Update on Congressional races still to be decided

As you’ve no doubt heard by now, Mark Begich took the lead as the early votes were counted, and seven-times-indicted Ted Stevens has conceded the Alaska Senate race. That makes seven Democratic pickups, with Georgia and Minnesota yet to be determined. The Democrats hold 56 Senate seats, and two independents (Joe Lieberman and Bernie Sanders) also caucus with Democrats.

The polls in Georgia have shown Republican Saxby Chambliss ahead of Jim Martin by three or four points. It’s all going to come down to turnout–I doubt much voter persuasion will occur between now and December 2. Barack Obama moved his field staff from Ohio down to Georgia, and many other groups, like Democracy for America, are helping Martin too. The state’s largest newspaper has endorsed Martin.

Chambliss has to be favored in this red state, but if the Democrats have a superior GOTV effort, Martin could pull off an upset.

The Minnesota recount has begun. Al Franken went into it 215 votes behind Norm Coleman (out of more than 2.5 million cast, or 0.008 percent). As of Wednesday evening, he had narrowed the gap to 181 votes. The state has a good “voter intent” law, meaning that if a person can determine the voter’s intent, the vote will count even if an optical scanner did not record it.

I can’t say I feel overly confident, but this study suggests Franken may have a good chance of taking the lead during the recount.

One wrinkle is that Franken successfully sued to get information about voters whose absentee ballots were rejected in one county. His campaign wants that information for all of the counties so that wrongfully excluded absentee ballots can be counted. However, it’s not clear whether those votes will ever be counted, even if the ballots were rejected because of clerical error.

As for the House races, we narrowly lost in CA-44, a district we did not target that was not considered competitive.

CA-04 has still not been called, but Democrat Charlie Brown trails carpet-bagger Tom McClintock by about 600 votes, and it seems unlikely he will be able to make up that margin.

It looks like we will pick up VA-05, which was viewed as quite a longshot before the election.

Louisiana will hold two runoff elections in December. Corrupt Democrat “Dollar Bill” Jefferson will most likely hold the second district. The fourth district is competitive, and Dick Cheney recently headed to Shreveport to campaign for the Republican.

UPDATE: I forgot Ohio’s 15th district, which is going to count provisional ballots. It seems like Democrat Mary Jo Kilroy has a decent chance of beating Republican Steve Stivers.

Democrats will end up with something between 255 and 259 House seats out of 438. Not bad at all.

Continue Reading...

Update on U.S. Senate seats still up for grabs

The Democrat challenging seven-time convicted felon Ted Stevens has taken a lead in the Alaska Senate race. OK, it’s only a three-vote lead among some 250,000 votes counted so far, but if I’m Mark Begich, I’ll take it. (UPDATE: Begich now leads by 814 votes out of some 263,000 counted.)

There are lots more early votes to be counted in the coming days, and no one seems to know exactly where they will come from. However, speculation in this thread at Swing State Project indicates that Democrats have reason to be optimistic about picking up the Senate seat from Alaska. That would bring the Democratic caucus to 58 (counting independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who votes with Democrats).

The Minnesota Senate race between Al Franken and Norm Coleman will go to a recount and may not be decided before the middle of December. According to the latest count, Coleman leads by 206 votes out of more than 2.5 million cast. Nate Silver examines Franken’s prospects from several different angles, and concludes:

The more that I examine this data, the more I’m beginning to believe that the number of reclassifiable ballots may be relatively low, but that the proportion of such ballots that are resolved in Franken’s favor may be relatively high. How these two factors will ultimately reconcile themselves, I don’t know.

The runoff Senate election in Georgia between incumbent Saxby Chambliss and Democrat Jim Martin will take place on December 2. There have not been any public polls yet in this race since the general election. A lot of Barack Obama’s field staff have reportedly moved to Georgia to work this race for Martin. The Republican playbook is to link Martin to Democratic leaders in Congress. Will that be enough for Chambliss in this red state?

At Swing State Project, Crisitunity published this overview of likely candidates to replace Joe Biden as U.S. Senator from Delaware. Biden’s son Beau, the attorney general of Delaware, is ineligible because of his current deployment. The most likely options are either Lieutenant Governor Jack Carney, or a seat-warmer who would let Beau Biden run for the seat in 2010, after his deployment has ended.

Speculation about Barack Obama’s replacement continues, with the first Illinois poll on the topic showing Representative Jesse Jackson, Jr. as the most popular choice.

Six U.S. House races are still uncalled: Alaska’s at-large seat, California’s fourth district, California’s 44th district, Ohio’s 15th district, Louisiana’s second district, and Louisiana’s fourth district. The first four are Republican-held seats where the Republican candidate leads. LA-04 and LA-02 will hold runoff elections in December. Probably our best chance to pick up another seat is in OH-15.

Continue Reading...

Update on the Congressional races

It’s time for a new thread on the Congressional races across the country.

First, I need to make two corrections. I reported late Tuesday night that Tom Harkin had won all of Iowa’s 99 counties. That was based on a map on the election results page of the Des Moines Register’s website, which showed all of Iowa’s 99 counties in blue. However, the Daily Kos election scoreboard shows the true picture (click on “Senate,” then on Iowa). Harkin won “only” 94 Iowa counties. He lost Page County in southwest Iowa as well as Sioux, Lyon, O’Brien and Osceola in the northwest corner.

Second, I have reported that EMILY’s List provided no financial support to Becky Greenwald’s campaign in the fourth Congressional district. However, Bleeding Heartland commenter Bill Spencer pointed out that Greenwald’s third quarter FEC filing shows a $5,000 contribution from EMILY’s List on September 22 (a few days after the group endorsed Greenwald).

It’s worth noting that when EMILY’s List strongly commits to a race, they invest considerably more than $5,000 in the candidate.

Earlier this year, EMILY’s List backed Nikki Tinker in the Democratic primary in Tennessee’s ninth district against Steve Cohen, who had a perfect pro-choice voting record. I have not been able to confirm a number, but EMILY’s list was reported to have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars advocating for Tinker.

James L. of Swing State Project compiled this comprehensive chart showing independent expenditures in House races across the country. Look at how much EMILY’s List spent in some other districts: more than $160,000 in IL-11, nearly $150,000 in CO-04, nearly $60,000 in OH-15, more than $30,000 in NH-01, $19,000 in FL-13, $16,500 in NY-26.

That only counts the money EMILY’s List itself spends on behalf of Congressional candidates. The group can also raise substantial funds for candidates through their mailing list. Donors to EMILY’s List receive direct-mail and e-mail appeals regularly, asking them to contribute directly to key candidates from around the country. These letters contain short bios of the candidates EMILY’s List is backing. I have confirmed from more than one source that EMILY’s List did not send out any direct-mail or e-amil appeals urging members to contribute to Greenwald’s campaign.

So, while I was wrong to write that EMILY’s List provided no financial support to Greenwald, it is accurate to say that they did little to help her beyond issuing a press release very late in the game.

Getting to the big picture, Democrats have picked up six U.S. Senate seats: Colorado, Oregon, New Mexico, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Virginia. Three races have yet to be called. Norm Coleman leads Al Franken in Minnesota by 236 votes (out of more than 2.5 million cast) at the latest count. There will be a mandatory recount in this race once the initial count has been completed. I read last night that Franken can win if even one extra vote for him is found in every eight Minnesota precincts.

We may be headed for a recount in Alaska, although it seems unlikely that Mark Begich can overcome convicted felon Ted Stevens’ narrow lead. There is some speculation that Stevens will resign or be expelled from the Senate, in which case a different Republican (Sarah Palin?) could take the seat.

By the way, the election results in Alaska diverged from pre-election polling in an almost unprecedented way, not only in the Senate race but also in the presidential voting and in the race for Alaska’s at-large seat in the House. Further investigation is needed to figure out whether all polls in Alaska (and Alaska alone) were way off, or whether there was any tampering with the vote counting.

Georgia will hold a runoff in December between Jim Martin and the Republican incumbent Saxby Chambliss. I don’t have high hopes for this one, since Georgia is a Republican state to begin with and I think the GOP base will be motivated to reduce President Obama’s working majority in the Senate. However, anything can happen. On a related note, there are some anomalies in the turnout figures in Georgia that will require further analysis.

As for the U.S. House, Democrats picked up 23 seats on Tuesday and lost four for a net gain of 19 and a total of 255. Seven races have not been called, all of them in Republican-held districts. Democratic candidates are leading in only two of those (MD-01 and VA-05). Republican leads are extremely small in OH-15 and CA-04, but the picture looks more discouraging for our side in CA-44 (a real under-the-radar race), WA-08 and Alaska’s at-large seat.

If all the candidates currently leading are eventually declared the winners, Democrats would hold 257 House seats and Republicans 181. Crisitunity posted these charts showing Republicans in blue districts and vice versa. Note that the partisan voting index for every Congressional district will have to be recalculated, tossing the 2000 presidential voting and adding the 2008 presidential voting. But using the current partisan voting index numbers (which are based on the 2000 and 2004 presidential voting), only nine Republicans in the whole country represent districts with any Democratic lean at all. One of them is Iowa’s own Tom Latham.

In contrast, at least nine Democrats represent deep-red Congressional districts with a partisan index of at least R+10 (for perspective, Iowa’s fifth district is R+8). Many more Democrats represent districts with only a slightly less Republican lean. We lost incumbent Nancy Boyda in KS-02 (R+7) but picked up Betsy Markey in CO-04 (R+9).

What does Crisitunity’s post mean for Iowans? I take away two lessons.

First, there’s no question that Latham will be tough to beat in 2010, but if he vacates the seat IA-04 becomes a top pickup opportunity for Democrats. I would be very surprised to see him run for governor, but if Chuck Grassley were to retire for any reason I think Latham would take a shot at the Senate race.

Second, looking at the nationwide picture, Democrats are far more competitive in red Congressional districts than Republicans are in blue districts. I am confident that the Republicans have very little chance of recapturing IA-01 and IA-02.

Also, a new Democratic candidate will be favored to hold IA-03 whenever Leonard Boswell retires, even if redistricting after the 2010 census somewhat reduces the Democratic lean in this district.

This is an open thread for any commentary on any of the U.S. House or Senate races.

Continue Reading...
View More...