Sunday, November 2, 2014

2014 Midterm Predictions

Alright, here it is. My long awaited, much anticipated midterm predictions. Okay, stop laughing, I put a lot of effort into this.

I'll leave the best part - the Senate - for last. A little delayed gratification is always good for the soul.

The House races: It's difficult to get a bead on the individual races for two reasons: 1. There are too many of them and 2. The polling has been all over the map. But from what little I've seen, I expect the GOP to net somewhere between 7 to 10 seats.

Why so few pickups? The answer lies in the wave election of 2010. Republican gains that year in state houses and legislatures allowed them to redraw many Congressional districts. This allowed them to gerrymander their gains and survive what would've been a disastrous 2012 election in which Democrats received one million more votes.

But it also had the unintended consequence of eliminating many otherwise swing districts. The fact is there aren't that many districts that are flippable anymore. That could change in 2016 when Democrats could potentially retake the lower chamber. For now, the fact that Republicans stand to net as many as 10 seats, far from puny, is actually quite significant.

Of course, the problem for John Boehner is that those additional GOP seats are likely to be quite conservative and beholden to the Tea Party, exacerbating an already toxic situation and making the House even more polarized.

The gubernatorial races: Here is where the GOP might be in for some unpleasant surprises. I am predicting a Democratic net gain of two seats. Republicans will lose Florida, Kansas, Pennsylvania (big) and Maine, while holding Wisconsin, Michigan, Georgia and Ohio. Of the four holds, Wisconsin promises to be the nail biter. Mary Burke has given Scott Walker the fight of his life, but will fall just short of unseating him. Republicans will pickup Arkansas, but lose Alaska to Independent Bill Walker in that race. His running mate is a Democrat and Sarah Palin is actually endorsing the ticket. Go figure.

The proudest moment for Democrats will be when Charlie Crist - the former Republican - beats Rick (Fan Man) Scott in the sunshine state. I actually don't think this will be as close as some of the polls are suggesting. A recent Tampa Bay poll has the race tied. When a poll in the I-4 corridor has the Republican tied, that's bad news for the Republican. I fully expect Crist to get huge margins in the southern part of the state.

But the night will not be without some disappointment for Democrats. I am predicting they will lose Massachusetts and by a surprisingly large margin. Martha Coakley will prove she is just as lousy a gubernatorial candidate as she was a Senate candidate, when she lost to Scott Brown in the '09 special election. But the Dems will hold Colorado, Connecticut and Illinois by the skin of their teeth.

The Senate races: And now we come to the main course. Who will control the upper chamber for the next two years? After careful consideration, I'm going to stick with my initial gut prediction of a 50 - 50 Senate, with VP Joe Biden casting all tie-breaker votes, assuming we get to see any over the next two years. Here's how it will breakdown.

At present, the Democrats hold a 55 - 45 majority, which include two Independents who caucus with them. Straight up, they will lose three seats in West Virginia, South Dakota and Montana. That leaves them with 52 seats. I know Democrats had some hope for South Dakota, but the Republican Mike Rounds has a commanding lead.

Let's start with the two easiest holds for both parties. Jeanne Shaheen will easily defeat Scott Brown in New Hampshire. And while it pains me to say it, Mitch McConnell will defeat Alison Lundergan Grimes in Kentucky. The only silver lining here for Dems is that old Turtle face had to outspend his opponent by more than 2 to 1 to win an election in a state Barack Obama lost by 23 points in 2012. A better campaign or a better candidate could've won here.

Now for the remaining tossups. I'm predicting that Kay Hagen will hold her seat in North Carolina. Though it will be close, and a lot depends on the black vote, Hagen should survive in the end. I'm also going out on a limb here and predicting that Mark Udall will survive an extremely close election and hold onto his seat in Colorado, as well. The deciding factor here will be the mail-in ballots, which historically tend to favor Democrats.

But Democrats will not be so lucky in Iowa and Alaska. Joni Ernst will narrowly defeat Bruce Braley in the former, while Dan Sullivan will survive what many are saying is a vastly superior ground game by Democratic incumbent Mark Begich in the latter. A note of caution here; there are two polls - one by a Republican pollster - that show Begich out in front. I would not be at all surprised if Begich ends up prevailing, but, as of now, it would be hard to bet against Sullivan in a state as conservative as Alaska.

As expected, Mary Landrieu in Louisiana and Mark Pryor in Arkansas will lose; though Landrieu will do so in the December 6th runoff election. The great shame of this midterm will be the blatant racism in the deep South which will prove to be an impossible obstacle for Democrats to overcome.

In case you were adding, that would give Republicans 52 seats, right? Wrong. That's because I'm predicting Greg Orman will beat Pat Roberts in Kansas and Michelle Nunn will defeat David Perdue in the Georgia runoff election, which unfortunately won't be held until January, AFTER the new Congress is sworn in. As strange as it might seem, that would give the GOP temporary control of the Senate, if only for a few days. Everything of course hinges on Orman caucusing with the Democrats, which I'm predicting he will. That will mean that the Democratic Party will have the proud distinction of having three independents in their ranks.

So, overall, a very disappointing night for the GOP. Yes, they will pad their lead in the House, but for the third straight election cycle, they will be denied a majority in the Senate and they will also suffer critical gubernatorial losses in crucial swing states, which will undoubtedly hurt them in 2016. When you consider that Republicans will have to defend 23 Senate seats to only 9 for the Democrats that year, we could well be witnessing the last gasp for the GOP for quite some time. And with Pennsylvania and Florida joining the ranks of Virginia, Democrats can look ahead to one day redrawing the districts that were gerrymandered back in 2010. 

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