It’s October 2nd, and that means we only have one month left until its Voting Day. Like most people, I’m brimming with excitement to go vote. Now that I’m temporarily living in New York, with the far-flung NYC media market at my disposal, it’s getting harder and harder to not turn on the local news stations and find one commercial that isn’t a political ad. It’s not only the New York races ( the governor’s race and the Gillibrand-DioGuardi senate races are a lot closer, and nastier, than anyone could’ve predicted), but also the Connecticut Senate (where Republican Linda McMahon is closing the gap day-by-day against CT Attorney General Richard Blumenthal) and the New Haven congressional seat (freshman Democrat Jim Himes is in a tight race against state Senator Dan Debicella). Back home in Massachusetts, the governor’s race there is getting close as well, as incumbent governor Deval Patrick (D) faces Harvard-Pilgrim Health Care CEO Charlie Baker (R), and the Massachusetts 4th (held by Barney Frank) and 10th (vacated by Bill Delahunt) are looking like competitive contests, even a shot for the GOP to grab one of these seats, according to recent polling figures.
There is a lot riding on this election, and this could very well be on the most important midterm elections in recent memory. Starting off this session, Democrats were living the dream: a supermajority (temporarily) in the Senate, a proportionally identical majority in the House, and a president who was on top of the world in terms of popularity and ideas. Meanwhile, the Republicans were a political basketcase, having gone from total control of the government in 2004, to near irrelevance in just four years, losing 52 seats in the House and 14 seats in the Senate during that span. With such a legislative advantage, it was almost assumed, and expected, that every liberal legislative fantasy would come true, from universal health care to cap-and-trade, possible now that all the opposition can do is say “No”, and might not even be able to block such ambitions. After all, all you need to do is have your party unite, and all will be fine.
But after close to $3 trillion in new spending, an unecessary health care bill, the push for costly cap-and-trade bill, and a non-existent budget, the situation in this country is no better than it was 20 months ago, and the voters are getting angry. The Tea Party emerged from this anger, and grew into a political machine whose support either made or broke prospective Republican candidates, even upsetting establishment Republicans in primaries like Nevada, Delaware, and Kentucky. Clearly if you are a conservative running for election in this country, you’ve got a passionate electorate backing you up, and when the momentum and passion is on your side, it makes incumbents and usually liberal states and precincts seem a lot less scary.
This November, the Republicans are now, miraculously, in a position of not only reclaiming the House, but even have an outside shot at claiming the Senate, a scenario that Rasmussen stated last year would happen only if there was a “complete collapse on the Democratic side”. Winning the 11 seats necessary (the GOP had 40 at the time of publication) would take holding all their seats, including open seats in swing states like Ohio, Missouri, and New Hampshire, and flipping seats in very liberal states like Washington, Wisconsin, and California. It was expected that the GOP would lose one of their open seats, but make it up by winning Democrat open seats like Illinois and Delaware (Massachusetts was also open, but there was no shot in hell of a Republican beating any member of the deep Democratic field in the deepest Democrat seat).
Well guess what, it’s . GOP open seats in Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio, and New Hampshire are all looking like holds (with the GOP candidates in Ohio and New Hampshire posting double digit leads, and modestly leading in the other two). Democrat held seats in Washington, Wisconsin and California are now competitive, with the GOP candidate leading in Wisconsin and close in the other two. To everybody’s shock, Scott Brown, the unknown Massachusetts GOP state senator, beat popular attorney general Martha Coakley to put Massachusetts in the Republican column for the first time in 33 years. Also, due to the retirements of Indiana Democrat Evan Bayh and North Dakota Democrat Byron Dorgan, the GOP is favored to take those two as well.
According to CQ Politics, there are now 11 Democrat held seats that are either “Tossup” or predicted to be won by the Republicans, plus the still competitive California Senate Seat which is currently leaning Democrat, and only one Republican seat, Missouri, is in the Tossup category (though GOP candidate Roy Blunt leads by 5-10 points in some polls). In other polls, one could put Gillibrand’s senate seat in New York as a possible competitive race, as she is only 5-10 points up by some estimates. The races will become clearer as November draws near, and the ads hit the airwaves everywhere you look. While it is still too early to say the GOP will grab the Senate, they will definately have a good year. The only question is, can they get those 1o seats, or will it more like 6-8, as most Republican strategists predict, which would still be considered a phenominal year.
As for the House, it looks more likely the GOP can claim a majority there. Most polls show GOP congressional candidates doing very well, especially in many of the seats Democrats took in 2006 and 2008. Also, conservative Democrat retirements, like Vic Snyder in Arkansas and Bart Stupak in Michigan, have given the GOP good chances to win long-held Democrat seats in otherwise conservative areas. Also, it is congressional seats where there is a greater spread on the political spectrum than in the Senate, so almost libertarian or Tea Party candidates can win in some areas. Currently, there are close 73 Democrat seats in play, according to CQ Politics, compared to only 8 Republican seats, (with 15 of those Democrat seats already predicted to change parties). This was predicted to be the GOP’s main focus this cycle anyway, as this is the chamber where spending and tax plans origonate, and where the the majority party has more power over the agenda.
What remains to be seen (and more important in my mind), is how well they will do in the more moderate Northeast, where “Yankee Republicans”, who were the socially liberal, fiscally conservative wing of the GOP, once dominated in the New York and Pennsylvania interior, as well as in New England. The last two cycles were vicious for these Republicans, who lost close to 15 seats here. The tide is definately in the Republicans favor, and there are many vulnerable Democrats who can get picked off, yet there doesn’t seem to be much emphasis from the party elites on these races, which is worrying because registered Republicans actually outnumber registered Democrats in most of these areas, and getting 10 seats or more is not impossible. While it is too early to start planning out the GOP agenda for 2011 (are you listening Mr. Boehner?) and overconfidence is one of the most poisonious things to a party in election years, if the tide continues, it could be a very red November indeed.