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Category Archive for ‘2010-general’ at Campaign Diaries
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Archive for the '2010-general' CategoryPage 2 of 3


Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

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Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

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Gubernatorial rating changes: Arkansas is now the sole safe governorship for Democrats

We are down to only one safe Democratic governorship anywhere in the country.

With New York moving to the “likely Democratic” column due to a series of developments (Rick Lazio’s withdrawal, polls showing a single-digit race, questions about Attorney General-fatigue) and with Governor Lynch looking increasingly shaky in New Hampshire’s until-recently safe governorship, Democrats don’t have much left to hang onto. And they should be grateful key governorships like Missouri, Washington and North Carolina are not in play this year.

And yet, despite the large number of contests that have moved towards the GOP in recent months, Democratic odds continue to brighten in the country’s biggest prize: California. Despite Jerry Brown’s many gaffes (I still find it hard to believe he let himself be baited into attacking Bill Clinton) and Meg Whitman’s record spending, the Democrat looked like he was finally opening up a lead in recent weeks - and that was before Whitman’s former housekeeper shook-up the race with her accusatory press conference. Whitman has been on the defensive ever since, even offering to take a polygraph test before retracting herself. I am leaving the race in the toss-up section for now, but it’s certainly tilting Democratic - something I would certainly not had said two weeks ago.

And Democrats got good news from a far more unlikelier place this week: the Midwest! While the entire region looked all but lost for Democratic candidates, Ohio Governor Ted Strickland and Illinois Governor Pat Quinn have suddenly rebounded in a series of polls (3 Ohio polls showing a 1%-race within 24 hours whereas we hadn’t since that type of margin since June, and 2 Illinois surveys showing a toss-up); they both remain “lean Republican” for now, but whereas two weeks ago both states were close to moving further towards the GOP they are now very much in play. Also in the Midwest, there is now enough evidence that Minnesota looks good for Democrats that I am moving the race out of the toss-up column.

Unfortunately for Democrats, the other big “toss-up” prize is going the other direction. Rick Scott’s millions look to be having the same effect in the general election as they did in the GOP primary, as he has erased the consistent advantage Alex Sink enjoyed since late August. This is a race Democrats should really focus on - both because of Florida’s size and because the contest remains very much winnable given Scott’s obvious vulnerabilities. In other good news for the GOP, Georgia and New Mexico move to “lean Republican” while Iowa and Oklahoma move to “likely Republican.”

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

Georgia, toss-up to lean Republican: While Roy Barnes remains very much in contention, Georgia has become too GOP-friendly a state for a Democrat not to be an underdog - especially when it doesn’t appear that turnout among African-Americans (a key constituency for Democrats in any state, let alone in Georgia) will be anywhere as high as in 2008. Add to that the fact that the race will go to a December runoff if neither candidate reaches 50%, and the very least we can say is that Barnes will not be the victor on November 2nd. That said, it is fairly likely he’ll be able to hold former Rep. Nathan Deal under that threshold too. Deal might have taken a consistent albeit narrow lead in the polls, but he has a lot of baggage (remember that he resigned from the House in the hopes of avoiding the release of a damning ethics report) that might get wider exposure in a runoff campaign.

Iowa, lean Republican to likely Republican: It’s hard to remember, but Governor Culver actually started the cycle in a fairly comfortable position; that was before the electorate turned against Democrats, before the Midwest became ground zero of the party’s nightmare and before Terry Branstad announced he would seek his old position back. Culver trailed Branstad massively from the beginning of the campaign, and the more we approach Election Day the more hopeless his situation becomes. It’s one thing for an incumbent to trail by double-digits a year before the election; quite another six weeks prior. At the moment, Iowa no longer appears to be in play - and Branstad is probably going to become king-maker as head of the state that is going to lunch the 2012 Republican primaries.

Minnesota, toss-up to lean Democratic: Minnesota is one relatively bright spot for Democrats. Since Democrats nominated Mark Dayton to be their nominee, the former Senator has enjoyed a decent lead in a series of polls - typically in the high single-digits. This can be attributed to a number of factors. For one, the incumbent Governor is a Republican - a rare sight in the Midwest, and one that seems to be diminishing voters’ desire to turn to the GOP to achieve changeover.

Second, Republican nominee Tom Emmer is very conservative, especially on social issues - more than is advisable for a GOP nominee in a swing state that typically tilts to the left. While many other conservatives are highly competitive in blue states (think of Brady in Illinois), the fact that this an open race means Emmer cannot just deflect attention to an incumbent’s unpopularity. Furthermore, the presence of Independent Party nominee Tom Horner gives moderates who do not want to vote for a Democrat this year a place to go other than Emmer. And we certainly cannot rule out Horner becoming a contender for the win; he is flirting with the 20% bar in polls.

New Mexico, toss-up to lean Republican: Lieutenant Governor Diane Denish has to be all the more pained at the collapse of her gubernatorial prospects that she was so close from becoming Governor at the end of 2008: Obama had appointed Governor Bill Richardson to his Cabinet, and had Richardson not withdrawn from consideration Denish would have replaced him in the Governor’s Mansion. But that only seemed to delay her coronation, as Denish started off in a strong position to win the open Governor’s race in 2010.

That was before it became clear just how powerful the GOP wave had become - and just how much Democrats would suffer in states in which they are unpopular at the local level on top of the national level. New Mexico is one of these states. While it looked to have swung decisively blue in 2008, Richardson’s ethical struggles combined and the state’s economic difficulties transformed the political landscape - and what was unimaginable 18 months ago is now very much true: Denish is undeniably trailing her Republican opponent, DA Susana Martinez, who has been highly-touted by GOP officials ever since she won her primary. Going forward, remember that New Mexico is one of those states Obama has to defend in 2010.

New York, safe Democratic to likely Democratic: Governor Carl Paladino… That’s such a difficult notion to entertain I have trouble upgrading the GOP’s prospects in this race, but there is no question that what long looked like an Andrew Cuomo juggernaut has weakened. His 40% leads are no more, and while all polls still show he remains the clear favorite, two post-primary surveys have found that the race is down to single-digits. Perhaps the sight of a Governor-in-waiting annoyed New Yorkers and perhaps there is something to the argument that an Attorney General’s popularity is shallow and can easily be punctured (as was demonstrated with Martha Coakley and to a lesser extent with Richard Blumenthal); or perhaps the margin was always bound to shrink given that suburban New Yorkers already signaled in November 2009 just how much they were ready to oust Democrats (Tom Suozzi can speak to that). Add to that Rick Lazio’s decision to drop out of the race, allowing Paladino to consolidate the Conservative Party line on top of the GOP line, and a path to victory opens up for the Republican nominee.

That said, New York is still a reliably Democratic state and Paladino (a millionaire best-known for sending out racist emails, for getting in a physical altercation with a New York Post reporter and for proposing to house welfare recipients in prisons) is so extremist that a number of Republicans have looked uncomfortable campaigning for him. The mere fact that we’re considering a victory by Paladino  possible is a testament to the GOP’s success this year; it’s hard to imagine Republicans can hope for more

Oklahoma, lean Republican to likely Republican: On paper, Democrats should have a good chance to defend this governorship: Not only do they have a strong candidate in Lieutenant Governor Jeri Askins but they won the last open race, which held in 2002 - no bright year for their party. But the electorate is far more hostile towards Democrats this year than it was eight years ago. Oklahoma is simply too conservative a state for Republicans not to be clearly favored in these circumstances, and Republican Rep. Mary Fallin (a former Lieutenant Governor) is not the type of politician to blunder her way out of front-running status. One thing is clear: Oklahoma will have its first female Governor come 2011.


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Gubernatorial ratings: Dems aim to compensate colossal Midwestern losses with big prizes (CA, FL)

I don’t need to tell you that things aren’t looking good for Democrats in congressional races. And it certainly does not look like the party will gain much comfort from state races - quite the contrary: Putting aside the prospect of huge losses in state legislatures, the gubernatorial landscape is brutal for Democrats.

governor-race-2010-09-21

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

If my Democratic readers want to feel depressed, they should compare the map of gubernatorial ratings I prepared in February 2009 to the one the party is facing today. The blue has almost entirely disappeared from the map, especially as the entire Midwest has dramatically shifted towards the GOP and the West’s red hue has become far more pronounced.

Then, 16 of the year’s 37 races favored Democrats; now that number is just 8. Another striking sign of how much the landscape has shifted to the GOP’s favor: In February 2009, 7 races were likely/safe Democratic while 9 were likely/safe Republican; today, those number are incredibly unbalanced: There are just 4 states Democratic are likely to hold compared to 13 Republican states. In fact, Democrats are left clinging to Arkansas and New York as their only two safe states!

However brutal the map looks, however, Democrats have the potential to save their Election Night by winning a few big prizes that would by themselves balance out huge losses elsewhere. Sure, the loss of Illinois, Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania (the 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th-largest states population-wise) would be quite a blow, but Democrats remain in a good position to pick-up California and Florida - home to more than 55 million people (18% of the country).

Throw in the fact that Democrats’ best shot at unseating an incumbent is in Texas, that Georgia (the 9th largest state) is looking like a toss-up and that New York is one of just two “safe Democratic “seats”, and Democrats do have a clear path to balancing the number of their (many) losses with the size of their (fewer) victories. Even if it is now all but certain that the GOP will hold a clear majority of governorships come 2011 (they now trail 30-20), Democrats have a shot at controlling 3-4 of the largest five and 5-6 of the largest 10.

Sure, Meg Whitman’s record self-financing ($118 million and counting) has kept California highly competitive for Republicans; Florida’s Rick Scott is roughly even with Alex Sink despite his innumerable flaws; and Georgia’s Nathan Deal typically holds a narrow lead despite his ethical problems. But given how much the landscape has been altered in most other states, it has to be a huge relief for Democrats that they remain highly competitive in each of these races.

That said, it’s just as likely they’ll end up with just 2 0f the largest 10: New York and North Carolina, which isn’t on the ballot this year. And nothing can erase what is shaping to be an utter disaster for Midwestern Democrats, who currently control most of the region’s governorships: Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Iowa, Missouri, Illinois and Wisconsin. Republicans control Minnesota and Indiana.

Republicans are currently in a good position to control all of these states but Missouri, which isn’t holding a contest this year (Democrats should be very thankful of that). Democrats’ clearest shot at preventing a GOP sweet of the Midwest is Minnesota, and it’s no coincidence that it is the only state that’s holding a Governor’s race this year with a Republican Governor. The GOP has had to bear some of the insider mantle as well; add to that the fact that Republican nominee Tom Emmer is conservative politician, and Democrats have a good shot at bucking the region’s trend.

But Democrats are running out of time to change the dynamics in other states. Michigan and Pennsylvania have long looked like they would be tough for the party to hold, but the Democratic nominees haven’t even looked competitive for months - a situation that should affect Democratic chances in down-ballot races.

Illinois, Iowa and Ohio looked good for Democrats as 2009 started, but the party has long ago given up on Iowa Governor Chet Culver; Illinois Governor Pat Quinn trails by consistently substantial margins; and Ohio Governor Ted Strickland has been own for months amidst his state’s pronounced economic decline - though he still looks competitive. Besides Ohio, Democrats have their best shot in Wisconsin, where Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett is a strong candidate for Democrats ; but an open race in a swing states between two credible candidates this year is bound to favor the Republican.

Outside of these 7 Midwestern states, Republicans are in good shape to pick-up four additional governorships. They’re highly likely to win Kansas, Wyoming and Tennessee. (Tennessee offers an interesting situation, since Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam was unquestionably the most moderate candidate in the GOP primary; this is the second straight statewide Tennessee primary won by a moderate.) And while it’s worth keeping an eye on Oklahoma, since the Democratic nominee is a statewide official who enjoyed a strong finish in her primary, it’s hard to see how she could pull it off.

The GOP also solidified its positions in states it is defending that once looked like they would be competitive: Alabama, South Carolina, Arizona and Nevada. The latter two states are particularly tough pills for Democrats to swallow, as they had high hopes just a year ago. In Nevada, at least, it always seemed likely the GOP would be on a better footing once it kicked out Governor Jim Gibbons in the primary; but Brian Sandoval’s dominance is surely more than Republicans were hoping for. But in Arizona, it’s easy to forget just how vulnerable Jan Brewer looked in the first six months after she took over for Janet Napolitano. She trailed big in the GOP primary and in the general election; but she then signed SB 1070 and hasn’t looked back since - she became a darling of the hard-right, cruised through the primary and took a decisive lead over Terry Goddard.

Testifying to the fact that the Southwest is no longer the favorable territory it was for Democrats in 2006 and 2008 is New Mexico, not so long ago a likely Democratic hold but now a tough proposition for Lieutenant Governor Diane Denish. (Remember, Denish once believed she was a few weeks away from becoming Governor until Bill Richardson withdrew his nomination for Obama’s Cabinet.) In the Northwest, former Governor John Kitzhaber was long expected to win the race but former NBA player Chris Dudley has tied up the race; Kitzhaber seems to be running a slow-moving campaign like his California colleague Jerry Brown, but Oregon isn’t blue enough to pull that off.

Democrats do have a few bright spots, however - and I don’t mean California, Florida and Minnesota, all of which are toss-ups that could easily go for the GOP.

The brightest is undoubtedly Colorado: Here’s a swing state in a region that has been trending Republican this year, but the GOP managed to completely mess up its strong pick-up chances The Scott McInnis plagiarism scandal followed by Dan Maes’s nomination and Tom Tancredo’s bid have set up a 3-way race that clearly favors Democratic nominee John Hickenlooper. This would be an important victory for Democrats, as Colorado is a growing state in a region of the country that is key to Democrats’ national ambition.

Another relatively bright spot is Massachusetts: Deval Patrick is hardly out of the woods but his numbers have remained stable over the past year - unlike those of many of his colleagues. And Democrats are also in good shape in GOP-held Connecticut and Hawaii, though both races remain competitive. (I have rated Rhode Island a “lean Democratic” pick-up to reflect the fact that the GOP is sure to lose the Governor’s Mansion; but the race is currently a toss-up between Democrat Frank Caprio and independent Linc Chaffee, who some say has ran to Caprio’s left and who has earned the SEIU’s endorsement.)

One last note: In July, I published an analysis of who is likely to control the redistricting process in every state - and what November elections will determine that. Part of the equation is gubernatorial races, of course, but state legislatures are obviously crucial, so check out that piece to detailed information. The bottom-line is that Democrats are facing the daunting prospect of GOP-gerrymandered maps in Texas, Ohio and Pennsylvania; and are hoping to force a divided map in all-important Florida.


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Senate landscape: Delaware’s abrupt flip is small compensation for many seats’ drift towards GOP

After years of daily blogging, I didn’t update this blog for six months. I resisted through the many thrilling primary nights - from Arlen Specter’s loss and Blanche Lincoln’s survival to Rick Scott and Joe Miller’s triumphs; I resisted through the deterioration of Democrats’ electoral outlook and the entry of still-new candidates, which made much of the rankings I had written in early 2010 obsolete; I resisted through game-changing developments like Charlie Crist’s departure from Florida’s GOP primary and Scott McInnis’s Colorado collapse; I resisted even as the playing field of truly competitive House races doubled from around 40 to around 80.

But now that we have entered the campaign’s final stretch - and what a way to close the primary season last night! - I cannot resist any longer.

This is in many ways a bad idea. For one, I have even less time to devote to such writing now than I did in March, so the wisest course would be to stay out of this. Second, I think my blog was a good read because it offered daily and detailed analysis, something I will not even try to replicate. I have little hope of posting more than standard looks at the overall outlook - but it will hopefully not be too boring.

Nonetheless: the time has come to chime in with my impressions of what the political landscape looks like. Let’s start with the Senate.

I am writing this the day after Christine O’Donnell scored what I’d argue is the year’s biggest primary upset, so at this very moment Democrats are feeling far more giddy about their Senate prospects than they have in months. Delaware’s Senate seat was rated as a ‘likely Republican’ pick-up ever since Rep. Mike Castle entered the race while Beau Biden declined to run last year, but last night’s stunning result took the race and threw it all the way to the ‘likely Democratic’ column - as abrupt a change as you’ll ever see.

Given all that has gone wrong for Senate Democrats since January 19th, this represents a huge break - and one that will have major consequences in next year’s balance of power.

But looking back at the past six months, there is no absolutely no question that Senate Democrats are in a far worse position than was thought possible when 2010 started - even if we account for the latest Delaware situation. Republicans might no longer have a clear shot at winning a Senate majority this November, but the mere fact that this remains in the realm of possibilities is just stunning considering where we were in January.

senate-race-15-sep-10

Which translates to the following ratings (any race in the “lean” category is one that looks very much competitive):

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

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

MO
NH

This gets us to the following breakdown:

  • Safe Democratic: 46
  • Safe/Likely Democratic: 48
  • Safe/Likely/Lean Democratic: 50
  • Toss-ups: 7
  • Safe/Likely/Lean Republican: 43
  • Safe/Likely Republican: 37
  • Safe Republican: 34

First of all, I want to note that the playing field of competitive Senate races is double the size it was in the last cycle. In September 2008 - the comparable point of the cycle - I had just 8 races listed in the toss-up or lean columns. Today, I have 15!

And while many of those are Republican (6), Democratic seats are obviously more precarious.

After Scott Brown won the Massachusetts special election, Republicans started whispering that they could win anywhere - and so I looked at whether the NRSC had any hope of expanding the map in 7 states that were at the time considered safely Democratic: Connecticut, New York, California, Wisconsin, Indiana, Washington and Hawaii.

Today, one of these seven seats looks like a Republican pick-up (Indiana) while three are highly competitive (Washington, Wisconsin and California).

While Democrats were blindsided by Evan Bayh’s retirement, in most years Brad Ellsworth would have had a better chance against a candidate with as much baggage as Dan Coats. In Washington, Dino Rossi would not have considered jumping in the race had it not been for the Massachusetts precedent; and while he did lose two gubernatorial races, he has as strong a candidate as the party could have fielded, though I believe Patty Murray is in a stronger position than her colleagues from California and Wisconsin.

Barbara Boxer and Russ Feingold are indeed looking quite weak; while they were sometimes listed as vulnerable in 2009, I doubt that many Democrats took the threat that seriously - especially when Campbell and Thompson lost the nomination and declined to run, respectively. And I question how viable Ron Johnson would be in most cycles, though the millions of self-funding he’s pouring in never hurt. I’d say the Democratic position in these two states is now more endangered than their chances in any GOP-held seat is promising. Which is quite a turn of events.

Add to that Arkansas (which now looks as gone as North Dakota), Pennsylvania (where Joe Sestak is now trailing Pat Toomey rather consistently, though Democrats remain very much committed to winning this race), Colorado, Illinois and Nevada (all of which are shaping to be toss-ups to the end), and Democrats are staring at big losses.

But it should be a relief for Democrats that Colorado, Illinois and Nevada have all stabilized into toss-up status: There was a point at which each of them looked like it would slip away, none more so than Nevada. Harry Reid’s prospects looked to be as low as can be from the summer of 2009 through May 2010, and I just don’t see how the Majority Leader could have survived had the GOP nominated anyone but Sharron Angle. Does this mean Reid will win? No: Nevada is no Delaware and Harry Reid is no Chris Coons. The race will remain close, and Angle could still win it for Republicans. But the race’s outlook is far more favorable for Reid than I’d have thought possible when I left in March.

Colorado, meanwhile, might very well be the ultimate toss-up, with a little-known but not that unpopular politician facing a conservative who isn’t quite as controversial as some of his fellow Tea Party nominees; one factor that should help Democrats is the state GOP’s utter collapse in the Governor’s race. The McInnis-Maes-Tancredo debacle will lead to a runaway victory for Denver Mayor Hickenlooper - and it leaves Buck entirely unable to rely on the other candidate’s at the top of his party’s ticket.

Things could also have been worse for Democrats in Illinois, where Alexi Giannoulias’s prospects looked increasingly bleak until repeated scandals suggesting he had exaggerated various parts of his resume stopped any momentum Mark Kirk might have had; the race is now in a holding pattern, with both candidates polling at atrociously low levels given their high profile. And in Pennsylvania, I still think the seat would have been more comfortably Republican had Specter survived the Democratic primary.

So what remains? Democrats did salvage Hawaii, where Senator Dan Inouye did not retire, and New York, where the NRSC suffered a rare recruitment failure, likely ensuring an easy victory for Kirsten Gillibrand. In Connecticut, Blumenthal remains favored, but he’s hardly as invincible as he looked in the spring; in Delaware, Coons has to be careful not to let O’Donnell pull another stunner; and another must-win seat was added for Democrats: West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin is heavily favored to win the special election this November, but we cannot entirely rule out an upset.

Meanwhile, Democrats have watched their chances at GOP-held seats slip away.

Republican candidates in Ohio, Florida, New Hampshire and Missouri have opened leads. That’s hardly surprising: Voters are even more likely to vote based on their party preferences in open seat races - and given that all of these states are closely divided (or even pro-GOP, in Missouri’s case) in balanced circumstances, it’s logical to expect the GOP to have a solid edge in a year in which conservatives are in the upswing.

In Florida, Charlie Crist’s independent bid muddied the waters for a bit, but at this point I’d argue he looks most likely to compete with Kendrick Meek to avoid coming in 3rd. In Ohio, national Democrats are down enough on Lee Fisher’s chances that I suspect they might give up on the state - a reverse scenario from 2006, where national Republicans gave up on Senator Mike DeWine weeks before Election Day.

I’m not sure which of New Hampshire and Missouri offers Democrats their best shot. It’s a testament to Robin Carnahan’s strength that she has remained viable and the DSCC’s first expenditure was in Missouri, indicating they believe in her chances; and in New Hampshire, Kelly Ayotte remains an undefined candidate, and the GOP primary (in which she relied on Sarah Palin’s endorsement) might have hurt her in the general election electorate. The bottom-line is that New Hampshire independents are likely to swing en bloc while Missouri didn’t go for Obama in 2008, but all these races are worth following.

Remain Kentucky and Alaska, two red states which wouldn’t have been part of the discussion had establishment pick Tray Greyson and incumbent Lisa Murkowski survived their primaries. Rand Paul and Joe Miller’s primary victories created a stir, however, and make the fall races more interesting than they would have been otherwise.

Kentucky has a history of voting Democratic in non-presidential races, but it might be much to expect them to do so in 2010 - even though Attorney General Jack Conway is a strong candidate and Rand Paul has endangered himself with some of his libertarian views. And Alaska proved itself quite conservative in 2008, though its dependence on federal funds will make it interesting to see how voters respond to Miller’s extreme fiscal conservatism - and it’s worth mentioning that Sitka (the town Dem nominee Scott McAdams is the mayor of) was larger than Wasilla at the time of the 2000 census.

As for North Carolina and Louisiana, they might have been top pick-up opportunities in 2008 given Richard Burr’s unimpressive numbers and David Vitter’s baggage - and there’s an argument to be made Elaine Marshall has a better chance to turn voters against an incumbent than Democratic candidates from open seats have of escaping the cycle’s generic dynamic. But it’s hard to see either Marshall or Charlie Melancon succeeding without help from the DSCC, and the national committee is unlikely to pay much attention to either of them.

All of this gets me to a projection of about a 7 seat pick-up for the GOP. But what do you guys think - if I have any readers left after a six months hiatus?


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Of our perception of the political landscape

What would be our sense of the midterm landscape if Research 2000 and Quinnipiac released as many polls as Rasmussen does?

This question is not meant to denigrate Rasmussen. I am not dismissing his results by pointing out that his polls represent a set of assumptions that are on the GOP-friendly end of the spectrum of possible turnout patterns and partisan breakdown, whereas Research 2000 appears to be using assumptions that result in more favorable results for Democrats and whereas the model used by a group like Quinnipiac makes its results fall somewhere in the middle. Case in point: Quinnipiac’s new Ohio poll finds Governor Ted Strickland leading 44% to 39% while Rasmussen has him trailing by the sort of decisive margins an incumbent rarely recovers from.

Another case-in-point is Illinois. A new Research 2000 poll finds very positive numbers for Democrats, with Alexi Giannoulias leading Mark Kirk 43% to 36% and Governor Pat Quinn up by double-digits against the two Republicans who are fighting over who won the February 5th primary (46-35 against Kirk Dillard, 47-32 against Bill Brady). These numbers are almost hard to believe, but it’s unclear why that would be: Three independent polls of the Kirk-Giannoulias match-up have been released over the past month. One had Kirk leading 46-40 (Rasmussen) while the two others had Giannoulias up outside of the margin of error (Research 2000 and PPP). In short: The conventional wisdom that has emerged of a front-running Kirk and a struggling Giannoulias is certainly not backed by a polling consensus.

The problem arises not from different pollsters’ differing assumptions but from Rasmussen amazingly prolific rhythm: The pollster typically tests half-a-dozen states a week, whereas no more than two for PPP and at most one for Research 2000, Quinnipiac, Mason-Dixon or Suffolk. This has led to a situation in which the Rasmussen model of what the fall electorate will look like is dominating our understanding of the political landscape.

This is especially true in states that few if any other polling firms test. Indeed, in states that are often polled by a variety of pollsters (say New York, Connecticut, Nevada, Florida and North Carolina), we can confront Rasmussen’s findings to those of other surveys and thus avoid relying on a single poll. For instance, a new Rasmussen poll released today has Senator Richard Burr in a very solid position. Without dismissing his take on the race, we are well-served by being able to compare his numbers to those PPP released earlier this week, which had Burr looking more vulnerable.

The situation is very different in a state like Wisconsin: As far as I can see, the only non-Rasmussen poll that has been released over the past 6 months testing the Governor’s race and Russ Feingold’s vulnerability is a PPP survey dating back from November which showed Democrats in a strong position. That makes our view of Wisconsin’s political situation far more dependent on Rasmussen than is healthy. The same is true of Colorado, which only Rasmussen and Research 2000 have tested since September; the two have found very contradictory results as to Michael Bennett’s vulnerability, but since R2000 visited the state only once whereas Rasmussen has released four polls, we have grown more used to seeing Bennet in a catastrophic situation. This phenomenon is perhaps most consequential in Missouri, which no pollster but Rasmussen has tested since mid-November.

Once again, none of this is meant to suggest Rasmussen is distorting its numbers or that his polls are unreliable; after all, in many of these states (starting in Missouri) not only Rasmussen’s raw numbers but also his trendline have shown bad news for Democrats. The point is that no individual poll provides a reliable snap-shot of the electorate, Rasmussen no more than others, and that we should keep this in mind when commenting on the landscape in places like Wisconsin and Missouri.

The usual full polling round-up will come tomorrow morning.


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New House ratings show brutally unbalanced map

House Projected Composition February 2010

When I first put together this cycle’s House ratings last spring, I found the landscape to be remarkably balanced: 62 GOP-held seats and 68 Dem-held seats were on the map, with both parties defending a relatively comparable number of seats in the most competitive categories - 18 for Republicans, 28 for Democrats. The eight months that have passed since then have been rough for the DCCC, and it will surprise nobody that my new House ratings look radically different.

The number of Republicans seats that are worth keeping an eye on has plummeted to 34, while many more Democratic seats are on the map today than there were in the spring: 89.

This disparity is as stark when we only consider the most vulnerable categories (lean retention and above): At the moment, the GOP has to worry about just 13 of its seats compared to 43 for Democrats - just above the magic number of 41 seats Republicans need to pick-up to regain a majority, though the DCCC has somewhat of a lifeline with the three GOP-held seats it has a great shot at picking-up (DE-AL, IL-10 and LA-02).

Some of Democrats’ troubles have come from the retirements that have befell the party since November: Had they not been open, AR-01, KS-03, NH-02, TN-06 or WA-03 would either not have been on the map at all or they would have hovered in the potentially competitive column. Instead, they have become some of the DCCC’s biggest headaches. That said, it does appear that Democrats did manage to keep the floodgates closed. But while the GOP does not have as many retirements to exploit as it would like, they have pulled many remarkable recruitment coups in districts that had been uncontested for years, sometimes for decades. As the cycle started, who could have expected that AR-02, MO-04, ND-AL, PA-08, PA-17, SC-05 or WV-01 would find themselves on our radar screen?

Republicans should not expect to sweep all vulnerable seats. For one, a red wave wil not make itself felt equally in all the states, e.g. NY Democrats could be in better form since they’ll probably be helped by Cuomo’s coattails. Second, a number of incumbents who have prepared themselves for a tough run since the cycle started should survive - just as Reps. Gerlach, Kirk, Reichert or Shays managed to win one or both of their 06/08 contests. This is why I have for now maintained all Democratic incumbents in the toss-up category; I fully expect the party to lose many, perhaps most, of its vulnerable districts (AL-02, CO-04, FL-24, ID-01, MD-01, NM-02, NV-03, OH-01, VA-02, VA-05), but for now we have little evidence but the national environment, which makes it all but impossible to differentiate between them.

Conversely, a number of Democrats who at the moment appear to be keeping their head above the water could easily find themselves submerged if the environment is as toxic as the GOP is hoping; this includes incumbents like Reps. Altmire (PA-04), Dahlkemper (PA-03), Pomeroy (ND-AL), Salazar (CO-03), Matheson (UT-02), Boucher (VA-09), Kirkpatrick (AZ-01), Davis (TN-04) and others. While many of these districts are likely to rise to the more competitive categories by the time all is said and done, it goes without saying that efforts to expand the map often fail (see Democrats’ utter failures in IN-03 and ME-Sen in the past cycle), and it is simply too early to differentiate between the Democrats’ marginally vulnerable seats.

Besides the prospect of getting at least get something to campaign if they manage to pass some major legislation or the hope that the economic recovery will make itself felt by the fall, Democrats are banking on two additional wild cards. The first is the possibility that Republican primaries complicate the party’s chances in some districts. Doug Hoffman is for instance threatening to mount yet another third-party bid in NY-23 if he loses the GOP nomination; other primaries could produce a weaker candidate because of crowded fields in which anything is possible, which is arguably what happened to the GOP in last week’s IL-Gov and IL-10 primaries. (Look no further than what happened in 2008 to Democrats in LA-06 and NY-26 or what happened to Republicans in MD-01 to see how perfect opportunities can be ruined by brutal primaries.)

The second major wild card is the GOP’s financial limitation: The NRCC does not have a lot of money, especially when compared to the millions the DCCC relied on to bankroll the blue waves in 2006 and in 2008. That means a number of promising challengers could find themselves swamped come the fall, when well-financed incumbents and the DCCC go all-out to attack them while national Republicans has to prioritize some districts over others in a way that was less problematic for Democrats in the past two cycles. Might they still be rescued by independent groups, which will no longer have to abide by spending restrictions?

Without further delay, here are my rating charts. There is unfortunately no district-by-district explanation (while I have done that in the past, I would have no more time to do any other blogging work if I attempted to pull it off again), but you will find a handy graphic showing the projected balance of power.

House Ratings February 2010

House Detailed Projected Composition February 2010


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Democrats’ nightmare

Last night, Democrats suffered a humiliating defeat, lost the Senate seat Teddy Kennedy had held for more than four decades and surrendered the 60-seat majority they had built so painstakingly. This extraordinary upset, which has few if any rivals among the past 2 decades, emboldens Republicans to push for still-greater gains in 2010 and deals a terrible blow to Democrats’ agenda, starting with the health-care bill that just two weeks seemed certain to adopted.

Even with that introduction, I fear I am not doing justice to the magnitude of what happened last night. After all, as we entered January, Scott Brown would have been considered lucky to get within 10% of Martha Coakley but a few voices started wondering whether little-known state Senator Scott Brown could pull off a victory; I confess I did not awake to the possibility until just two weeks ago. (That might sound late but it’s nevertheless earlier than the time at which Coakley recognized the danger she was facing.) Fast forward 15 days, and Brown pulled off a jaw-dropping 4,8% victory.

Democrats are already consumed by the blame game

In the days leading up to the election, prominent figures like Barney Frank and as many anonymous D.C. aides was there are journalists were blasting Coakley’s hapless campaign; yesterday, in the middle of Election Day, the Attorney General’s camp fired back with a memo accusing national Democrats of failing to engage and being responsible for the tough environment that has contributed to her decline. Putting aside that it is telling of the campaign’s disorganization that a top Coakley staffer found the time on Election Day to write such a lengthy postmortem, we can surely all agree that everyone is right here: such an unlikely even can only be explained by a perfect storm of factors.

The first is the Democratic nominee. Coakley ran a strong primary campaign, but she paid no attention to the general election. It’s one thing for observers like myself to declare her the heavy favorite, it’s another for the candidate to decide that she does not have to put in any work to secure her first victory in a federal race. She took a long vacation, and her campaign did not go up on TV until the final 10 days of the campaign - after her opponent started airing his third ad. As such, Brown had ample time to introduce himself to voters in a positive light. By the time Democrats woke up, it was much too late: the Republican’s favorability rating was impressively high, and a sudden blitzkrieg of negative advertisement cannot be expected to change one month’s worth of good will.

And it’s not like Coakley can blame her lack of a campaign on financial woes: as of December 31st, Coakley had more than $1 million in the bank. Furthermore, most of her failures have nothing to do with fundraising: Not only did she come across as stiff and conventional (it’s not like she seemed a particularly original and intriguing candidate back during the primary campaign), but numerous news stories reported that she scoffed at the idea of holding events and shaking hands. As of Monday, Coakley had only held 19 events since her primary victory - that’s less than one every two days!

(It’s hard to imagine Rep. Capuano, the energetic champion of progressive causes, would have given the GOP such an opening - a thought that sure to haunt Democrats so much over the next 3 years that Capuano has to be considered the front-runner to win the Senate nomination in 2012 if he wants to challenge Brown.)

Brown, meanwhile, mounted an unexpectedly formidable campaign. That Democrats should never have allowed that to matter doesn’t change the fact that not all Republicans could have pulled off what the state Senator did: He managed to navigate the GOP’s ideological divide with a talent that other Republicans will want to imitate, simultaneously presenting himself as an “independent” supportive of abortion rights and getting Tea Partiers/national conservatives to embrace him. His populist message (his attempts to channel voters’ anger over the economic crisis, his effective self-portrayal as a “regular guy” who rides a pick-up truck) clearly resonated with voters.

But in a state like Massachusetts, even the worst Democratic candidates shouldn’t lose against the best Republican ones - and let’s not forget that Coakley is, after all, the sitting Attorney General while Brown had no statewide profile as of 5 months ago. Last night’s results obviously comes in the context of a tough environment for Democrats, and despite the White House’s best efforts to put all of the blame on Coakley’s failures, there is no question that national politics played a great role in yesterday’s upset.

Had a Senate special election been held in Mississippi or Louisiana in the spring of 2008, Democrats might very well have won it. They did, after all, win House races in those two states in districts that were arguably more Republican than Massachusetts is Democratic. 18 months later, the White House has changed hands and so has the entire political landscape. Many voters who typically Democratic, starting with blue-collar workers, either cast a ballot for Brown (how many of these had ever cast a ballot for a Republican in a federal race?) or did not vote (turnout was higher than would be expected in a special election, but the motivation gap was certainly there since Boston’s turnout was lower than in its suburbs). This does speak to Washington Democrats’ unpopularity: It took them a year to squander voters’ good-will.

Democrats divided

There will be a lot of recriminations among Democrats as to what accounts for this. The party’s right-wing, starting with Claire McCaskill and Evan Bayh, have already made it clear they blame progressives. Bayh, for instance, stated that Coakley’s defeat is due to the party being taken over by “the furthest left elements;” McCaskill declared that Democrats were taking their agenda “too far, too fast.”

Yet, to the extent that this perception exists, it is in great part due to those Democrats who spend much of their time denouncing liberals’ control over the party when they are far more powerful themselves. Take health-care: A third of House Democrats are co-sponsors of a single-payer bill, which did not even factor in the discussion. In fact, after losing on almost every intraparty fight on which they engaged this fall, progressives were ready to pass a public option-less bill that instituted new restrictions on abortion funding - a bill that closely resembles the health-care plan Mitt Romney supported in Massachusetts. Bayh, McCaskill and their allies have long ago buried most of liberals’ other priorities, from cap-and-trade to EFCA. Looking back at 2009, I have trouble seeing what the left might have to celebrate.

The perception that “the furthest left elements” of the Democratic party have too much influence in Washington has a lot to do with Bayh and Lieberman saying it is so against much of the available evidence; the flawed perception that the health-care bill’s is a socialist’s dream has much to do with those Democrats who spent months denouncing it as radical legislation before voting for it. Of course, the Nelsons and Bayhs are only hurting themselves: As long as they were open to the possibility of supporting the bill, why spend months tearing it down first? That contributed to making the legislation so unpopular that Lincoln is more vulnerable than she would be otherwise, Bayh is potentially vulnerable to a GOP challenge and Nelson’s approval rating has dipped so low the GOP cannot wait for 2012.

Democrats’ greatest fault in 2009 was a fundamental lack of response to voters’ desire to see corporations, banks or executives punished for their responsibility in the economic crisis. Instead of rising up to the challenge of representing the working-class, the White House gave Larry Summers and his ideological allies the keys to the country’s economy, framed the health-care debate as a collaboration with insurance and drug companies and all but renounced any confrontation with the financial sector. (In October 2008, who would have thought that in January 2010 Wall Street firms would have this little to complain about?) In this context, is it surprising that the hard-right has been able to seize the populist mantle, convince independents and blue-collar voters that the Tea Party is capable to channel their anger?

In short, my view is not just that cautious governance is depressing the liberal base - that alone cannot explain the voting shifts we have been seeing - but rather that it has pushed working-class voters (who are not necessarily liberal) away and has allowed Tea Party populism to prosper.

Can health-care survive?

All of these debates will come to an immediate head over the question of what should be done with health-care reform. The loss of a 60-seat majority will affect Democrats all year, and Brown’s victory will surely be a source of frustration for the party in every roll call that will be taken until January 2013, but nowhere will it be more consequential than on the health-care bill. Congressional Democrats have spent much of the past 8 months focusing on this issue, and when the Senate finally passed its version of the legislation it looked all but certain that a bill would land on the president’s desk within 6 weeks. Brown’s victory single-handedly changes the equation. It is now an open question as to whether any health-care bill will pass Congress this year.

The problem isn’t so much that Republicans now have 41 votes. (Democrats still have majorities which which to pass a conference report since it is unlikely Brown can be seated until January 29th at the earliest, and since congressional leadership has already sent large parts of the final bill to the CBO for scoring, that might be enough of a window for the same 60 senators who passed the bill in December to push it through again. Legislation could also be adopted if the House, in which the Democratic majority is obviously not affected by Brown’s victory, simply passes the Senate bill unchanged.)

If health-care reform fails it will be due to Democrats backing away. Centrists want a bill that can win Republican support; House liberals are categorically refusing to pass the Senate bill as is, since many of the complaints they had about the exchange design, subsidy levels and funding mechanisms were supposed to be fixed in conference; and Democrats across the ideological spectrum are saying they are uncomfortable with pushing anything through the Senate before Brown is seated. While Virginia’s moderate Senator Jim Webb was the first to call for a suspension of any health-care vote, liberal leader Barney Frank also said that the bill could not be passed without taking into account Massachusetts voters.

(Update: Yes, Democrats weren’t even supposed to have 60 votes until Specter switched parties; yes, they were preparing to charge ahead with health-care reform even before MA Dems changed state law to allow Paul Kirk to replace Kennedy. As such, I agree with Ezra Klein’s many posts that argue that covering the loss of a 60th seat as if the Democrats have lost control of the Senate is silly - and revealing of the institution’s dysfunctions. Yet, the problem here is that they are losing a seat after completing the debate: At this point, they can hardly turn to Snowe or Collins in the hope they can be convinced to back the reform; and turning to reconciliation at this late point would waste them precious weeks. Had they known in September they would have to deal with 59 votes, they would have proceeded differently from the get go.)

One option is for the House to adopt the Senate bill while at the same time passing a reconciliation resolution implementing some of the changes that the conference committee was expected to implement, for instance a change to the subsidy levels and the establishment of national exchanges; all the Senate would then have to do is adopt the small reconciliation bill with only 50 votes. While unions seem to be endorsing this approach, House liberals are signaling they are not because they do not trust the Senate would actually follow through on the “fix”.

Scrapping the bill and starting everything over through reconciliation thus appears the only option left on the table, though it would face major obstacles. Congress would spend many more months focused on health-care, Pelosi would still not be certain of a majority and many of the bill’s most emblematic reforms (for instance a ban on pre-existing conditions) would have to be stripped since they do not affect the budget. Yet, health-care proponents got an unexpected bit of good news today: Budget Committee Chair Senator Kent Conrad, who I would have expected to side with Evan Bayh, signaled he was “cautiously” open to using reconciliation. [Update: Ben Nelson issues a statement strongly hinting that he'll back Democratic leadership's decision because "we should not give up."]

Democrats would be taking a big political risk if they push through health-care reform under the current circumstances, especially if they take the reconciliation route. But I firmly believe the electoral consequences would be even more disastrous if no legislation passes. As the 1994 midterms showed, that would only result to Democratic incumbents seeking re-election with nothing to actually run on; it would depress liberals while doing nothing to dampen conservative enthusiasm, quite the contrary; and it would confirm to voters that the health-care bill was a radical piece of legislation and that every congressman who voted for it should be punished.

Indeed, the bottom line is that all Democratic senators and the vast majority of Democratic House members have already voted in favor of health-care reform. Dropping the legislation now would do nothing to shield them from attacks, but it would deprive them of any means to fight back.

Emboldened Republicans could seek to expand the map further

If we can win in Massachusetts, Republicans are now telling themselves, we can win everywhere. That logic is no doubt limited (not all Democrats will take a one-month break before the election, for one; the GOP saved quite many endangered seats in 2008, second), but there is no doubt that Democrats are caught in a vicious cycle. The more Republicans grow confident that they will score huge gains in November, the better the landscape will look.

Indeed, Brown’s triumph could help the GOP pull off many more recruitment coups, as credible Republicans in districts that the GOP wouldn’t ordinarily think of contesting will now probably take a look at jumping in. More Democratic congressmen could call it quits (there is little doubt that Byron Dorgan and Vic Snyder were scared off by the prospect of unexpectedly tough re-election races); Democratic leaders were reportedly calling members last night to ensure there wouldn’t be a panic-induced wave of retirements following the Massachusetts results; and the more money will flow the GOP’s way.

While we have paid a lot of attention to the NRCC’s efforts to expand the House map, the NRSC could be emboldened by its Massachusetts pick-up. They have already mounted top-tier campaigns in 7 seats held by Democrats (NV, AR, ND, DE, IL, PA, CO); why not try to put 3 more in play in the hope of taking control of the Senate? The obvious candidates are New York and California, but let’s not forget about Connecticut: Not only is it not as blue as Massachussetts, but Richard Blumenthal’s position as an invincible Attorney General looks less firm since Coakley’s loss.

The icing on the cake could be Indiana: Rep. Mike Pence is reportedly meeting NRSC officials to talk about the possibility he might challenge Evan Bayh! That wouldn’t automatically become a top-tier race, but it would certainly be a race well-worth watching. The mere fact that we’re talking about the possibility that Bayh might have to worry about his re-election race is a testament to just how low Democrats have sunk.

A few silver linings for Democrats

If even the most pessimistic Democrats could not have imagined living through such a nightmare, there are a few silver linings worth mentioning. The first is that they lost Massachusetts’s Senate seat for only 3 years rather than the usual 6: Scott Brown is up for re-election in 2012, when he will surely be one of the most endangered incumbents nationwide. He has enough political talent that he could survive, of course, but it will not be easy considering he has little time to entrench himself and that he would have to deal with Obama’s coattails.

Second, the failures of Coakley’s campaign ensure that other Democrats do not take anything for granted. If Republicans are now crowning that they can win anywhere, Democrats are more aware than ever that they can lose anywhere. Sure, everyone already knew that 2010 would be tough for Democrats - but there is a difference between believing it to be true and receiving proof like yesterday’s. As such, the GOP shouldn’t expect Blumenthal to rest on his laurels as he might have been tempted to do had he not witnessed the collapse of his Massachusetts colleague; similarly, the NRCC cannot hope to take Democratic House members by surprise, as the DCCC had done to supposedly safe GOP incumbents in the final weeks of the 2006 campaign.

Unfortunately for liberals, the week could still get much worse: The Supreme Court just called a special session tomorrow and it is expected to decide Citizens United. That could mark the end of campaign finance regulations as we know it.


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Democrats have to defend fewer freshmen than they did in 1994

Over the past few weeks, I have repeatedly discussed how low a number of vulnerable open seats Democrats have to defend in 2010; even with Dennis Moore and John Tanner’s unexpected retirements, the situation bears no resemblance to anything the party experienced in 1994 or that Republicans had to deal within 2006 and in 2008. Via Swing State Project’s Twitter feed, there is another historical comparison that should prevent Republicans from scoring the huge gains they are hoping for.

Going into 1994, Democrats had two big weaknesses. We’ve talked at length about the first - open seats; they lost 22. Teh second was the large number of junior lawmakers in their caucus: Due to a big wave of retirements in the 1992 cycle and to the redistricting changes of 1991, there were 63 freshmen Democrats running for re-election in 1994. (16 ended up losing.) In 2010, there will be a lower number of Democratic freshmen: 37.

This is a great firewall for the party because freshmen are by far the most vulnerable lawmakers: They have not had time to build a solid infrastructure in the district, they have yet to build the fundraising, name recognition and institutional network that allows so many incumbents to keep their seats indefinitely, and they haven’t been in Congress long enough to tout their experience or their seniority. In short, they have to suffer through the disadvantages of incumbency (insider status, tough votes) without many of its benefits. In 1994, 16 of the 63 freshmen Democrats lost (that’s more than 25%); in 2008, 4of the 5 Democrats who lost their seat were freshmen.

Of course, none of this is to say that 37 freshmen is a small number. Quite the contrary, it’s far larger than the number Republicans had to defend in 2006 (18) and in 2008 (13). Republicans could certainly inflict major damage in Democratic ranks since a red wave would be likely to submerge many of these first-term lawmakers; looking at these 37 Democrats, only 10 are sure to win re-election no matter what which does makes 27 pick-up opportunities for Republicans.

For instance, Mason Dixon released a very rare public poll of a House race this week-end, and the result was not pretty for Democrats in a district (NV-03) that Obama won by 12%: freshman Rep. Dina Titus is tied at 40% with former state Sen. Joe Heck. Now, Heck is a top GOP recruit (at the beginning of the cycle, the NRSC was hoping to get him to challenge Reid) and Titus does manage a healthier 48-32 lead against lesser-known Rob Lauer; she will also draw comfort from the fact that she has a 9% lead among independents and has more room to grow among Dems (she’s at 69%). But it goes without saying that any incumbent who polls at 40% is very vulnerable.

My overall point, then, is merely that 37 should prove insufficient compared to the huge number of pick-ups the GOP has to score to recapture the majority - especially when you combine it to the fact that at this point they only have to worry about 5 open seats and to the fact that the GOP hasn’t made a priority of defeating all 27 aforementioned Democrats. (Ann Kirkpatrick, Eric Massa, Michael McMahon, Kurt Schrader or Scott Murphy don’t face that worrisome a cycle for now.)

What’s important to emphasize is that picking-up open seats and beating freshmen can often be done easily. It becomes obvious early in the fall that a district is going to switch so that neither party devotes much attention (and money) to it and the battle is displaced somewhere else; in 2006 and in 2008, Democrats put countless of districts in the bag like this, which allowed them to expand the map. On the other hand, entrenched incumbents can be beat - but that almost always takes a major battle that consumes resources; there’s only so many veterans who can be ousted like that.

In short: Republicans’ ability to expand the map to districts that have sometimes not been contested in decades positions them to make substantial gains, but to approach a 41 seat pick-up they’d need more easy opportunities than they have. Democrats did short of that number in 2006 and in 2008 - and it’s not like the environment (or the number of open seats they had a shot at) left a lot to be desired.


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New ratings find large number of competitive Governor’s races

In 2010, 37 states will hold Governor’s races, and at the moment the incumbent party can be said to be safe in only five of them! That is not due to any attempt on my part to pile on races in the “likely retention” category: A full 22 states are here classified in the most competitive categories: 13 are “leans” and 9 are “toss-ups.” And the stakes are high for each and every contest: Governors who are elected next year will play a decisive role  in the next round of redistricting, and they will oversee major policy fights - starting with the potential debate over whether states should opt-out of a public option.

Most of the country’s biggest states are holding all-out battles, if not in the general election than at least in the primary. One year before Election Day, it’s tough to predict with any certainty who will lead California, New York, Texas, Florida and Ohio come 2011; and let’s not even talk about states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, Georgia and Minnesota that are holding wildly unpredictable contests that could end up in the victory of any of a half-dozen contenders.

There is no mystery as to why the gubernatorial landscape is so competitive. First, 21 states will host open seat contests - a large number that isn’t just due to term-limits since 5 of the retiring executives could have run for another term. Most of these vacancies create golden pick-up opportunities for the opposing party. It will be tough for Democrats to hold on to Oklahoma, Wyoming and Tennessee; Republicans face an uphill climb in defending California, Vermont, Rhode Island and even Minnesota.

Second, the economic crisis and states’ fiscal troubles have plunged most governors in depths of unpopularity: This applies not only to David Paterson and Jim Gibbons, but also to incumbents like Ted Strickland and Chet Culver who at the start of the year looked to enjoy a strong standing. As such, the traditional incumbency advantage is melting away, making most races competitive. Even in states in which the opposing party is unsure to field a top candidate, some governors are facing credible primary threats - Texas, Illinois and New York, for instance.

Interestingly, while Democrats might be facing an increasingly treacherous landscape in the Senate and House battles, the two parties have maintained balance in what they can expect at the gubernatorial level. (At the moment, 5 Dem-held and 4 GOP-held states are rated as lean takeover; 5 GOP-held and 4 Dem-held states are rated as toss-ups.) Whatever happens in congressional elections, it looks likely that Democrats will have a number of major prizes to celebrate at the state level and perhaps even regain their footing in the South, where they have a number of opportunities; as for Republicans, they are in a good position to make major inroads in the Midwest, which would position them well for 2012.

governornovember2009

Safe GOP Likely GOP Lean GOP Toss-up Lean Dem Likely Dem Safe Dem
Dem-held Kansas Iowa
Oklahoma
Tennessee

Wyoming
Colorado
Michigan

Pennsylvania
Wisconsin
Maine
Mass.
Ohio
Illinois
Maryland
NM
NY
Oregon
Arkansas
NH
GOP-held Idaho
Nebraska
Utah
Alaska
SC
SD
Texas
Alabama
Georgia
Arizona
Connecticut
Florida
Minnesota

Nevada
California
Hawaii
RI
Vermont

The full rankings are available here.

Likely Take-over (0 D, 1 R)

1. Kansas (Open)

The 2010 cycle is shaping up to be a disaster for Kansas Democrats, who have been busier sabotaging themselves than searching for viable contenders: Kathleen Sebelius’s departure to Washington left Mark Parkinson in charge of the Governor’s Mansion, giving him an opportunity to run as an incumbent or at least appoint as Lieutenant Governor a politician who could use that position as a springboard for 2010. Not only did Parkinson rule out a run of his own, but he tapped as LG a man who immediately declared he would seek no office. That’s of course not surprising, considering Parkinson used to be the state’s Republican chairman until Sebelius chose him as her running-mate in 2006. This bizarre series of events leaves as the Democrats’ sole candidate retired businessman Tom Wiggans, who should be no match for Sam Brownback. The retiring Senator has also gotten rid of the threat of a primary challenge from SoS Ron Thornburgh, which makes him the overwhelming favorite.

Lean Take-over (4 D, 4 R)

2. Rhode Island (Open)

Republicans are all but certain to lose the governorship of one of the bluest states in the country - but that doesn’t mean Democrats are certain to pick-it up: Everyone expects former Senator Lincoln Chaffee to run as an independent, and he should be a formidable candidate thanks to his personal popularity, to his appeal among centrists and to the likelihood that he’ll emerge as the de facto GOP nominee, since Republicans are failing to field any credible contender. That said, Chaffee lost his re-election race in 2006, raising obvious questions as to his electability. Treasurer Frank Caprio and Attorney General Patrick Lynch are both likely to run in what will be a less crowded primary than we expected (Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Roberts and Providence Mayor David Cicilline surprisingly ruled out the race in the spring). One potential obstacle for Democrats: The primary will be held very late (September 14), which could make it difficult for the winner to prepare for the general election.

3. Wyoming (Open)

The situation in the country’s smallest state is rather confusing. Democratic Governor Dave Freudenthal is term-limited out of office, but he might file a lawsuit challenging the state’s term-limit law. Why might that succeed? In 2004, the state Supreme Court issued a ruling overturning term limits for state legislators, and it presumably would be willing to apply it to gubernatorial terms. If Freudenthal pursues this course of action and succeeds, he would be able to run for re-election, and he is popular enough that the seat should stay in Democratic hands.

Yet, if Freudenthal announces that he’ll retire peacefully - or if courts refuse to overturn the law - Republicans would be in an ideal position to reclaim the seat. The state is so conservative that a Democratic victory in an open seat can only come as a stunning upset (just as Freudenthal’s 2002 victory was), and Republicans have enough prominent candidates (Secretary of State Max Maxfield, state Speaker Colin Simpson and many others) that whoever wins the primary would be heavily favored. Furthermore, Freudenthal’s indecision could hurt his party’s ability to rally around another contender - especially given that it should take many months for the state Supreme Court to issue a decision.

4. Hawaii (Open)

To hold on to the governorship of one of the country’s bluest states, the GOP will need the type of perfect storm that rarely repeats itself. Lieutenant Governor Duke Aiona might be a credible candidate (and he’ll be able to count on term-limited Governor Linda Lingle’s popularity) but Democrats are fielding two well-known and well-liked politicians, neither of whom risks upsetting the state’s partisan balance: A summer poll conducted by Research 2000 confirmed that Rep. Neil Abercrombie and Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann would start with an edge. That said, a bruising Democratic contest could help Aiona given how late Hawaii holds its primaries (September). There is reason to think Abercombie and Hannemann won’t go easy on each other: The two go way back, having faced each other twice in the 1980s!

5. Tennessee (Open)

An open seat in a Southern state, a tough year for Democrats anywhere in the country - let alone in a state that’s been drifting further to the right every cycle and strong Republican candidates: That’s a clear recipe for a Republican takeover. Whoever wins the primary between Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey, Rep. Zach Wamp and Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam will be favored heading into the general election. That said, it wasn’t that long ago that Tennessee was still loyal to its Democratic roots - and that can matter in a state race more than in a federal one. State Senator Roy Herron, businessman Mike McWherter (the son of the former governor), state Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle and former state House Majority Leader Kim McMillan are all running, so Democrats will be in a position of staying competitive.

6. Vermont (Open)

Governor Jim Douglas’s unexpected August retirement gave Democrats a golden opportunity to reclaim a position that has escaped them ever since Howard Dean left the Governor’s Mansion in 2002. Not only is Vermont one of the most liberal states in the country, but Democrats also have a strong bench to choose from from: Secretary of State Deb Markowitz, former LG Doug Racine, former state Sen. Matt Dunne, state Sen. Susan Bartless (all of whom are already running) would all start the general election favored. Yet, Republicans should be competitive thanks to the candidacy of Lieutenant Governor Brian Dubie, who has been elected every two years since 2002. Complicating matters is the fact that the Progressive Party is a major force in the state (in 2008, its gubernatorial nominee came in front of the Democratic candidate) and Democrats have to take Progressive demands seriously if they want to recapture the governorship.

7. Oklahoma (Open)

It’s a testament to Oklahoma voters’ willingness to buck their federal voting patterns in local races that Democrats hold every single of the state’s statewide offices! Heading into the 2010 open seat race, they have two top-tier candidates already running: LG Jari Askins and AG Drew Edmonson. Yet, Oklahoma is as staunchly conservative state as any - and that’s enough to give the GOP an edge in any open seat race. Republicans were not weighed down by their lack of statewide bench: A former Lieutenant Governor, Rep. Mary Fallin managed to impose herself as the GOP’s heir apparent - especially after former Rep. J.C. Watts announced he would not run. Whether she faces Askins or Edmonson, don’t expect Fallin to win the race in a walk but the state’s partisan leanings gives her the early edge.

8. California (Open)

The Golden State was supposed to host a blockbuster of a Democratic primary. Instead, Loretta Sanchez, John Garamendi, Antonio Villaraigosa and Gavin Newsom dropped out one by one, leaving Attorney General Jerry Brown as the last man standing. Senator Diane Feinstein is still making noise about jumping in, but at this point it is safe to call Brown the presumptive nominee. He will get to stockpile millions he can use to pummel his Republican opponent as soon as one emerges, bloodied and in financial difficulty. Indeed, Meg Whitman, Steve Poizner and Tom Campbell are locked in an unpredictable 3-way GOP race that has already gotten very heated.

It was never going to be easy for Republicans to defend the governorship of one of the country’s most emblematic blue states, and this asymmetrical situation should only aggravate matters. At first considered the frontrunner, Whitman stumbled due to reports about her nonexistent voting record; the GOP’s best shot might be to nominate the relatively moderate Campbell, but whether he could financially compete in an expensive state like California is an open question. In any case, early polls are showing Brown heavily favored to win against any of them; the reputable Field Poll’s October 2009 survey had him leading by margins ranging from 20% and 25%. Yet, Brown should be careful not to wait for the general election to start offering detailed proposals as to how he’ll fix the state and not to let the GOP dominate the airwaves in the meantime.

9. Iowa (Chet Culver)

Culver has suddenly become one of the most vulnerable incumbents of the 2010 cycle - a startling evolution for someone who won his first term such surprising ease. The recession, which is bound to have more political consequences in the Midwest than elsewhere in the country, damaged his approval rating - and the GOP moved in for the kill by recruiting the most formidable challenger possible: Terry Branstad, who served as Iowa Governor from 1982 to 1998. While Branstad has some vulnerabilities for Culver to exploit (will voters want to reach back more than a decade to satisfy a desire for new leadership? will conservatives reconcile with a man they almost defeated in 1994?), two recent polls showed Culver trailing by the sort of margins incumbents rarely recover from: Rasmussen has Branstad leading 54% to 34%, Selzer 57% to 33%.

You can continue reading the rankings here.


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Why predictions of ‘10 gloom are off: By recent standards, Dems have few open seat headaches

For all the talk about House Democrats heading towards big losses in 2010, there is a major reason a red wave is unlikely: The party won’t have that much to worry about in terms of congressional retirements.

It might still be early in the cycle, but we can already say that their open seat headaches will look nothing like those that plagued the losing party of 1994, 2006 and 2008 - all cycles in which retirements were a huge factor. Needless to say, this will make it much harder for the GOP to score big gains. In a wave-like election, open seats provide easy pick-ups at little cost whereas incumbents are hard to beat even in the most favorable of environments.

Let’s review recent history:

  • 1994: Democrats lost 22 open seats - nearly 40% of their total loss.
  • 2006: At least 15 GOP-held open seats were considered competitive; the party lost 8 of them and spend a lot of money defending the rest (which included IL-06 and MN-06).
  • 2008: 18 GOP-held open seats were considered competitive; Democrats won 11 of them - nearly half of their net gain.

In 2010, it would be a big surprise if the DCCC has to defend more than 6-7 competitive open seats - and even that many would take a few unexpected retirements.

For now, 7 House Democrats have announced they won’t run for re-election. 3 represent heavily African-American districts in which the GOP has no chance: AL-02 (Artur Davis), FL-17 (Kendrick Meek) and IL-07 (Danny Davis). A fourth open seat is that of Neil Abercombie in Hawaii. Republicans are excited about Charles Djou’s candidacy, but the bottom line is that the district voted for Obama 70% to 28%. Not exactly an appealing opportunity, whatever Obama’s approval rating next fall.

That leaves us with three vulnerable open seats: LA-03 (Charlie Melancon), PA-07 (Joe Sestak), and NH-02 (Paul Hodes). Note that PA-07 and NH-02 voted for Al Gore and John Kerry and they gave Barack Obama a double-digit victory. Strong Republican recruitment should make both top-tier GOP opportunities, but they won’t be easy pick-ups.

And here’s where the news gets good for Democrats: There simply aren’t many more potentially tough seats that could open up. Just this week-end, Wisconsin Rep. Ron Kind announced he would not run for Governor - a relief for the DCCC.

At only 46, Kind is a 12-year incumbent, a Whip and a Ways and Means member; in short, he could rise to positions of power if only he stays in the House. Yet, he looked genuinely interested in a statewide race. Had he retired, the GOP would have had a good shot: While WI-03 gave Obama a 17% victory, it only went for Kerry and Gore by 3%. With Kirk now running for re-election, however, it heads off the map of competitive races. Kind has always cruised to re-election, albeit not always by dominating margins (he received 56% in 2004), and the district’s leftward turn last year should dissuade the GOP from paying much attention to the district.

So we are left with 3 vulnerable open seats - 4 if we grant that HI-01 could potentially be competitive. And I only see two House Democrats left whose retirement could create a headache for the DCCC:

  1. Rep. Bob Etheridge, who is considering running for Senate in North Carolina; NC-02 voted for Obama by 5%, for Bush by 8%.
  2. Rep. Peter DeFazio of OR-04, who is still deciding whether he wants to run for Governor in Oregon. Even if he does retire, once highly-touted GOP candidate Sid Leiken is not looking so hot anymore, to say the least.

Neither DeFazio nor Etheridge are likely to be vulnerable if they run for re-election, and at the moment I would not bet that either will retire. Even supposing that both do leaves the number of potentially competitive races at 5-6. (And let me repeat that this is already including seats in which the GOP would need to run a flawless campaign or rely on an excellent environment to be competitive; HI-01, OR-04 and PA-07 all lean blue.)

Other Democratic congressmen who have yet to rule out a retirement either are highly unlikely to quit or they don’t represent competitive districts. Gabrielle Giffords (AZ-08) or Jim Marshall (GA-08) running for Senate would be golden GOP opportunities, but neither has made any noise since the beginning of the year; polls showing McCain and Isakson in relatively good shape are unlikely to push them towards running. At 75, Leonard Boswell (IA-03) could retire from his swing district but he looks likely to stay put at least until redistricting. And the GOP has nothing to look forward to if Charles Rangel (NY-15) or John Dingell (MI-15) decide to retire. I believe that only leaves us with PA-11, where I once heard some buzz Paul Kanjorski might retire; but not only is that unlikely, it could also be good news for Democrats.

Let’s say a few such surprises occur, shooting the number of vulnerable Democratic open seats to 8-9. (As I said, this looks rather unlikely, especially with Kind announcing he’ll stay put.) Even that number bears no resemblance to the nightmare Democrats went through in 1994 or the retirement headaches the GOP endured in 2006 and 2008.

This did not happen for a lack of Democrats mulling retirement: At least 11 representatives who were actively considering seeking higher office or leaving politics decided to stick around to the House. Those include: Allen Boyd (FL-02), Ron Klein (FL-22), Dennis Moore (KY-03), Ben Chandler (KY-06), Mike McIntyre (NC-07), Heath Shuler (NC-11), Carol Shea-Porter (NH-02), Zach Space (OH-18), Patrick Murphy (PA-08), Stephanie Herseth Slandin (SD-AL) and Lincoln Davis (TN-04). That all chose to seek re-election speaks to their enjoying Democrats’ new status as the majority party.

By contrast, the NRCC has just as many open seat troubles to worry about as Democrats do. Jim Gerlach (PA-06) and Mark Kirk (IL-10)’s retirements create huge Democratic opportunities in blue territory, and DE-AL could soon become the most vulnerable district in the country if Mike Castle doesn’t run for re-election, as is expected (he has hinted he will retire if he does not run for Senate). Democrats have recruited competitive candidates in FL-12 and TN-03, both red-leaning but already-open districts. Bill Young (FL-10), Fred Upton (MI-06) and I believe Frank Wolf (VA-10) are still considering retirements, and any of them would host competitive open races.

In short: Before worrying about a coming red wave, Democrats should remember that they are leaving the GOP few obvious openings - a stark contrast to recent wave elections in which the losing party greatly contributed to its Election Day losses by having many of its incumbents retire.


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Heading into 2010, Democrats don’t have it that bad

“The situation this summer has slipped completely out of control for President Obama and Congressional Democrats,” wrote political prognosticator Charlie Cook last week. He goes on to warn of “a consensus forming that the chances of Democratic losses going higher than 20 seats is just as good as the chances of Democratic losses going lower than 20 seats.” Take this post as an attempt to put things in perspective.

Yes, Democrats look to be facing a worrisome enthusiasm gap  - but we were saying the same things heading into NY-20’s special election, only to see Scott Murphy edge out his more experienced Republican opponent. Yes, Democrats are facing an energized opposition, declining poll numbers and a playing field that is looking far more balanced than it did at the beginning of the cycle - but I do not see such a dramatic warning as warranted.

First, let’s get something cleared up: What we are talking about here is the possibility of a Republican wave. It’s one thing for the GOP to pick-up open seats, defeat freshmen representatives and recapture conservative-leaning districts that swung blue in 2006 and 2008’s abnormal circumstances - all highly honorable results that would result in a strong Election Night for the GOP, allow Republicans to regain confidence, boast and spend 2011-2012 facing less daunting Democratic majorities.

But such victories do not a wave make. A big House swing would mean that Republicans have been able to replicate the Democrats’ successes of the past two cycles: They are sweeping competitive races, and scoring upsets in races in which they were not expected to compete (as I explain below, this means the Nevada, Colorado, Illinois or Delaware can hardly be used as evidence of a coming red wave), and holding their own losses down to negligeable amounts (read: LA-02 and IL-10). At this point, little in today’s 2010 landscape points towards the latter scenario - either at the macro level nor at the micro level.

The national stage

In all polls taken so far in August, Obama’s approval rating has oscillated from 51% to 57%. That might be down from his springtime numbers, but it’s undeniably positive - and hardly comparable to anything Republicans were facing heading into the 2006 cycle. In the summer of 2005, NBC and Pew found 40% of the country approving of Bush’s performance while Gallup and ABC pegged it at 45%, only to see it fall to 39% by October. By the summer of 1993, Clinton’s approval rating had also dipped in negative territory; and let’s not even talk about Bush’s numbers in the summer of 2007.

Those are the sort of number that can serve as a warning of a coming 30+House swing. But Obama’s still solid approval rating is hardly a harbinger that voters are prepared to massively punish Democrats - especially in federal races.

Furthermore, Republicans remain far more unpopular than Democrats. In a July CBS poll, 47% of respondents said they had a favorable impression of congressional Democrats; only 29% said the same about congressional Republicans. An early August Quinnipiac poll also found Democrats more popular, albeit by a smaller 35% to 28% margin.

Since Democrats control the White House and Congress, this should not be enough to protect them from suffering losses; but it will certainly lead Republicans to suffer losses of their own and prevent them from enjoying the full benefits of voter discontent.

Put it otherwise: In 2005-2008, even if Democrats had been more unpopular than Republicans, they would still have gained thanks to President Bush’s unpopularity; but they would not have picked-up as many as 53 House seats and 14 Senate seats (combined). Translate that to 2010: As long as Republicans remain mired in their own dismal poll numbers, they can expect to score midterm gains (as is usual for an opposition party) but not to enjoy a wave.

A long way to go: Dems haven’t endured public opinon-fixing event

All in all, it’s still far too early to predict how the next 14 months will play out politically. This might seem like a trivial point, but it is not always true: By the time Katrina rolled around in September 2005, nothing Bush could possibly do would have improved the GOP’s brand - and Republicans suffered the consequences for the next 3 years. But this is not a situation Democrats found themselves in. With the sort of approval rating Obama is still holding, no one can argue that the president or his party have lost the public’s trust irremediably.

If the economic situation improves or if the White House is perceived to be fixing problems, Democratic numbers should improve. In particular, the outcome of the health care debate should shape the 2010 cycle. If the present dilatory alliance between conservative Democrats and Republicans succeeds, it will give the GOP huge momentum heading into 2010. The failure will dictate media coverage of the year’s political dynamics; voters will conclude that the reform was out of the mainstream, that liberals overreached and that Democrats cannot govern; and just as in 1994, Republicans will be emboldened, fundraise more effectively and recruit stronger candidates.

Yet, just as the shape of the cycle could change overnight if the economy rebounds in the spring of 2010, Democrats could gain a big boost if they finally deliver a meaningful reform on an issue many Americans identify as pressing. Reports on the bill’s success would make the reform as popular as it was earlier this year, congressmen would have a major policy accomplishment to tout on the campaign trail, grassroots would be energized and voters would have a clear sense of what Democrats have been doing in Washington.

As such, the popularity of health care reform among disengaged Americans depends on whether legislation passes rather than on what it contains. Whether or not the bill contains a public option will not change the vehemence of Republican attacks. (Given that we spent the past month talking about death panels, does anyone really think conservatives will calm down if the public option is stripped from the bill?) But it could deaden liberal enthusiasm, thus endangering the entire endeavor and with it Democrats’ 2010 prospects.

The micro level

To be clear, Republicans are far better positioned to make gains than they were at the start of 2009. They have managed to stay competitive in all of their Senate open seats and put in play Democratic states; they have been pursuing an effectively aggressive strategy at the House level; and an increasing number of Democratic governors look seriously endangered.

Yet, a wave will not be denoted by Republicans simply making gains. It will consist in them competing races they should have no business winning in a normal environment. And there are two federal contests I can see in which Republicans are performing much better than was expected because of the national environment: Connecticut’s Senate race, where it is simply stunning to see veteran legislator Chris Dodd struggle to break the 40% mark, and New Jersey’s gubernatorial race, since Republicans have not won a statewide race in the Garden State in more than a decade.

Apart from those: Let’s remember that Harry Reid looked like he was one of 2010’s most vulnerable incumbents as soon as the cycle began so his bad numbers are only a surprise because it looked like the GOP was giving up on the race, not because we expected Reid to be safe. Michael Bennet is a political novice with no name recognition, so the fact that he is tied with a Republican who is probably better-known than him is hardly a surprise. In Illinois and Delaware, the GOP has a chance to pick-up seats only because it has one well-known moderate officeholder it can run; and Castle, a former Governor who has represented the entire state in the House for 18 years, would be a top GOP recruit no matter the cycle.

As for the House, there is no doubt that the NRCC is trying to expand the map and target long entrenched incumbents, but there is for now no evidence that Ike Skelton, Loretta Sanchez or Bart Gordon are at all vulnerable; meanwhile, more junior Democratic congressmen like Zach Space and Larry Kissell are breathing earlier because of the GOP’s recruitment stumbles.

Most importantly, Democrats are playing offense - something Republicans barely attempted to do in 2008.  Beyond LA-02, the DCCC has a long list of credible targets and it has managed to land top recruits in races in which no prominent Democrat ran in 2006 or in 2008; see CA-45 and PA-15, for instance. Before we even get to Kentucky or North Carolina, the DSCC has an even shot at picking-up three Senate seats - something we would never have thought of saying about the GOP last year. And with Democrats favored to reconquer Sacramento, it’s hard to describe gubernatorial races as a slam dunk for the GOP.


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Both parties genuinely believe 2010 will favor them, and that’s helping them prepare

Coming after a week that saw the NRCC tout dozens of targets and land a credible candidate in a district they have paid little attention for 3 decades, the news that Democrats have recruited their strongest challenger of the decade against Ohio Rep. Pat Tiberi does more than balance things out: It serves as a reminder that, spurred by an optimistic outlook that is boosting recruitment and holding down retirements, both parties are managing to build a strong offensive game in 2010.

That’s good news for Republicans, who were dramatically outworked in 2008, failed to recruit legitimate challengers against countless 0f freshmen representatives - not to mention against any Senators but Mary Landrieu. But it’s also good news for Democrats, as it contradicts the emerging conventional wisdom that they have everything to fear about next year’s midterms.

While next fall’s political winds are sure to have an outsized impact, the environment right now (in the summer of 2009) is just as important: It helps determine the quality of both party’s recruitment and the number of congressional retirees - obviously key factors in any discussion of what we should expect next year. And this is where this cycle differs dramatically from the previous one.

In 2007, the GOP already knew that the coming year would be disastrous, which made it hard for the NRCC and NRSC to convince their top contenders to run and led to a hemorrhage of departing congressmen. But today, both parties genuinely believe that the coming cycle will favor them - and this is having tangible consequences on the state of play.

On the one hand, many Republicans remember 1994, feel the renewed intensity of their conservative base and look at the discomfort the president’s agenda is causing among Congress’s Blue Dogs. They conclude that Obama will suffer a major backlash at the poll and that all vulnerable Democrats who voted for the stimulus and the cap-and-trade bill sealed their political fate (they’ll surely argue the same thing about those who support health care reform in September).

Needless to say, this is making the NRCC’s recruitment job far easier than it was in 2008 - just witness the crowd of candidate looking to take on Suzanne Kosmas or Steve Pearce’s decision to seek his old job back after the Waxman-Markey vote.

On the other hand, Democrats look at the 2008 presidential results and what they see is a whole list of new targets they had barely thought about last year. For instance, few people used to pay attention to the eight GOP-held California districts that Obama won but the DCCC has been touting them as golden opportunities ever since November - so much so that they succeeded in doing what they failed to do in both 2006 and 2008: Recruit credible challengers in some of these districts. Steve Pougnet is running in CA-45, Beth Krom in CA-48 and it looks more than probable that CA-03 will be on the map.

If many Democrats believe that there will be a backlash in 2010, they think Republicans will be the ones to suffer: By opposing the president’s domestic policies, they guaranteed themselves yet another fall once the economy recovers. This confidence is helping the DCCC convince many Democratic politicians that, whatever they hear on Fox News, it is not risky making a congressional run in 2010. As I noted above, the latest is Franklin County Commissioner Paula Brooks, who is sure to give Pat Tiberi a tough race in a district that voted for Obama by 7%.

The lack of congressional retirements is yet another sign that neither party finds much to worry about the 2010 cycle for now: While dozens of Democratic incumbents had retired prior to the 1994 midterms and while we thought many Republicans would choose to leave Congress rather than stick it out in what looks like prolonged life in the minority, not a single House member has for now announced an outright retirement (as opposed to seeking another office).

In short: The two parties’ optimistic outlook is helping both the DCCC and the NRCC position themselves far better than they have in cycles that have been disastrous for them.

The same phenomenon extends down Senate races. With Carnahan, Hodes Brunner and Fisher, Conway and Mongiardo, Democrats can only point to NC and AZ as states in which their recruitment far lags the strength of their bench - and it’s still very much possible that Elaine Marshall will redeem the party in the former state. Republicans, meanwhile, have recruited a far stronger slate of candidates than was the case in 2008.

Had the environment stayed that toxic for Republicans, do you think Ayotte, Kirk, Simmons, Grayson, Crist would all have chosen to run or that Castle and Fiorina would be so close to jumping in? (Even Portman and Blunt, considered by many Democrats as weak contender, should be included in the list since both of their entries are recruitment coups insofar as Republicans are concerned.) It’s hard not think that, under 2008 circumstances, Republicans would have already given up on New Hampshire and they’d be in far more trouble in FL.

And this gets us to the one area in which there is some clear unbalance between the two parties: Senate retirements. Whether or not this is due to the fact that Senators typically decide to call it quits before House members (so Bond, Voinovich and Gregg had to make their choice during the first few months that followed the 2008 elections, when the GOP was at the bottom of the hole), the number of tough open seats Republicans have to defend is one major reason 2010 remains tough for them to navigate.


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In 2010, will Sarah Palin be the new George W. Bush?

If it was impossible to determine Sarah Palin’s motivations in the days following her resignation announcement, it has since become clear that she has no intention of stepping out of the spotlight. While we’ve all been watching to see whether she would retreat from public life, the Alaska Governor has kept up her role as the GOP’s perpetual star and permanent attack dog.

In an interview published in Time, Palin insisted that all options are “on the table” about and blasted the administration’s domestic policies. “President Obama is growing government outrageously, and it’s immoral and it’s uneconomic, his plan that he tries to sell America,” she said. She has also announced that one of her first post-resignation outings would be an August 8th event at the Reagan library. And she gave an interview to the Washington Times, making it clear that she plans to jump immediately back into the national political fray.

So much for the hopes that the July 3rd press conference would be the last we would see of Palin.

What are Palin’s intentions, then? “I’m not ruling out anything — it is the way I have lived my life from the youngest age,” she explained. “Let me peek out there and see if there’s an open door somewhere. And if there’s even a little crack of light, I’ll hope to plow through it.” Thankfully, Palin has a more definite idea of what she wants to do with herself in the coming months:

I will go around the country on behalf of candidates who believe in the right things, regardless of their party label or affiliation.

Regardless of party label? Now, that’s a twist! We surely expected Palin to travel the GOP circuit: If she is interested in 2012’s presidential nomination, the only way for her to overcome worries about her motivation and her electability is to launch herself in the 2010 midterms and help her fellow Republicans win congressional and gubernatorial victories - by raising money, campaigning, sending over PAC donations. These candidates would then be indebted to her and thus far more likely to endorse her presidential bid.

But helping Democrats is quite another story. The rest of Palin’s interview reveals what she’s thinking: “Republicans, now trailing Democrats and independents in registration in many states, should back moderate to conservative Democrats in congressional districts and states where Republicans stand almost no chance of winning.” In short, Palin wants to mount some type of coordinated effort to get conservative activists living in staunchly liberal districts to vote in the Democratic primary.

This is technically difficult to pull-off - many states don’t allow registered Republicans to participate in Democratic primaries, so would Palin advocate a change in their affiliation at the risk of shrinking the GOP further? - and it doesn’t make a ton of sense politically. If there are really enough Republicans in the district that a campaign to get them involved might make a difference, it’s probably also possible - difficult, but possible - for the GOP to outright win the seat.

Most importantly, Palin seems as unaware as ever about her own unpopularity. Does she realize what it would do to a Democrat’s campaign if she was seen as helping his bid in any way, shape or form?

Palin retains a strong following, but her name remains toxic among all Democrats and most independents; her decision to resign makes it highly unlikely she’ll have any way of correcting that before 2012. If she were to suggest support for a Democrat, his opponent would have a field day associating him to the GOP’s fringe right and liberals voters would suddenly get motivated. That would far outweigh any benefit the candidate might receive from conservative voters willing to crossover.

Of course, many Republican candidates will face the same problem. Unless they’re running in a staunchly conservative state or district (say, Texas Governor Rick Perry who is delighted to receive Palin’s help), it is a huge risk for them to have the Alaska Governor campaign by their side. Palin’s visit would receive more coverage in the local press than most other of the campaign events and it would motivate the left as much as the right.

Don’t forget that many Democrats are worried that their base will turn out in far lower numbers in 2010 than it did in 2008, putting them at a disadvantage over fired up conservatives looking to punish the White House. Palin’s presence on the trail would offer Democrats an opportunity to address their fear of a turnout differential.

As such, Palin has become as huge a dilemma for the GOP as George W. Bush was over the past two cycles. The president still motivated the Republican base and remained a strong fundraiser; but for a candidate to get associated with him provided Democrats so much fodder that a presidential visit was just not worth the trouble. Early indications suggest that Republicans looking to win competitive races will treat Palin in the same exact way - New Jersey’s Chris Christie and Virginia’s Bill McDonnell have already signaled that Palin is not welcome to campaign by their side - but in doing so they risk attracting the wrath of conservative activists.



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  • All good things must come to an end

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  • What remains on the table

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  • Confusion in Connecticut (Updated)

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    Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55
  • Results thread, part 2: Dems suffer staggering losses in House and legislatives races, limit damage in statewide races

  • Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55

    Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55
  • Election Night results thread: Rep. Boucher’s fall first surprise of the night

  • Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55

    Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55
  • Election night cheat sheet

  • Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55

    Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55
  • Final ratings: Democrats brace for historic losses

  • Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55

    Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55
  • What to watch for down-ballot

Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55

Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

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