looking at these (2004 early exits had John Kerry cruising towards the White House, 2008 early exits had Al Franken winning in a blow-out), but here are the early Senate exit polls. Democrats have a clear lead in West Virginia, California, Washington; Bennet is up 2% in CO; NV is tied; and Kirk leads in IL. Again, take this with as much salt as is possible - especially for Western states where polls will be open for hours - I’m posting it as an indication of what might be setting the mood at campaign headquarters.

6:30pm: The first three calls of the night: Republican Reps. Burton, Pearce and Rogers have been re-elected to IN-5, IN-6 and KY-5. No surprise there. Of the races I’ve mentioned, IN-8 has counted the most ballots - but we’re still only at 4% of precincts reporting; Republican Bucshon leads 51% to 43%. And Rep. Joe Donnelly trails by a nearly 2:1 margin in IN-2 with 3% reporting; I’m not yet able to figure out where the votes are coming from.

6:15pm: As you might expect, the first 15 minutes on an Election Night aren’t its most thrilling. Votes are starting to come in from both states, but nothing particularly meaningful just yet. A reminder as to what we’re looking at in those two states. Democrats are more than resigned to losing IN-8; IN-9 and KY-6 are the key battlegrounds; the GOP is also hoping to pick-up IN-2, which would signal a very good night for Republicans; and a Democratic loss in KY-3 would be the sign of impending doom.

6pm: Here we go! The polls have just closed in most of Kentucky and Indiana, home to two Senate races that were once expected to be competitive and 5 key House races.

Election Days are hard to get through. Weeks of campaigning come to a halt and we get bombarded misleading and contradictory anecdotal tidbits regarding turnout. But we’re about to finally close the book on this election cycle: the first polls will close in less than an hour.

Democrats should buckle up their seat belt as it might be a very rough night. But Republicans shouldn’t start celebrating just yet given the unusually high level of uncertainty. While we wait, you can review my final analysis of the gubernatorial and congressional landscapes, my take on important down-ballot races, and my cheat sheet of what to watch for tonight.


Election night cheat sheet

Here is guide to follow tonight’s results, with every race that will be worth calling tonight arranged by poll closing time. In addition to  37 Senates races, 37 gubernatorial contests and more than 140 House races, this list includes a number of important down-ballot elections.

Of course, not all congressional contests are born equal, so I have colored all Senate, House and Governor races that are rated in the most vulnerable categories (anywhere from lean retention to likely take-over) so you can get a better sense of where to focus your attention. Keep an eye especially on Ohio, Pennsylvania, Illinois and New York as there are a lot of tight congressional races in those four states.

Remember: Some states - some counties! - are extremely slow at reporting, others are much quicker. Since Indiana usually belongs in the former category, I doubt it will be of much use to determine early trends despite the fact that polls close at 6pm in much of the state. Kentucky, on the other hand, could be more useful: By the time the 7pm states start reporting, we should already have formed an idea as to what is happening in KY-03 (which Democrats truly cannot afford to lose) and KY-06.

Another factor to think about: States that have significant early voting will report a huge number of ballots very quickly, giving us a quick sense of where key races are heading. Those states include Nevada and Florida. But of course, But of course, given that Alaska, California, Washington and Hawaii are hosting crucial elections that could help determine control of both chambers of Congress, we are in for a very long night no matter what.

6pm ET

  • Kentucky (parts of the state close at 7pm ET): SenateKY-03, KY-06
  • Indiana (parts of the state close at 7pm ET): Senate, IN-02, IN-3, IN-08, IN-09. Also: control of state House

7pm ET

  • Florida (panhandle closes at 8pm ET): Governor, Senate, FL-02, FL-08, FL-12FL-24, FL-25. Also: Attorney General, Amendment 5 and Amendment 6 (redistricting questions).
  • Georgia: Governor, Senate, GA-02, GA-08, GA-12
  • New Hampshire (in some localities, option to keep polls open until 8pm): Senate, Governor, NH-01, NH-02. Also: control of state Senate and state Assembly.
  • South Carolina: Governor, Senate, SC-02, SC-05
  • Vermont: Governor, Senate
  • VirginiaVA-02, VA-05VA-9, VA-11

7:30pm ET

  • North Carolina (county boards have right to keep polls open until 8:30): Senate, NC-02, NC-04, NC-07, NC-08, NC-11. Also: control of state House and of state Senate.
  • Ohio: Governor, Senate, OH-01, OH-10, OH-13, OH-15, OH-16, OH-18. Also: Attorney General, Secretary of State, control of state House.
  • West Virginia: Senate, WV-01, WV-03.

8pm ET

  • Alabama: Governor, Senate, AL-02, AL-05. Also: control of state House and state Senate.
  • Connecticut: Governor, Senate, CT-02, CT-04, CT-05
  • Delaware: Senate, DE-AL
  • Illinois: Governor, Senate, IL-08, IL-10, IL-11, IL-12, IL-14, IL-17
  • Maine: Governor, ME-01, ME-02
  • Maryland: Governor, Senate, MD-01
  • Massachusetts: Governor, MA-04, MA-05, MA-06, MA-10
  • Michigan: Governor, MI-03, MI-07, MI-09. Also: control of state House.
  • Mississippi: MS-01, MS-02, MS-04
  • Missouri: Senate, MO-03, MO-04
  • New Jersey: NJ-03, NJ-06, NJ-12
  • Oklahoma: Governor, OK-02
  • Pennsylvania: Governor, Senate, PA-03, PA-04, PA-06, PA-07, PA-08, PA-10, PA-11, PA-12, PA-15, PA-16, PA-17. Also: control of state House.
  • Tennessee: Governor, TN-04, TN-05, TN-06, TN-08
  • Texas (El Paso area closes at 9pm ET): Governor, TX-23, TX-27. Also: control of state House.

8:30pm ET

  • Arkansas: Governor, Senate, AR-01, AR-02, AR-04

9pm ET

  • Arizona: Governor, Senate, AZ-01, AZ-03, AZ-05, AZ-07, AZ-08. Also: Attorney General race.
  • Colorado: Governor, Senate, CO-03, CO-04, CO-07. Also: control of state Senate.
  • Kansas: Governor, Senate, KS-03, KS-04
  • Louisiana: Senate, LA-02, LA-03
  • Minnesota: GovernorMN-01, MN-06, MN-07, MN-08
  • Nebraska: Governor, NE-02
  • New Mexico: Governor, NM-01, NM-02, NM-03,
  • New York: Governor, Senate A, Senate B, NY-04, NY-13, NY-19, NY-20, NY-22, NY-23, NY-24, NY-25, NY-29. Also: Attorney General, control of state Senate.
  • Rhode Island: Governor, RI-01
  • South Dakota: Governor, Senate, SD-AL
  • Wisconsin: Governor, Senate, WI-03, WI-07, WI-08
  • Wyoming: Governor

10pm ET

  • Idaho (parts of the state close at 11pm ET): Governor, ID-01
  • Iowa: Governor, Senate, IA-01, IA-02, IA-03. Also: control of state legislature
  • Montana: control of state House.
  • Nevada: Governor, SenateNV-03. Also: control of state Senate.
  • North Dakota: Senate, ND-AL
  • Utah: Governor, Senate, UT-02.

11pm ET

  • California: Governor, Senate, CA-03CA-11, CA-18, CA-20, CA-45, CA-46, CA-47, CA-48. Also: Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, Prop 19 (legalizing marijuana), Prop 23 (delaying global warming law), Proposition 25 (budget passage), Proposition 20 and 26 (redistricting).
  • Hawaii: Governor, Senate, HI-01
  • Oregon: Governor, Senate, OR-01, OR-04, OR-05
  • WashingtonSenate, WA-02, WA-06, WA-08, WA-09

1am ET

  • Alaska: Governor, Senate, AK-AL

Note on closing times: Polls in some states do not close at the same time, either because of differing time zones or because of longer hours in urban areas. I have here listed these state at the time we should expect to start seeing the first results, not the time at which all polls close. In Florida, for instance, networks might not want to make any calls before all polls close at 8pm ET, but if past patterns hold today some counties should start releasing totals after 7pm ET. I have tried to indicate in which states such problems can arise.

Final ratings: Democrats brace for historic losses

Democrats should go into Election Day with low expectations. It’s the only way they’ll be able to get through what is increasingly looking like it will be an atrocious night - and it will allow them to feel relief if they beat the odds and hold the GOP down at a level that 12 months ago no Democrat would have settled for.

There are some good signs for the party, however, none more important than the big improvement in their Senate situation. At the start of October, California and West Virginia looked very endangered. Barbara Boxer was stuck in the mid-40s and Democrats had by all accounts falling into a state of panic about Joe Manchin. But it would now be a clear upset for either Carly Fiorina or John Raese to win - an important development since they can’t capture a Senate majority without picking-up either of these seats. (That said, a GOP upset in West Virginia still looks plausible.)

At the gubernatorial level, Jerry Brown has maintained his lead in California’s crucial contest and Democrats have pulled themselves back in contention in places (like Oregon and Ohio) that had come to look difficult for them over the summer. They’ve also have remained highly competitive in a number of House districts many thought would be the first to fall, places like PA-7, PA-11, VA-5 and (I’d say most interestingly) NH-2.

Also, early voting patterns suggests the turnout gap will not be uniformly awful for Democrats. In Nevada, for instance, a strong close by Democrats ensured that Republicans failed to close their 5% registration deficit; Democrats have an advantage in terms of raw votes cast, which keeps hope alive for Harry Reid. Similarly, what looked like a huge GOP edge in North Carolina in the first days of early voting narrowed this week, with Democrats casting 46% of ballots to Republicans’ 36%. (That’s a far smaller gap than in 2008, but it’s a net improvement from where we were last week.)

Finally, at a macro-level, SUSA’s recent attempts to include cell phone respondents for the first time yielded far more favorable results for Democrats in both Oregon and California - a result that, when coupled with Pew’s finding of a significant Republican bias in landline-only polls, gives Democrats hope there still is a factor that could help them pull off a surprise. However, we hear this concern every two years - and in no recent cycles have polls ended up looking skewed because of this.

That’s what I can muster insofar as good Democratic news. It’s no coincidence the rest of the column is longer.

Even this short list should be qualified since Joe Manchin and John Kitzhaber could still lose in West Virginia and Oregon, no one would be surprised if the GOP swept PA-7, PA-11, VA-5 and NH-2, and incumbents like Ted Strickland still head into Election Night as slight underdogs. In other words: Most of the races that have trended Democratic have been newsworthy because of the sole fact of still being competitive, not because the Democratic candidates have pulled ahead.

Meanwhile, the list of contests that have trended Republican is longer than I can list. Let’s go through each level - and give my final ratings in the process.

Senate

At the Senate level, the GOP has put all but one of its own seat out of play. Who would have thought just a year ago that heading into Election Day OH, MO, KY, FL and NH would not just be in the GOP’s column - they’d all be rated “likely Republican”? The one GOP-held seat that’s worth watching tomorrow night is a big one, however: All three candidates could win Alaska’s Senate race. Polls have been all over the place, and none can account for the possibility that a substantial number of Murkowski write-ins could end up being thrown out for one reason or another.

How many Democratic Senate seats will the GOP pick-up comes down to 4 states: Illinois, Colorado, Nevada and Washington.

Washington makes a last-minute entry in the toss-up column. While I would still be as surprised if Dino Rossi pulled it off, the fact that McClatchy, SUSA, Rasmussen and PPP are all in agreement to find the race a dead heat (with PPP going as far as to show Dino Rossi leading by 2% in its final poll, the roughest poll the firm released this week-end) suggests my month-long confidence might have been misplaced.

Nevada, Illinois and Colorado, meanwhile, have been the cycle’s most obvious battlegrounds since the spring. But in the final week the GOP has taken a narrow but consistent lead in public polling in each of them - none more so than in Illinois.

Yet, there are reasons to think Democrats have strong shots to win each race: Michael Bennet’s late surge, Nevada’s early voting numbers, the plausibility that the remaining Illinois undecided lean Democratic, and polling showing Bennet and Reid with a lead among those who’ve already voted. While it’s far easier to imagine the GOP sweeping all three than Democrats doing so, each stays in the toss-up column.

Pennsylvania and West Virginia are no longer in the toss-up column, as of today. The former returns to “lean Republican,” the latter to “lean Democratic.” That is not to say Raese might not capture West Virginia or Sestak defend Pennsylvania. In fact, both races are still very much in play and are must-watch races tomorrow night. It would only take a small polling bias for surprises to occur. It’s easy to find Sestak a path to victory if Democratic turnout is higher than pollsters are projecting, and it’s easy to conceive of West Virginians deciding they can vote against Manchin since they’ll keep him in the Governor’s Mansion anyway.

But for Sestak or Raese to prevail would mean one of the parties has clearly exceeded expectations. Raese has been dogged by questions about his connections to Florida while Manchin woke up in time to realize he actually had a race on his hand. And Sestak’s surge receded in the very same polls that had given Democrats hope: After showing Sestak ahead by 1% and 3%, PPP and Morning Call found Toomey up 5% and 4% in their final polls.

It’s not out of the question California and Wisconsin could reserve surprises, but for Boxer to fall or Feingold to survive would mean everyone has missed something massive.

And then there is Alaska, which could go for any candidate. Both Murkowski and McAdams have been too busy portraying themselves as the main alternative to Joe Miller for us to take anything that is being said about the race at face-value.

Bottom-line: The range of plausible outcomes is +4 GOP to +10 GOP. The likeliest outcomes: +6 GOP to +8 GOP.

Safe GOP Likely GOP Lean GOP Toss-up Lean Dem Likely Dem Safe Dem
Dem-held ND AR
IN
PA
WI
CO
IL
NV
WA
CA
WV
CT
DE
HI
MD

NY-A
NY-B
OR
VT
GOP-held AL
AZ
GA
IA
KS
ID
OK
SC
SD
UT
FL
KY

LA
MO
NC
NH
OH
AK

House

Just four days after updating my House ratings in 29 districts, most of which to the GOP’s favor, I still have 11 modifications to include - and but they all favor Republicans. While House Democrats could still hold down their losses to a manageable level, the prospect of an unthinkably gigantic Republican wave is a distinct possibility that has clearly left the party in utter terror.

92 Democratic-held House seats are rated no better than “lean Democratic” - and 66 are rated no better than “toss-ups.” While Democrats are sure to save many districts among that latter group, they are just as certain to lose a number of seemingly safe incumbents. Hard to see what could console Democrats on Wednesday morning if people like Barney Frank, Raul Grivalja, Chellie Pingree or David Cicilline are on the list of Tuesday’s casualties.

Among the worst news for Democrats in the final days are places like NV-3, NM-1, RI-1 and ME-1.

NV-3 looked to be the type of hotly contested district that would stay a pure toss-up until the last minute; that the GOP now has a clear enough advantage that I am moving the seat to the “lean Republican” column speaks to how much Democratic fortunes have deteriorated. Meanwhile, few states have turned so quickly against Democrats as New Mexico, with early voting patterns painting a very worrisome picture for Democrats. Combined with two polls showing Barrera surging in NM-1, that suggests Rep. Heinrich has joined the list of highly endangered incumbents after a year of looking likely to hold on.

As for Maine, it looks like a clear candidate to play the role of New Hampshire circa 2006 - a state in which the wave took such a huge proportion as to spare few incumbents of the losing party. Reps. Michaud and Pingree were on no one’s list in September but both could very well fall on Tuesday, with Pingree looking like she is more at risk despite occupying a district that gave Obama 61% of the vote.

And other places in the Northeast has turned worrisome for Democrats: Tom Foley’s recovery in Connecticut’s gubernatorial race (see below) could help Republicans pull off upsets in CT-4 or CT-5, while Rhode Island Mayor David Cicilline no longer looks like a sure victor in open RI-1 - far from it. With polls showing his double-digit lead has collapsed into the margin of error, he is left to hope that the district’s fundamentals (Gore, Kerry and Obama all got more than 60% of the vote here) is too much for John Loughlin to overcome.

Also worrying Democrats in these final hours are places like MN-8, GA-2, NC-7 and KY-6. At the least news like the improvement in North Carolina’s early voting patterns gives the state’s incumbents some breathing room.

Bottom-line: The likeliest outcome is for Republicans to win a majority with many seats to spare, as my expectation is that a clear majority of the toss-up races and a number of “lean Democratic” races will be won by the GOP. I’ve never described myself as someone who makes predictions, so I am not planning on issuing a more precise projection.

Yes, a stronger than anticipated wave could produce unthinkable gains nearing the 80-seat mark. And yes, a shift of just a couple of percentage points towards Democrats could be enough for them to hold down their losses and even hold the chamber.

That’s not avoiding the question; it’s simply recognizing the big range of plausible outcomes given the atypically huge number of seats that could go either way, the dearth of polling in dozens of districts and the level of uncertainty about turnout patterns.

That gets us to the following breakdown:

Likely Dem
(29D, 2R)

Lean Dem
(24D, 2R)

Toss-up
(39D, 1R)
Lean GOP
(15D, 4R)
Likely GOP
(13D, 8R)
Dem
seats
AR-4
GA-12
IA-1
IA-3
IL-8
IL-12
KY-3
MA-4
MA-5
MA-6
MA-7
ME-2
MI-15
MN-7
NM-3
NJ-6
NY-2
NY-4
NY-13
NY-25
PA-4
PA-17
OH-13
OR-4
TN-5
TX-27
UT-2
WA-9
WV-3

AZ-7
AZ-8
CA-18

CA-47
CO-7
CT-4

IN-2
IA-2
ID-1
ME-1
MI-9
MN-1
MN-8
NC-2
NC-8
NC-11
NY-1
NY-22
NY-24
PA-12
RI-1
VA-9
WA-2
WI-3
AL-2
AZ-5
CA-11
CA-20
CO-3
CT-5
FL-22
GA-2
IL-14
IL-17
IN-9
KY-6
MA-10
MI-1
MI-7
MO-4
MS-1

MS-4
NJ-3
NH-2
NC-7
NM-1

NY-19
NY-20
NY-23
OH-6
OH-16
OH-18
OR-5
PA-7
PA-8
PA-10
PA-11
SC-5
SD-AL
TN-4
TX-23
VA-11
WV-1
AR-1
AZ-1

CO-4
FL-8
GA-8

MD-1
ND-AL
NM-2
NH-1
NV-3
PA-3
VA-2
VA-5
WA-3
WI-7
WI-8
AR-2
FL-2

FL-24
IL-11
IN-8
KS-3
LA-3
NY-29
OH-1
OH-15
TN-6
TN-8
TX-17
GOP seats DE-AL
LA-2
IL-10 FL-25
HI-1
AZ-3
CA-3
FL-12
WA-8
CA-45
KS-4
MI-3
MN-6
NE-2
PA-6
PA-15
PA-16

I have changed the ratings in 11 districts:

  • CT-5, lean Democratic to toss-up
  • GA-2, lean Democratic to toss-up
  • KY-6, lean Democratic to toss-up
  • ME-1, likely Democratic to lean Democratic
  • MI-3, safe Republican to likely Republican
  • NC-7, lean Democratic to toss-up
  • NM-1, lean Democratic to toss-up
  • NV-3, toss-up to lean GOP
  • OH-6, lean Democratic to toss-up
  • TX-23, likely Democratic to toss-up
  • VA-11, lean Democratic to toss-up

Governor

Democrats only had a few races they thought they’d be able to point to on November 3rd to suggest they were not wiped out - and the Connecticut Governor race was one of them. That has now been put in question: After leading substantially throughout the campaign, Dan Malloy appears to have suffered a late collapse (perhaps due to a late wave of negative advertisement by Republican Tom Foley); Foley had not led in any poll since April, but he suddenly took a narrow lead in Quinnipiac, PPP and Rasmussen’s final polls over the past 48 hours.

With that, Connecticut moves from lean Democratic to the toss-up column, a late development that sums up Democrats’ state-level despair. 11 Democratic-held Governorships now lean towards Republican, including two that I have just moved there from the list of toss-ups: Maine and Illinois.

In Maine, conservative Republican Paul LePage has become the favorite thanks to a split in the left-leaning vote; independent Eliot Cutler now looks like the main obstacle to LePage’s election. In Illinois, a wave of early October polls suggested Pat Quinn had a comeback in him; but his dismal approval rating always made it hard to see how he could prevail - and the final polls have him trailing by enough that it would be a surprise for Bill Brady to lose. That said, both races are must-watch contests tomorrow night.

While I am leaving Ohio in the toss-up column I still have difficulty imagining Governor Ted Strickland overperforming enough to win re-election; but Democrats have put a lot in this race, Strickland is said to have a strong ground game and both Quinnipiac and PPP showed him closing the gap to just 1%. In fact, Democratic chances are stronger in Florida, which remains tomorrow night’s big gubernatorial question. Polls are split here. While Alex Sink is narrowly ahead in most of the final polls, Republicans are confident due to strong early voting patterns.

Democrats have to be nervous about their situation in Colorado, New Hampshire, Hawaii, Minnesota and Massachusetts going into Election Day: While they are favored to win each state, surprises cannot be ruled out if the GOP wave is as big as many Republicans have come to hope.

Finally, I am moving ratings to a less competitive category in five states: New York enters the safe Democratic column (from likely Democratic) while Tennessee enters the safe Republican column (from likely Republican). New Mexico, Texas and Wisconsin all go from lean Republican to likely Republican: Democrats once had high hopes for all three, but it would be a big upset in each if Democrats pulled off victories.

(A note: I am putting Rhode Island in the chart’s “lean Democratic” column though the race currently favors independent Lincoln Chaffee over both the Democratic and Republican nominees; I did so because it would have gotten too complicated to include another dimension and because Chaffee has in some ways campaigned as a more liberal candidate than Democrat Frank Caprio.)

That brings us to the following breakdown:

Safe GOP Likely GOP Lean GOP Toss-up Lean Dem Likely Dem Safe Dem
Dem-held Kansas
Tennessee
Wyoming
Iowa
Michigan
NM
Oklahoma
Wisconsin
Illinois
Maine

Pennsylvania
Ohio
Oregon
Colorado
NH
Massachusetts
Maryland
Arkansas
New York
GOP-held Idaho
Nebraska
SD
Utah
Alabama
Alaska
Arizona
Nevada
Texas
Georgia
SC

Connecticut
Florida
Vermont
California
Hawaii
Minnesota
RI (leans I)*

To come tomorrow: an Election Night cheat sheet and, well, Election Night!

What to watch for down-ballot

In switching from daily to weekly writing, I’ve concentrated on straightforward electoral assesments of congressional and gubernatorial races, but it goes without saying there are hundreds of other crucial elections playing out across the country. Some of them matter for federal politics (most directly by deciding which parties will control redistricting in each state), though many state-level races should also interest people nationally.

With two days to go before the election, all I have time for is a quick rundown of some of the most important down-ballot contests you should be looking at on Tuesday night. Or more realistically given how much we all have to keep track of that day, check on Wednesday.

Referenda

California’s Prop 19 (legalizing pot): This proposition has understandably been one of the highest-profile elections anywhere in the country, but its chances of passage have diminished through October as opponents of legalizing marijuana have ramped up their campaign and as the Obama Administration announced it would still enforce federal law. However, Many Democrats credit the proposition with making young voters interested in the election and thus helping Barbara Boxer and Jerry Brown.

California’s Prop 23 (global warming): Heavily funded by energy corporations, this proposition would suspend implementation of California’s global warming law, which aimed at curbing greenhouse gas emissions. Undoubtedly one of the most important elections on the ballot this year.

California’s Prop 25 (budget): In recent years, the state has faced months-long delays in passing a budget due to the requirement that it be adopted by 2/3rds of the legislature. This proposition would repeal that requirement; it would also give Democrats more power to craft policies in the largest state in the country.

California’s Prop 20 and 27 (redistricting): These initiatives create a confusing situation, as they go head-to-head in trying to change California’s redistricting practices. The state recently created a citizen-commission to draw the legislative map. Proposition 20 would extend that commission’s authority to drawing the congressional map as well; Proposition 27 would entirely eliminate the commission, giving redistricting power entirely to the legislature.

Florida’s Amendment 5 and Amendment 6 (redistricting): Florida’s legislative and congressional maps are heavily gerrymandered for the GOP, which has left the party in firm command of the state legislature and of the House delegation. If passed, these two amendments would throw the redistricting process in the hands of an independent panel, which would dramatically alter the landscape of state and federal politics and almost certainly guarantee that Democrats pick-up a substantial number of seats in 2012. Polls have shown voters like the measures, but there’s a big catch: They need to receive 60% to pass, which is obviously a very tall order.

Statewide officials

New York’s Attorney General: New York’s two most recent Attorney Generals are Eliot Spitzer and Andrew Cuomo, which goes to show just how important this position can be. Also, this Attorney General can target Wall Street, heightening the election’s very substantial stakes. That is especially the case this year, as Democrats are running a strong progressive, state Senator Eric Schneiderman - an ally of the Working Families Party who has a tense relationship with Cuomo. His victory would be a bright spot for the left in what is looking like a very rough night. Running against him is Staten Island DA Dan Donovan, who Republicans have been touting as a strong candidate. Getting Donovan elected would give the GOP a strong footing in state government - and finally provide them with a successful politician they can run in future Senate or Governor’s races. Polls show a tight race.

California’s Attorney General: Los Angeles’s Republican DA Steve Cooley has been the slight favorite throughout the election, but the state’s drift towards Democrats through October has brought San Francisco’s Democratic DA Kamala Harris back in contention. Two reasons non-Californians might care. First, Republicans have had difficulty winning any statewide elections over the past fifteen years, so electing one of their own at such a prominent position could help them build a bench for future races. (That said, Cooley will be 65 by 2012.) Second, the death penalty has been an important issue for this election, with Harris’s opposition to capital punishment creating an unusually high-profile divide.

Ohio’s Attorney General: Former Senator Mike DeWine, who lost his re-election race by double-digits in 2006, is attempting a political comeback by challenging incumbent Democrat Richard Cordray. Polls have shown a toss-up.

Ohio’s Secretary of State: The 2004 and 2008 presidential elections showed just how important it is to control this office. In 2004, Ken Blackwell purged thousands of voters off registration lists; in 2008, Jennifer Brunner’s rulings helped Democrats get more of an edge out of early voting. With Ohio set to once again play an important role in 2012, you can be sure we’ll hear a lot about either Republican state Senator Jon Husted or Democrat Maryellen O’Shaughnessy.

Florida’s Attorney General: A highly competitive race in one of the biggest state’s in the country deserves inclusion on the list, especially as there is a clear ideological contrast between the Sarah Palin-endorsed Pam Bondi and Democrat Dan Gelber, who has a liberal reputation.

Iowa’s Supreme Court Justices: Three of the state Supreme Court judges who legalized gay marriage are now up for retention, and conservatives have mounted a vigorous bid to oust all three. A new Des Moines Register poll shows that all three judges could indeed lose their job - though the die is far from cast.

Iowa’s Attorney General: I can think of no obvious national repercussions this race might have, but it remains interesting because a GOP win against 28-year incumbent Tom Miller would show just how brutal the Midwest has been for Democrats and because Brenna Findley (longtime chief of staff of Rep. Steve King, one of Congress’s most conservative Republicans) would be a very conservative force.

Massachusetts: Can Republicans win a statewide office in Massachusetts? They are mounting surprisingly strong campaigns for Auditor (Mary Connaughton just got the Boston Globe’s endorsement) and to some degree Treasurer (state Rep. Karyn Polito). With Scott Brown now sitting in the Senate and the GOP threatening to win several of the state’s House seats - an unthinkable development just a year ago - Massachusetts Republicans would continue gaining a footing in state government and make it harder for Democrats to return to their dominance.

Potpourri: There are more interesting races that I can hope to mention here - and also more that I am aware of.  Questions I have: Can Democrats defend any statewide offices in Kansas? (They were in a surprisingly strong position after the 2002 and 2006 midterms, but they are now in danger of being wiped-out now; keeping the Attorney General office is important for the party’s viability.) Can ethically embattled New York Comptroller Tom DiNapoli survive? Will Democratic Attorney Generals Catherine Coriez-Masto and Gary King fall in Nevada and New Mexico, two states that have grown promising for Republicans?

State legislatures

If Republicans are heading towards historic congressional gains, the wave could be even more dramatic at the level of legislative races. Many chambers are threatening to fall in the GOP’s hands, and that doesn’t even get us to the many legislatures that are sure to stay in a party’s hand but where Republicans will either substantially reduce the gap or pad their lead. I will not attempt to point to particular districts that will determine the size of the Republican wave, but here are the chambers I’ll keep an eye on.

New York state Senate: After decades in GOP hand due to a gerrymandered map that was meant to protect Republicans in an increasingly hostile state, the state Senate finally fell in Democratic hands in 2008 - but only by a 32-30 margin. That led to chaotic events last summer, with two Democrats (who have since been defeated in primaries) briefly handing control of the chamber to Republicans. Now, the GOP looks like it has the slightest edge in its bid to regain the chamber - but there are many districts held by both parties in play, some of them open. If Democrats keep the chamber, they’ll draw a favorable House map, which would be especially important since the state is scheduled to lose a seat or two; and as importantly, they’ll be sure to alter the map of Senate districts, making it much tougher for the GOP to regain a majority. If Republicans do regain a majority, they’ll force yet another compromise that would give them a shot at controlling the chamber.

Ohio and Pennsylvania House: Democrats have the narrowest of majorities in both chambers, and given how rough both states look for the party it would be a surprise if they manage to keep them. The GOP is already in control of both states’ Senates and come January they might also control both Governor’s Mansions, which would give them full control of two of the largest states in the country. That’s obviously significant not only for redistricting purposes but also for state policies.

Michigan House and Senate: Once upon a time, Democrats had high hopes of capturing the state Senate, but it’s hard to see how they can accomplish that feat given the state’s brutal political dynamics. If anything, there is now talk of Democrats losing their 6367-43 majority in the state House, which would give the GOP full control of state government.

Texas House: Another chamber in which Democrats had hopes and were mounting an aggressive play to close the 77-73 gap. That would have been huge for redistricting purposes, as it would have allowed the party to block the GOP from drawing yet another gerrymandered map and allocate themselves the lion share of the state’s new districts. While Democratic chances to score gains have obviously deteriorated, it’s worth keeping an eye on what the balance of power will look like.

Iowa House and Senate: Democrats have comfortable majorities in both chambers, 32-18 in the Senate and 56-44 in the House. But the state has soured on Democrats more than most others. Also, Republican groups have devoted an unexpected amount of money to Iowa’s legislative races, heightening Democrats’ disadvantage. As a result, both chambers are now in play.  Besides granting the GOP full control of state government, it would also allow Republicans to make a move towards outlawing a gay marriage.

Wisconsin House and Senate: Few states are punishing Democrats are much as Wisconsin. Russ Feingold collapsed from seemingly safe to probable loser in a stunningly short time span, and the highly-touted Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barret has never looked competitive in the gubernatorial race. As a resut, Democrats’ small 52-46 and 18-15 majorities look especially tenuous; the party should hope to at least defend one of the chambers to keep a say in state government.

New Hampshire House and Senate: In the 2006 wave, Democrats unexpectedly gained both chambers as voters massively flocked to their party. The GOP now has a good shot at pulling off the same feat, even though Democrats have what on paper looks like a comfortable majority in the state House (222-176).

Alabama House and Senate: Alabama could become the latest Southern state to complete its realignment. The Arkansas and West Virginia legislatures might still be solidly in Democratic hands, but the GOP’s steady gains in recent cycles look like they might finally climax in Democrats’ losing their century-old majorities.

Other chambers that could switch include the Indiana House and the Montana House. Democrats are favored to keep the Nevada Senate, the Oregon Senate and Washington’s House and Senate, but all bets are off if the GOP wave is even more dramatic than expected.

Let me know what important races I have not covered!

Heading into final week-end, House landscape again shifts towards GOP but remains unsettled

Once again, House ratings shift in the GOP’s direction. With four days to go before Election Day, 28 Democratic-held seats are in the “lean Republican” or “likely Republican” columns - up from 23 ten days ago. Another 32 are rated toss-ups, 2930 are rated “lean Democratic” and 30 are rated “likely Democratic” - which amounts to a staggering number of vulnerable Democratic seats and points to just how disastrous Tuesday could be for the party.

Just over the past ten days, Republicans removed any doubts they were mounting serious challenge to Gene Taylor in MS-4 ; they’ve managed to put Barney Frank, Oberstar and Ron Kind on the defensive in MA-4, MN-8 and WI-3; they’ve grabbed a clear advantage in Jim Marshall’s GA-8; they’ve put still new districts like NJ-6 and TN-5 on the map; and they’ve scared the DCCC into pouring an unexpected $1 million in a single week in once-safe-looking VA-11. New polls in places like CA-20, NC-2, NY-20 and NY-22 that were considered probable Democratic holds just a month ago point to a dire situation for Democratic incumbents, though we should obviously guard ourselves from drawing definite conclusions from a single House survey.

Many of these races feature very conservative Republicans who would have had trouble winning in normal circumstances (say NC-2’s Renee Ellmers, who first went up on air with this ad) but they are coming under the spotlight way too late to give Democrats any hope of preparing a valiant response. In short, many Democratic incumbents are in the same predicament Republicans found themselves in the fall of 2006: They are taken by surprise. Think Gene Taylor, Phil Hare, Raul Grijalva, Solomon Ortiz, Barney Frank.

Given that the political environment looked so brutal for Democrats after Scott Brown’s victory last January, it is puzzling how so many reproduced the same errors that got so many of their former colleagues ousted four years ago.

As such, we are facing the same puzzling situation as 2006: Incumbents who were at the very top of the GOP’s target list from the very beginning (say Tom Perriello in VA-5, Frank Kratovil in MD-1 or Paul Kanjorski in PA-11)  might still pull it off even as Democrats who were on no one’s list as of Labor Day could very well lose. It would sure be stunning for Perriello to survive while Hare doesn’t, or Kratovil to survive while Ortiz doesn’t - or for any of the Indiana Democrats to survive if any of the Massachusetts Democrats lose, but we will see such results.

And this is ultimately what makes the House landscape so difficult to decipher - and why the range of plausible outcomes is so large.

While both parties are spending heavily in districts no one expected would be, they are also spending heavily in districts we would have expected to be the fist to go. In other words: the DCCC has in no way given up on races that offer the GOP their 15th through 25th best pick-up chances, a sign of confidence, but they are also clearly panicking over districts that you wouldn’t expect to fall unless Republicans are north of a 60 seat gain.

The former list of seats includes most of the district that are now listed as “lean GOP,” most notably AR-1, VA-2, MD-1, VA-2, VA-5 and WA-3. Republicans have been favored to win all of these seats all year, but Democrats are seeing something that’s convincing them the races are truly winnable. For instance, Barack Obama is campaigning for Perriello today. And look at spending numbers. The DCCC just dropped more than $500,000 in AR-1, bringing its total to $1,7 million; about $350,000 in MD-1, bringing its total to $1,4 million.

On the other hand, the DCCC is also spending more than $160,000 in IA-1, nearly $500,000 in MI-9, $240,000 in OH-6 - all districts that Democrats would be in rough shape if they lost. Another sign: Barney Frank and Solomon Ortiz just loaned themselves money.

And then there the many districts that were expected to be competitive - and are competitive. AZ-5, CA-11, FL-22, MI-7, NV-3, OH-16, PA-8 have been the site of huge spending and they are some of the clearest toss-ups heading into Tuesday. Another major toss-up is FL-25, an open seat currently held by Republicans in which party strategies have been difficult to decipher: While the NRCC has not spent any money in the district, the DCCC has poured in more than $1.3 million on Joe Garcia’s behalf - $775,000 of which was spent just in the final week. If Democrats manage to capture FL-25 and unseat the remarkably resilient Charles Djou in HI-1, they would at least get some crowing rights of their own. And an upset Democratic victory in AZ-3, CA-3, FL-12 or WA-8 cannot be ruled out, even if the party is tanking elsewhere.

Many of these races might not get as much attention as Senate contests, but going into the final week-end there is a wide enough range of plausible outcomes that Democrats can still hope to avoid a cataclysmic night - and merely suffer though a terrible one. In 2008, Republicans lost a net of 21 seats - but that was substantially better than what they had come to fear; Democrats are sure to lose more than that, but merely exceeding expectations would surely relieve them - and set them up to try and undo the damage starting in 2012.

Likely Dem
(31D, 2R)

Lean Dem
(30D, 2R)

Toss-up
(32D, 1R)
Lean GOP
(15D, 4R)
Likely GOP
(13D, 7R)
Dem
seats
AR-4
GA-12
IA-1
IA-3
IL-8
IL-12
KY-3
MA-4
MA-5
MA-6
MA-7
ME-1
ME-2
MI-15
MN-7
NM-3
NJ-6
NY-2
NY-4
NY-13
NY-25
PA-4
PA-17
OH-13
OR-4
TN-5
TX-23
TX-27
UT-2
WA-9
WV-3

AZ-7
AZ-8
CA-18

CA-47
CO-7
CT-4
CT-5

GA-2
IN-2
IA-2
ID-1
KY-6
MI-9
MN-1
MN-8
NC-2
NC-7
NC-8
NC-11
NM-1
NY-1
NY-22
NY-24
OH-6
PA-12
RI-1
VA-9
VA-11
WA-2
WI-3
AL-2
AZ-5
CA-11
CA-20
CO-3
FL-22
IL-14
IL-17
IN-9
MA-10
MI-1
MI-7
MO-4
MS-1

MS-4
NJ-3
NH-2
NV-3

NY-19
NY-20
NY-23
OH-16
OH-18
OR-5
PA-7
PA-8
PA-10
PA-11
SC-5
SD-AL
TN-4
WV-1
AR-1
AZ-1

CO-4
FL-8
GA-8
MD-1
ND-AL
NM-2
NH-1
PA-3
VA-2
VA-5
WA-3
WI-7
WI-8
AR-2
FL-2

FL-24
IL-11
IN-8
KS-3
LA-3
NY-29
OH-1
OH-15
TN-6
TN-8
TX-17
GOP seats DE-AL
LA-2
IL-10 FL-25
HI-1
AZ-3
CA-3
FL-12
WA-8
CA-45
KS-4
MN-6
NE-2
PA-6
PA-15
PA-16

I have changed the ratings in 31 districts:

  • FL-2, toss-up to likely GOP
  • FL-8, toss-up to lean GOP: This is one of the marquee races of the cycle due to Alan Grayson’s persona and politics. Grayson is not out of the race just yet, but polling data gives a clear edge to Dan Webster.
  • FL-22, lean Dem to toss-up: This is another emblematic race, given the arch-conservative and arch-controversial profile of Republican challenger Allen West. Democrats have deployed a lot of efforts to raise his negatives, but
  • GA-8, toss-up to lean GOP:
  • IA-3, lean Dem to likely Dem: A rare move towards Democrats - and a somewhat surprising one. Rep. Boswell has long underperformed, but he now looks arguably less vulnerable than his colleagues from IA-1 and IA-2.
  • IL-17, lean Dem to toss-up: Phil Hare’s emergence as one of the most vulnerable House Democrats has been one of the year’s more surprising developments, though it has gotten lost lately given the sea of other Democrats
  • HI-1, lean Dem to toss-up
  • KY-6, likely Dem to lean Dem
  • IN-8, lean GOP to likely GOP
  • KS-3, lean GOP to likely GOP
  • MA-10, lean Democratic to toss-up: Scott Brown received about 60% of the vote in this district last year, and Republicans got confident as soon as the seat opened up. Two public polls this week showed a narrow edge for Democratic candidate Keating.
  • ME-1, safe Democratic to likely Democratic
  • MI-1, lean GOP to toss-up: While the Republican still has a slight advantage in this race (just as the Democrat does in MA-10), polls have shown that the race remains highly competitive; the DCCC has spent more than $1 million in this district, including $200,000 in the final week, so they must also think this is worth it.
  • MN-8, likely Democratic to lean Democratic
  • MO-4, lean Dem to toss-up:
  • MS-4, lean Dem to toss-up: While Gene Taylor represents a heavily Republican district, he was expected to hold on as he usually does. But things have gotten so sour for him he recently revealed having voted for John McCain in the 2008 presidential election in a transparently desperate move.
  • NC-2, likely Democratic to lean Democratic
  • NH-1, toss-up to lean GOP: Democrats thought they had enough ammunition against Frank Guinta to weaken his candidacy but they have barely tried going after him over the past month. After spending more than $1 million in the district in 2008, the DCCC has not gotten involved this time. But Carol Shea-Porter pulled 2006’s biggest upset victory, and she beat the odds again in 2008.
  • NM-2, toss-up to lean GOP: Harry Teague has held better than he had been expected to, but New Mexico has taken a clear shift to the right up-and-down the ballot.
  • NJ-3, lean Dem to toss-up
  • NJ-6, safe Democratic to likely Democratic
  • NY-22, likely Dem to lean Dem
  • NY-20, lean Dem to toss-up: Scott Murphy looked like a bright spot insofar as freshmen Democrats went until Siena found his lead collapse into a 9% deficit this week; Murphy retaliated by releasing an internal showing him leading by 3%, but that itself was closer than the race had looked through the fall.
  • OH-15, lean GOP to likely GOP
  • OR-5, lean Dem to toss-up: The situation in this race is confusing, with public polls showing widely contradictory information.
  • PA-11, lean Republican to toss-up: The outlook has slightly improved for Pennsylvania Democrats in recent weeks, and one beneficiary might be Rep. Kanjorski. He pulled off an upset victory in 2008, and while the odds are still against his repeating that feat there are signs he very well might. For one, a public poll this week showed him leading for the first time, and while my inclination was to disregard it the NRCC released an internal poll showing challenger Lou Barletta up just 2%. This looks like a race after all.
  • RI-1, likely Democratic to lean Democratic
  • TN-4, lean Democratic to toss-up
  • TN-5, safe Democratic to likely Democratic: Democrats are headed towards a tough loss in the open Governor’s Mansion and near-certain losses in two House districts they currently hold. It’s no longer possible to consider Rep. Cooper is safe from an upset.
  • VA-9, likely Democratic to lean Democratic
  • VA-11, likely Dem to lean Dem: Even though Fairfax County erased a decade of leftward shift in the 2009 Governor’s race, Rep. Connolly long did not look like he would have that much to worry given how many other state Democrats the GOP is tied up targeting. But the DCCC’s stunning last-minute $1 million spending in the district this week was an eye-opener.
  • WI-3, safe Democratic to lean Democratic
  • WI-8, toss-up to lean Republican

Senate landscape: The wild ride continues, with 5 races now in the toss-up column

Ten days ago, I wrote that the Senate battle was coming down to just four states: Illinois, Colorado, Nevada and West Virginia. But in the following week, the field of play looked like it was substantially expanding to incorporate many other contests.

For one, Republicans spent the past week trumpeting their chances in California, with a number of surveys pointing to a tightening race and rumors floating around that GOP internals showed a dead heat, Carly Fiorina and the NRSC both put their money where their mouth: Fiorina donated $1 million to her campaign after refusing to use her own fortune ever since the primary while the NRSC announced it would spend $3 million in the final week after having pulled back earlier in October. With control of the Senate hanging in the balance, Democrats grew nervous.

Meanwhile, Democratic fortunes improved in Pennsylvania. The first indications the state was more competitive than virtually all polls were indicating came when the DSCC and NRSC decided to pour in millions - not what you expect to see in what had looked like a probable GOP pick-up for months. These early hints were confirmed when two Democratic polls showed Joe Sestak pulling into a tie - and then PPP and Morning Call both found the Democrat narrowly ahead, something that hadn’t happened since springtime. This understandably made Pennsylvania the story last week and fueled Democratic hopes they could still hold their losses down.

Democratic interest also picked-up in two GOP-held seats: Alaska and Kentucky. While Alaska has always been a long-shot, the extent of Joe Miller’s failings (from revelations about his being fired after hacking in coworkers’ computers for political reasons to his bodyguards’ chilling decision to handcuff a journalist) gave Democrats hope Scott McAdams could eek out a victory - particularly if Lisa Murkowski supporters committed many errors in the process of writing-in her name.

And in Kentucky, Democrats insisted that Jack Conway’s Aqua Buddha ad (which is likely to be the cycle’s most memorable ad, though Christine O’Donnell’s “I’m not a witch” should give it a run for its money) combined to his attacks on Rand Paul’s Medicare plan had transformed the race; the DSCC even released an internal poll that showed Conway leading by 2%.

Various other states looked like they were also growing tighter. Republicans and Democrats pointed to (perhaps outlying) polls to claim Washington and Wisconsin were more competitive than commonly thought; Robin Carnahan mounted last-ditched efforts to convince she remained in the game; and rumors were floating that Kendrick Meek might drop out of the Florida Senate race, thus giving Charlie Crist a path to victory (a scenario that never seemed likely because it would have substantially lowered Alex Sink’s chances of winning the gubernatorial race).

Had I updated the rankings at the last end of last week, I might have been tempted to move many of these races in one direction or another. But today, I am moving just one race towards a more competitive category: Pennsylvania moves out of the GOP column to becomes a 5th toss-up.

Needless to say, that’s very positive news for Democrats - and it parallels Michael Bennet’s Colorado comeback (though I always left that race in the toss-up column, the incumbent had fallen narrowly but consistently behind).

That said, Toomey shouldn’t want to trade places just yet. I don’t say that because the Morning Call tracking poll shifted from a 3% Sestak lead to a clear Toomey lead in the space of 7 days (that movement coincided with a substantial and arguably unrealistic change in the sample’s partisan breakdown); indeed, a Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted this week-end found the two candidates tied at 47%, confirming that the race has grown into a dead heat. But there are a lot of signs that the Midwest as a whole and PA in particular is tough for Democrats - and we have yet to see whether Democrats can ensure sufficient turnout in Philadelphia and its suburbs.

But the good news for Democrats is that there are other signs that confirm that their fortunes are looking up in the Philly suburbs: After months of looking all but lost, PA-7 has grown into a true battleground and the DCCC started spending heavily last week. Another good news: Pennsylvania has no early voting and relatively little absentee voting, so Toomey did not bank votes back when he was leading in early October.

Arguably the even better news for Democrats is that Barbara Boxer seems to have solidified her position in California. The race remains in the “lean Democratic” to acknowledge still persistent rumors that campaigns’ internal numbers show a tighter race than what we are seeing, but this is a rare race in which public polls actually agree and a Fiorina victory should be considered a big upset at this point. Despite the GOP’s insistence that it is not wasting its millions in the Golden State, no less than three polls released over the past few days (two of them today) showed the incumbent leading by an obviously solid 9% (PPP, Suffolk and the LAT); an additional two polls released today showed Boxer gaining, with Rasmussen showing her leading by 4% and SUSA by 5% (both improvements since last week). Furthermore, as much as a third of the California electorate could have already voted, meaning that a late GOP surge would register less than in states with little early voting.

None of the other races we heard about over the past ten days earn a move to a more competitive category either. In Kentucky, the two most recent public polls suggest the Aqua Buddha ad has not only not worked but has arguably backfired on Conway, with Rand Paul opening a 7% lead in Rasmussen and a 13% lead in PPP. While the latter poll looks to be overstating Paul’s lead, the race remains in the “lean GOP” column: It is still in play, especially since there is no early voting, but the Republican is ahead. One incident that could resonate in the final stretch is a Paul supporter’s vicious assault against a MoveOn worker last night.

In Alaska, Miller continues to unravel - and will do so over the next few days now that a judge ruled that his employments should be released. These certainly don’t paint a pretty picture: The next Senator from Alaska could be a man who two years ago admitted having used his coworkers’ computers for political reasons. But the bottom-line is that Scott McAdams remains too far in the polls for the race to deserve a move to the “toss-up” column and the logistics of a write-in campaign still make it a huge question mark how high Murkowski will be able to rise (I am considering a Lisa Murkowski victory as a GOP retention, as she has made it clear she would continue caucusing with Republicans).

Elsewhere: While Russ Feingold certainly hasn’t achieved Blanche Lincoln-status, he remains behind his opponent while there is still no reason not to regard Patty Murray as the front-runner in Washington. However, there’s been a dearth of information about either race lately - and Democrats haven’t given up on Wisconsin nor have Republicans on Washington. There might be reason to reevaluate by this week-end.

Ratings change in only two states other than Pennsylvania: Missouri and New Hampshire, two GOP-held open seats Democrats had extremely high hopes for in 2009, move from “lean GOP” to “likely GOP.” This does not mean that Roy Blunt and Kelly Ayotte will win in landslides (in fact, Blunt’s margin will likely not look overwhelming), but that neither contest has looked suspenseful for months, that no one disputes Republicans are clearly favored in both states and that comeback wins for Robin Carnahan and Paul Hodes would be huge upsets.

So where does all of this leave us? Democrats still not looking likely to pick-up GOP seats, so it all comes down to how many Republicans can capture. They remain in command in four; five are now in the toss-up category; and two more lean Democratic. To win control of the Senate, Republicans have to sweep the first nine while also scoring an upset in either California (increasingly unlikely) or Washington.

One party typically sweeps most of the races that are considered toss-ups heading into Election Day, so it is not at all a stretch envisioning one party winning four (if not five) of the toss-ups. Technically, this puts the range of the most plausible outcomes between a gain of 4 and 9 seats for the GOP.

I want to qualify that by saying it would be quite a shocking result if Democrats somehow manage to hold their losses to 4 by sweeping all 5 toss-ups; given all we know, they should consider themselves lucky to win just two or three.

The most promising of these 5 races for Democrats is West Virginia, which has been trending back towards Joe Manchin. PPP finds the Governor recovering from a 3% deficit to first take a 3% lead - and now expand it to 6%; while Rasmussen shows Raese’s lead cut from 7% to 2%.

Colorado is anyone’s guess at this point, and it looks to me to be the year’s truest jump-ball (in addition to being the state with the most outside spending). Michael Bennet clearly trailed for months, but he has pulled himself into what is an undecipherable dead heat after a series of conservative statements by Ken Buck and after the controversy over Buck’s failure to prosecute a rape case gave Democrats an opening. One important note: Nearly half of voters have already cast their ballot. Two contrasting tidbits: PPP and SUSA both found Bennet leading among those who have already voted, but early voting data shows the GOP is clearly outpacing Democrats - especially compared to 2008.

Illinois: A number of polling firms have shown some small movement towards Mark Kirk, but his lead remains well within the margin of error. There seem to be more undecided voters who are Democrats, which still gives Giannoulias hope - and Obama will be in Illinois to rally voters this week.

I already discussed Pennsylvania, so that leaves us with Nevada - which many consider the year’s marquee race. Conventional wisdom is that Sharron Angle is now ever so slightly favored, but I don’t get the sense that Democrats are pressing the panic button in any way. Early voting turnout is hard to interpret, with Republicans voting in greater number - but nothing for now to indicate that the gap will be unusual for a midterm race. Whenever a piece of information seems to indicate some momentum for one side, another contradicts it; and we might have to stay up late for this one.

And there is a sixth race whose Senator I would not venture to guess: Alaska. I wouldn’t even rule out a McAdams upset, though a Murkowski or Miller win is more likely. The situation is just very confusing.

In short, we are entering the final week in what I feel is far a more confusing picture than in 2008: At this point two years ago, Democrats were clearly favored to pick-up VA, NM, CO, NH, OR, NC and AK; the GOP’s position in MS and KY was comparable to Democrats’ current position in WA and CA; and there were just two races that looked like true dead heats (MN and GA). And there was nothing resembling the confusion that is this year’s Alaska race.

Here’s the full breakdown:

Safe GOP Likely GOP Lean GOP Toss-up Lean Dem Likely Dem Safe Dem
Dem-held ND AR
IN
WI CO
IL
NV
PA
WV
CA
WA
CT
DE
NY-B
HI
MD

NY-A
OR
VT
GOP-held AL
AZ
GA
IA
KS
ID
OK
SC
SD
UT
FL
LA
MO
NC
NH
OH
AK
KY


This gets us to the following breakdown:

  • Safe Democratic: 45
  • Safe/Likely Democratic: 48
  • Safe/Likely/Lean Democratic: 50
  • Toss-ups: 5 (+1)
  • Safe/Likely/Lean Republican: 45 (-1)
  • Safe/Likely Republican: 40
  • Safe Republican: 34

Gubernatorial landscape: Democrats still have some fight in them

Believe it or not, 5 of the 6 changes in my gubernatorial ratings favor… Democrats! While the party is still headed for major state-level losses, it is plausible it will win enough states to save face and avoid the wipe-out scenario they were threatened with just a month ago.

governor-race-2010-10-24

Safe GOP Likely GOP Lean GOP Toss-up Lean Dem Likely Dem Safe Dem
Dem-held Kansas
Wyoming
Iowa
Michigan
Oklahoma
Tennessee
NM
Pennsylvania
Wisconsin
Illinois
Maine
Ohio
Oregon
Colorado
Massachusetts
Maryland
NH
New York
Arkansas
GOP-held Idaho
Nebraska
SD
Utah
Alabama
Alaska
Arizona
Nevada
Georgia
SC

Texas
Florida
Vermont
California
Connecticut
Hawaii
Minnesota
RI*

Democrats have substantially improved their position in California, Maryland, Illinois, Ohio and South Carolina - all of which shift towards them today.

The biggest prize is obviously California, where Jerry Brown has now grabbed a lead despite Meg Whitman’s staggering $141 millions - or perhaps because of them. The race moves from “toss-up” to “lean Democratic.”

This comes as a huge relief for Democrats, as Brown had not only fallen behind over the summer but was getting distracted in damaging controversies, for instance when he was provoked into attacking Bill Clinton. But Whitman’s lack of government experience, “maid-gate,” Schwarzenegger’s unpopularity and California’s blue-state status have reversed the momentum, not to mention that voters have gotten clearly turned off by Whitman’s obscene airwave saturation. All of this said, Brown has certainly not put the race away, and a potentially superior ground operation could help Whitman close some of the gap.

Another race moves out of the toss-up column in Democrats’ favor: Maryland moves all the way to “likely Democratic.” While the GOP was excited by Bob Ehrlich’s candidacy, the former Governor hasn’t been able to overcome Maryland’s staunchly Democratic leanings. Sure, O’Malley might not be the most popular of politicians, but he also is no Pat Quinn or Deval Patrick - two Democratic Governors in blue states who are in worse shape than him. The latest poll has O’Malley leading by double-digits and the RGA has pulled out of the race.

Two other Democratic incumbent Governors are doing better than they were for much of the year, giving Democrats hope they’ll avoid losing all of their Midwestern governorships: Ohio and Illinois both move from “lean Republican” to “toss-up.”

Democrats should still consider themselves lucky if they can save just one of these races, but Pat Quinn and Ted Strickland have pulled themselves into dead heats. Quinn is heavily unpopular and he trailed by wide margins after February’s primary, but Illinois is Democratic-enough that even an unpopular incumbent has a shot of winning, and polls show Quinn has bounced back into contention as some Democratic voters come home and as Quinn goes after Bill Brady’s conservative positions. Strickland’s approval rating isn’t quite as dramatic, but the GOP is far stronger in Ohio than it is in Illinois; yet, after months of trailing in high single-digits, Strickland has closed the gap. CNN’s latest poll went as far as to show Strickland leading by 1%.

The fifth rating change benefiting Democrats is South Carolina: Nikki Haley was expected to cruise after her primary triumph, but Vincent Sheheen has proven a strong campaigner while Haley is weighed down by her ties to Mark Sanford. With polls showing a tightening race, albeit one that still undoubtedly leans Haley’s way, the national parties are growing interested. The race moves from “likely Republican” to “lean Republican.”

In addition, Dan Onorato appears to be closing some of the gap and pulling himself into contention in Pennsylvania, though that race remains in the “lean GOP” column; and Mark Dayton has stabilized his lead in Minnesota, making the state the Democrats’ best hope to keep a Midwestern governorship.

The one state that moves in the GOP’s direction in today’s rankings is one I didn’t expect: Colorado moves from “likely Democratic” to “lean Democratic,” which means I now consider it to be in play. It remains difficult to envision Tom Tancredo overcoming the Republican vote’s split between him and GOP nominee Dan Maes. Yet, Maes is on the brink of becoming totally irrelevant, which is giving Tancredo a shot at beating John Hickenlooper. The Denver Mayor chose not to go negative, thinking the race was under control, and he gave Tancredo an opportunity to coalesce Republican support.

(Remember: Maes falling under 10% would give Tancredo a shot at victory, but it would also mean Republicans would no longer be considered a “major party” in Colorado. That would have real consequences in terms of ballot placement and, most importantly, it would limits their fundraising rights.)

Other states in which Republicans look increasingly comfortable are New Mexico and Georgia, which nevertheless remain in the “lean GOP” column; Georgia in particular could still grow heated since it will go to a December runoff if no one clears the 50% mark (a distinct possibility given the presence of a libertarian candidate on the ballot).

I now list 6 states in the toss-up column, but for most of them I have a clear opinion as to whom would win if the election were held today. The two races in which I truly have no idea who would come at ahead are: Vermont and Florida.

Needless to say, this makes the Sunshine State one of the prime battlegrounds. Given the state’s size, a victory by Alex Sink could go a long way towards consoling Democrats on Election Night. In most other cycles, Rick Scott’s dealings with the law over Medicare fraud would have made it tough for him to win; but the political environment combined with the $60 million of his personal fortune he has spent on the race have left him in a tie. Decent pollsters have shown both candidates in the lead, at times by not-so-narrow margins, which makes the situation all the more confusing. One tea leaf in Scott’s favor: In few states are early voting and absentee ballot numbers as favorable to Republicans as they are in Florida.

House landscape: An ever-expanding and uncertain field

The (very) bad news for Democrats: Just when we thought the map couldn’t possibly expand any more, still more of their incumbents find themselves on the GOP’s ever-expanding target list. Solomon Ortiz, Carolyn McCarthy, Peter DeFazio - these Democrats were considered vulnerable as the month began, but confident Republicans are now setting their sights on scoring upsets against such longtime incumbents.

The most emblematic district of the GOP’s success at expanding the map is undoubtedly AZ-7, however, where  the DCCC has now been forced to rush to Rep. Raul Grijalva. And while DeFazio, Ortiz or even Barney Frank remain elusive targets for Republicans, other districts that weren’t anywhere in the top-tier of GOP targets are looking increasingly vulnerable - districts like OH-6 and TN-4, for instance.

Let’s be clear on what this means: Even the most optimistic Republicans don’t expect to unseat all these powerful Democrats. But in a volatile election like this one in which many districts have never been the subject of a public poll and are barely covered by the press, there are bound to be a number of major surprises on Election Night. I now have 34 Dem-held districts in the “likely Democratic” column. While I have restrained that category enough that a GOP win in any of these districts would be considered a huge upset, I firmly expect at least a couple of these to fall in Republican hands on November 2nd.

And that doesn’t get us to the massively large pool of 83 Democratic seats that are truly in play (listed no better than “lean Dem”)!

Now, the better news for Democrats: With 2 weeks to go, 24 of their seats are leaning towards Republicans - a large number, but one that is not quite as catastrophic as you might think. Furthermore, this is no longer simply a fact of us lacking sufficient information about toss-up districts to know what to do with them. In fact, at-times extensive polling information and party spending patterns suggests that Democrats have a solid chance of winning many of the districts that I have listed as “toss-up.” NH-2, in particular, was long considered lost for Democrats but progressive blogosphere favorite Ann Kuster is mounting a strong campaign.

The same goes for districts listed as “lean Dem.” All of them are clearly in play, but polling in many of them shows that the bottom has not fallen out for Democratic incumbents - I’m for instance thinking of recent polls in CA-18, IA-3, NY-1.

The other piece of good news for Democrats is that a few opportunities are popping up for them to pick-up Republican seats: I long thought capturing 5 seats would be a good accomplishment, but new developments open the door to a larger number. For one, IL-10 finally looks like it is leaning towards Democrats. Second, to the pool of 5 races we have been looking for months (DE-AL, LA-2, IL-10, HI-1 and FL-25) should now be added 3 districts.

The first is CA-3, where the GOP is growing worried enough that Karl Rove’s American Crossroads is spending about $700,000 to help Rep. Lungren. I have moved the other two based on polling information: WA-8, where 2 public polls find a competitive race, and AZ-3, where a PPP survey just found the Democrat leading Ben Quayle by 2%. And we cannot entirely rule out a surprise upset in one of the 8 GOP districts I have listed as “likely GOP,” and from which we generally have very little information.

Likely Dem
(34D, 2R)

Lean Dem
(34D, 2R)

Toss-up
(25D, 1R)
Lean GOP
(15D, 3R)
Likely GOP
(8D, 10R)
Dem
seats

AR-4
AZ-8
IL-8
GA-12
IA-1
IL-12
KY-3
KY-6
MA-4
MA-5
MA-7
ME-2
MI-15
MN-7
MN-8
NC-2
NM-3
NY-2
NY-4
NY-13
NY-22
NY-25
PA-4
PA-17
OH-13
OR-4
RI-1
TX-23
TX-27
VA-9
VA-11
UT-2
WA-9
WV-3

AZ-7
AZ-8
CA-18
CA-20

CA-47
CO-7
CT-4
CT-5

FL-22
GA-2
IN-2
IA-2
IA-3
ID-1
IL-17
MA-10
MI-9
MO-4
MN-1
MS-4
NC-7
NC-8
NC-11
NJ-3
NM-1
NY-1
NY-20
NY-24
OH-6
OR-5
PA-12
SD-AL
TN-4
WA-2
AL-2
AZ-5
CA-11
CO-3
FL-2
FL-8
GA-8
IL-14
IN-9
MI-7
MS-1
NV-3
NH-1
NH-2
NY-19
NY-23
NM-2
OH-16
OH-18
PA-7
PA-8
PA-10
SC-5
WV-1
WI-8
AR-1
AZ-1
CO-4
IN-8
KS-3
MI-1
MD-1
ND-AL
OH-15
PA-3
PA-11
VA-2
VA-5
WA-3
WI-7
AR-2
FL-24

IL-11
LA-3
NY-29
OH-1
TN-6
TN-8
TX-17

GOP seats DE-AL
LA-2
HI-1
IL-10
FL-25 AZ-3
CA-3
WA-8


CA-45
FL-12
KS-4
MN-6
NE-2
PA-6
PA-15
PA-16

I have changed the ratings of 19 districts:

AR-1, toss-up to lean Republican: While this race is still in play, defending an open seat in a district that gave John McCain 59% was always a tough proposition for Democrats. Chad Causey has mounted a stronger than expected campaign and Democrats have released a number of internal polls showing a dead heat. However, two independent polls recently showed Rick Crawford up by 8% and 12% - what you would expect given the district’s conservative lean and Arkansas’s shift towards the GOP this year.

AZ-1, toss-up to lean Republican: Democrats long insisted that Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick would be saved by what is certain to be high-turnout among Native-Americans (Navajo Nation is also hosting elections on the same day), but add up Democrats’ pronounced Arizona pains, public polls finding Paul Gosar ahead, and the DCCC’s September decision to downscale their investment in the race - and Kirkpatrick has become an underdog. The race remains competitive, however.

AZ-3, likely Republican to lean Republican: The district might be clearly Republican, but voters don’t seem eager to embrace GOP nominee Ben Quayle, son of the former vice-president who won the primary with just 23% of the vote. Due to his lack of public record, much of the attention has been devoted to Quayle’s denials of having participated in the creation of the website TheDirty.com under the pseudonym Brock Landers. Still, the year seemed too tough for Arizona Democrats for John Hulburd to have a chance - until a PPP poll found Hulburd leading 46% to 44% and showed Quayle’s favorability rating at a rough 34/52.

AZ-7, likely Democratic to lean Democratic: Few developments capture the GOP’s success at expanding the map as well as the precipitous collapse in Rep. Raul Grijalva’s fortunes. While it was still possible to doubt the race’s competitiveness after the GOP released two polls indicating a dead heat, the DCCC chose to get involved this week - which probably means they went in the field and confirmed that this had become a headache. The main reason I am not moving this to the toss-up column is that Democrats might have identified the problem just in time to boost Grijalva and focus on turning out district voters; but national Republican stars have rallied around Ruth McClung.

CA-18 and CA-20, likely Democratic to lean Democratic: While Democrats remain favored to keep both districts, Rep. Costa and Rep. Cardoza are both sweating more than their party would like. The DCCC has had to get involved to boost Costa in CA-20, while Cardoza is getting substantial help from the National Association of Realtors in CA-18. A recent SUSA poll found Cardoza up 50% to 44%, to which the incumbent replied with an internal showing him up double-digits.

FL-24, lean Republican to likely Republican: Rep. Suzanne Kosmas was always near the top of the GOP’s target list, but there was a point over the summer at which it looked like the Republicans vying to challenge her were so weak she could still pull it out. But that looks to be a thing of the past: Kosmas was among the first 3 incumbents to be abandoned by the DCCC earlier this month - and while we haven’t seen many polls that seems a clear indication that internal Democratic numbers have Adams in a strong position.

IL-10, toss-up to lean Democratic: After twice failing to win this blue-leaning district in very favorable years, can Dan Seals pull it off in a cycle far more hostile to his party? The race is still very much in play, but he appears to have opened up lead against an opponent who is more conservative than was advisable for the GOP to nominate.

ID-1, likely Democratic to lean Democratic: I am not sure why I had Rep. Walt Minnick quite as strong as “likely Democratic,” so this move should not be interpreted as a sign of momentum for GOP state Rep. Labrador, who has proven one of the cycle’s weakest Republican candidates. But it would be foolish to rule out the possibility he might ride a GOP wave in a district that voted for Bush by 39%.

MA-04, safe Democratic to likely Democratic: Not only is this a district that voted for Barack Obama by 29%, but Barney Frank is one of the most powerful House Democrats. But the GOP is now feeling emboldened enough to dream of ousting Frank, who was reduced to releasing an internal poll showing him up double-digits.

MN-1, likely Democratic to lean Democratic: Just like in CA-20, the bad news for Democrats is that recent polling vindicates the GOP’s hope that the wave is endangering Rep. Tim Walz. The better news is that it finds Walz is still ahead; still, we can’t forget that Walz himself in an upset after a late surge in 2006.

NY-4 and NY-22, safe Democratic to likely Democratic: Andrew Cuomo might be heading towards a landslide victory, but that should not be enough to insulate down-ballot Democrats. Given the GOP’s unexpected victories in local elections in 2009, it would not be surprising if a Democratic incumbent somewhere in the state was safer than thought - and Reps. Hinchey and McCarthy are obvious candidates. The GOP released a poll showing McCarthy leading by only 1%, and there is reason to believe Long Island could be rough for her party.

OH-06, likely Democratic to lean Democratic: This is one of those districts that was not expected to be competitive until this fall. But as Ohio became a disaster zone for Democrats, Bill Johnson’s odds of scoring an upset increased. GOP internal polls show a tight race, and the NRCC got involved in early October.

OR-04, safe Democratic to likely Democratic: Rep. Peter DeFazio caught a break in 2009 when highly-touted NRCC recruit Sid Leiken’s campaign imploded, but his race against the little-known Art Robinson has suddenly gotten very heated. After the GOP released an internal poll with DeFazio leading by 6%, the incumbent replied with a 14% lead in his own internal - a healthy margin, but not one large enough to rule out that Robinson’s late entry in the news will not lead to a stunning upset.

TN-4, likely Democratic to lean Democratic: Democrats were long hoping that Lincoln Davis would survive easily, but that was probably too much to ask for in a district that gave John McCain 64% of the vote. Republicans have released polling finding Davis in a tied race.

TN-8, lean Republican to likely Republican: While holding either of Tennessee’s open seats was always a tough proposition for Democrats, they at least managed to recruit a strong candidate in TN-8 - which is much more than can be said of TN-6. But there is so much that Roy Herron could do in a district that has been shifting Republican in federal races - Al Gore by 3% in 2000, George Bush by 6% in 2004 and John McCain by 13% in 2008. TN-8 became one of the first races the DCCC abandoned in early October.

TX-27, safe Democratic to likely RepublicanDemocratic: One of the most unexpected races to end up on the chart is TX-27, where Rep. Solomon Ortiz is suddenly attracting attention after a GOP internal showed him trailing little-known Blake Farenthold. The DCCC quickly went on the offensive - but the closely divided TX-27 could very one of those districts in which an unconcerned incumbent falls in a stunning upset.

WA-8, likely Republican to lean Republican: After surviving the Democratic waves of 2006 and 2008, GOP Rep. Dave Reichert looked like he should be fine in 2010. But recent bad press, concerns about his brain surgery and the Seattle Times’s surprising decision to turn against a politician they had praised for years have combined to make the race unexpectedly competitive: PPP and SUSA both recently found Suzan DelBene in striking distance.

I’ll end this post with a note on the Senate: Joe Miller’s bodyguard’ handcuffing a journalist at a public event is one of the most chilling events of the year.

Senate landscape: Four battlegrounds going into the final stretch

For much of the cycle, an unusually large number of competitive Senate races has made it difficult to discern  the lay of the land or to identify those contests that were most important in deciding the composition of the next Senate.

We are now mid-October - and there finally is a fairly uncontroversial sense of the key Senate battlegrounds: If you must focus your attention on just 4 states, look at Colorado, Illinois, Nevada and West Virginia.

The first three states have been stable since early in the summer. In CO, Ken Buck’s slight advantage has remained within the margin of error; in IL, whatever tiny edge Mark Kirk might have opened at some point has disappeared; and in NV, I doubt there has been more than a couple independent polls since the June primary with either candidate outside the margin of error - making it arguably the most stable Senate race in the county.

Moving WV to the toss-up column, however, has been a big accomplishment for Republicans. (Of course, they were helped by Joe Manchin’s decision to move the election to 2010.) The state’s hostility to national Democrats has proven just as strong as Manchin’s popularity (remember voters would keep Manchin as Governor Mansion if they elect Joe Raese to the Senate), though Manchin appears to have stopped the bleeding, partly because of the controversy over the NRSC hiring actors to play “hickeys.” But this is the Senate race Democrats should care the least about since Manchin has been sending clear signals that he would model himself on the Ben Nelsons of the Senate by airing a campaign ad showing him shooting a literal gun at cap-and-trade reform and denouncing “Obamacare.”

Elsewhere: Washington and Wisconsin now clearly lean towards Democrats and Republicans, respectively. There could definitely be movement in either race - especially in WA, though Patty Murray’s advantage over Dino Rossi is more decisive than in other contests because voters are going to start voting within days in the state’s all-mail system. In WI, it is stunning to think that Russ Feingold was hardly considered vulnerable at the start of 2010; even over the summer, people thought he was no worse than Boxer and Murray. But Johnson’s spending spree combined with the Midwest’s economic hardships has dramatically altered the race; Feingold is now consistently trailing by a daunting high single-digits margin.

While I’d be less surprised if Pennsylvania and California grow more competitive, there is no question that Pat Toomey and Barbara Boxer now enjoy an unquestionable advantage. But Pennsylvania has grow increasingly heated, with the NRSC now on air; and Boxer’s edge in California remains small, though the large number of polls showing her around the 50% mark make it hard to see how Carly Fiorina could reach that threshold.

With less than three weeks to go, the suspense is mostly gone in the other Democratic-held seats: While Connecticut and Delaware were long considered either competitive (CT) or sure Republican pick-ups (DE), Richard Blumenthal and Chris Coons are now in a solid position - as is Kirsten Gillibrand in New York.

The landscape among GOP-held seats is even clear: I would be surprised if Democrats picked-up any. That of course is a huge collapse of fortunes since mid-2009, when the party had a lot of promising opportunities. In fact, Democrats’ best shot at a pick-up is now arguably a candidate few people had heard of before August: Scott McAdams. While it would still be a huge surprise if he won in Alaska, there is mounting evidence that the unexpected 3-way race with Joe Miller and Lisa Murkowski gives him an opening to eek out a narrow victory: three polls over the past 24 hours have found the three candidates within 6% to 9% of each other.

Add to that the imprecision of measuring a write-in vote, and I’d be less surprised at a McAdams victory than I would be at a Robin Carnahan (MO), Paul Hodes (NH) or Jack Conway (KY) comeback - though all three still deserve to be watched, especially Kentucky. I have also moved Florida to the likely Republican column, as Marco Rubio has looked like the prohibitive favorite for so many months it’s hard to believe this once looked like it would be the cycle’s highest-profile race.

To recap: CO, IL, NV and WV are the four key Senate battlegrounds heading in the final stretch, while California, Washington and Pennsylvania could still grow tighter. It is also worth keeping an eye on Alaska and Kentucky.

To take control of the Senate, the GOP needs to win in all the states in which it now has a clear lead (including PA and WI), sweep the four battlegrounds (CO, IL, NV and WV) and score an upset in one of the Pacific Coast states (WA, CA). Given that most Senate toss-ups tend to go to the same party, this is not an implausible scenario; but Boxer and Murray’s ability to defend their leads has given Democrats some breathing room.

Note that I am changing the ratings of six races today. 2 favor Democrats: Alaska (likely Republican to lean Republican), Connecticut (lean Democratic to likely Democratic). And 4 favor Republicans: Florida (lean Republican to likely Republican), Indiana (lean Republican to likely Republican), New Hampshire (toss-up to lean Republican), Wisconsin (toss-up to lean Republican). Thus:

Safe GOP Likely GOP Lean GOP Toss-up Lean Dem Likely Dem Safe Dem
Dem-held ND AR
IN
PA
WI
CO
IL
NV
WV
CA
WA
CT
DE
NY-B
HI
MD

NY-A
OR
VT
GOP-held AL
AZ
GA
IA
KS
ID
OK
SC
SD
UT
FL
LA
NC
OH
AK
KY
MO
NH

This gets us to the following breakdown:

  • Safe Democratic: 45
  • Safe/Likely Democratic: 48 (-1)
  • Safe/Likely/Lean Democratic: 49 50
  • Toss-ups: 4 (-2)
  • Safe/Likely/Lean Republican: 46 (+2)
  • Safe/Likely Republican: 40 (+1)
  • Safe Republican: 34

House ratings: It helps to be a Republican

I don’t need to tell you that the bottom has fallen out for House Democrats since my last attempt to offer ratings, back in February. My 6-month absence surely didn’t prevent you from figuring out just how many Democratic districts were trending towards Republicans - and how dramatically.

Suffice it to say, the expectations have shifted considerably over the past year: At this point, anything less than a House takeover would disappoint Republicans.

In fact, the more relevant question at this point is whether the GOP can triumph in a big enough landslide to go way beyond the 39 seats it needs to pick-up to win the House. Can it reach, say, the 50-60 range? (Some Republicans like Dick Morris who clearly have no idea of what it means to manage expectations have been hinting at even higher numbers, but that seems far-fetched.) A grand total of 107 Democratic-held seats are now on the chart - 49 on which are rated no better than “toss-ups” and an incredible 74 of which are considered seriously in play (that means they are no better than “lean Democratic”).

Making matters worse for Democrats is that many of these ratings are more likely to move towards the GOP than towards Democrats, and this for very simple reasons. House races are dramatically underpolled and it is difficult to come by other types of reliable district-by-district information. As such, it’s often tough to get a sense of just where a House contest stands. Since these are individual ratings, it makes it difficult to determine which districts the GOP wave will submerge and which Democratic incumbents are managing to hold on better than others.

In short: There are only 22 Democratic districts rated as “lean GOP” or “likely GOP” in this chart, but that does not make it plausible for Republicans to not win more than that. The national generic ballot as well as tales of epic struggles from countless Democratic incumbents nationwide leave no doubt Republicans will succeed in many more districts.

That is not to say that Democrats are sure to lose the majority, far from it: Republicans have yet to put away many districts which they thought would have been the first to fall. Polls have shown that districts like NV-3, PA-7, NH-2, NM-2, OH-16 and MD-1 (rated as toss-ups) all remain within the margin of error, while the GOP advantage in districts like ND-AL and CO-4 (here rated as lean GOP) is still manageable. Meanwhile, and despite the understandable panic over the ridiculously high number of Democratic seats that are now considered in play, many of the endangered incumbents are for now still narrowly ahead - fragile leads, to be sure, but nothing to guarantee humongous Republican gains.

A slight improvement in Democratic voters’ interest in going to the polls would go a long way towards closing the gap in a number of these districts; it would not save the party from historic losses, but saving incumbents like Patrick Murphy, Dina Titus, Gabrielle Giffords and Phil Hare would at least allow Democrats to hang around the 217 mark.

Furthermore, some Democrats have been successful in their attempts to throw the spotlight on their challengers and using oppo research to discredit them; Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (SD-AL) and Betty Sutton (OH-13) are two incumbents who look to be in a better position today than they were over the summer. Finally, Democrats do have enough pick-up hopes of their own to raise the bar of GOP pick-ups: DE-AL and LA-02 look like sure gains; HI-01, FL-25 and IL-10 are promising; and CA-03 is still on the table. This could require the GOP to pick-up at least 42-43 seats just to secure the narrowest of House majorities.

But there is no question that all the momentum is on the Republican side. For one, and this is the most obvious thing to expect in a wave election, open seats in swing districts are just too difficult for a party to defend when Republicans have such a clear generic advantage. The two Arkansas districts, the two Tennessee districts, MI-1, KS-3, WI-7 - Democrats would have been able to win a lot of these in a balanced year, but in 2010 Democratic incumbents’ late retirements in these districts have given the GOP golden opening they probably won’t miss.

The DCCC’s much-touted financial advantage has faded and that conservative outside groups with anonymous donors have been spending millions of dollars in dozens of districts, helping the NRCC make the most of new opportunities in a way Democrats could not enjoy back in 2006. Indeed, a large number of districts are now on the chart that were not even conceivably competitive six months ago: Phil Hare’s IL-17, Gene Taylor’s MS-4, Dave Loebsack’s IA-2 and, perhaps most shockingly, John Dingell’s MI-15.

In fact, every day brings a new poll showing a Democratic incumbent I had in a relatively good position trailing by double-digits. Last week, it was a WI-8 survey with Rep. Steve Kagen down by almost 20% (it might have been a GOP poll, but Democrats have yet to release a response); yesterday, it was NY-23, where Doug Hoffman’s surprise decision to halt his campaign heightened Bill Owens’ vulnerability. Republicans really have nothing to complain about.

Likely Dem
(33D, 2R)

Lean Dem
(25D, 1R)

Toss-up
(27D, 2R)
Lean GOP
(16D, 1R)
Likely GOP
(7D, 11R)
Dem
seats

AR-4
AZ-7
CA-18
CA-20
IL-8
GA-12
IA-1
ID-1
IL-12
KY-3
KY-6
MA-5
MA-7
ME-2
MI-15
MN-1
MN-7
MN-8
NC-2
NM-3
NY-2
NY-13
NY-25
PA-4
PA-17
OH-6
OH-13
RI-1
TN-4
TX-23
VA-9
VA-11
UT-2
WA-9
WV-3


AZ-8
CA-47
CO-7
CT-4
CT-5
FL-22
GA-2
IN-2
IA-2
IA-3
IL-17
MA-10
MI-9
MO-4
MS-4
NC-7
NC-8
NC-11
NJ-3
NM-1
NY-1
NY-20
NY-24
OR-5
PA-12
SD-AL
WA-2
AL-2
A4-1
AZ-1
AZ-5
CA-11
CO-3
FL-2
FL-8
GA-8
IL-14
IN-9
MI-7
MS-1
NV-3
NH-1
NH-2
NY-19
NY-23
NM-2
OH-16
OH-18
PA-7
PA-8
PA-10
SC-5
WV-1
WI-8
CO-4
FL-24
IN-8
KS-3
MI-1
MD-1
ND-AL
OH-15
PA-3
PA-11
TN-8
VA-2
VA-5
WA-3
WI-7
AR-2
IL-11
LA-3
NY-29
OH-1
TN-6
TX-17

GOP seats DE-AL
LA-2
HI-1 FL-25
IL-10
CA-3
AZ-3
CA-45
FL-12
KS-4
MN-6
NE-2
PA-6
PA-15
PA-16
WA-8

Once upon a time, I would have offered district-by-district explanations of my ratings, but I am unable to do so now for obvious time reasons; but I will have the opportunity to take closer looks at districts once I start changing ratings - just as I have been doing for Senate and Governor’s races.

One last note: It is difficult to project House results. But considering the cycle’s dynamics, a good measure would be to project that, were the election held today, the GOP would win any district that is rated “lean Republican” or “likely Republican,” at least half of the districts that are listed as toss-ups and even a substantial share of districts listed as “lean Democratic.” Using that metric, I’d project a Republican gain of at least 41 seats - but I would love to hear what you make of the House landscape.



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