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We still have about two and a half weeks to the mid-term elections, but I want to make some early projections now.  There's still a lot that can happen; Kim Jong Il might blow up Tokyo Disney, Osama bin Laden might release a music video on YouTube, or Nancy Pelosi might be revealed to be a Cylon, but given things as they are now, here's where I see us ending up the morning of November 8th in some of the tighter races, and why.

Virginia Senate
George Allen vs. Jim Webb

Paul's Projection: Allen

I know this is not a daring call on my part, and I don't mean it to be.  The Democrats need to be realistic about this state and it's current crop of voters.  The Democrats have done an amazing job transforming this red state to a distinctly purple commonwealth, with a great deal of thanks to Mark Warner's dynamism, Tim Kaine's smarts, and the President's glaring failures.

But the state is not blue yet.  Warner is a rare politician who seems to transcend party and ideology.  Kaine rode the Warner wave and was helped by the fact that his opponent, Jerry Kilgore, was a one-dimentional, one-note, parody of a candidate...who almost won.  And the Democrats won't have Bush to kick around forever.

Truly, Allen has been digging his own grave, and very likely his prospects for a presidential run have become almost laughable.  However, incumbency is a powerful thing.  He is still charming and folksy, and as recently as a couple of days ago, polling at 50%.  

Jim Webb, while a very strong candidate, is not the real reason this race is close.  It helps that he is palatable to more conservative voters, and can safely reap the benefits of Allen's stumbles, but as I see it, he is failing to inspire on a grand scale.  Surely, if a more liberal candidate were in his place, Allen's lead would be solid, but Webb has done little to push his numbers past the "I'm not Allen" mark.  

In the end, I like to assume that come election day, barring extreme circumstances, the incumbent will enjoy an extra 2-4 points more than may have appeared in polls.  Given Webb's lack of pizzazz, Allen's charm and incumbency, and the fact that Allen is now polling at a less-than-dangerous 50%, this race will probably go to Allen at a safe 5-7 point spread.  Even so, the groundwork has been laid in Virginia for big Democratic gains, and this may be the last hurrah for GOP domination of this state.  

Tennessee Senate
Bob Corker vs. Harold Ford, Jr.
Paul's Projection: Ford

This is a dangerous call, especially since recent polls have reversed their trend, and Corker has a tiny lead.  It can not be denied, however, that Harold Ford Jr.'s campaign against Corker has been a lesson in playing offense by not yielding an inch of the national security issue.  But it's not enough just to say you're the tough security candidate.  Most, if not all Democratic candidates are doing just that.  How often, though, do you actually buy it?

In my mind, there's always been something about Ford that communicated deadly seriousness.  That's not to say robotic or dull.  On the contrary, his gravity stems from what seems to be a calm energy behind his words, delivered succinctly, with serene confidence.  Nothing seems to throw him off or get under his skin as he projects a laser-like focus on this point.  Is it a means to overcompensating for his youthful looks, his sketchy family history, or the capital `D' following his name on cable news graphics?  I can't say for sure, but I can tell you that since I first started seeing Ford appear on talk shows years ago, it was clear he was a serious guy with some real policy goals.  And no one can say he is unambitious.  In Ford, it looks like we have a candidate who has found some reasons to run, and wants it more than the other guy.  

Corker seems like a place holder.  Running because someone has to.  This should not be the case, because this is a Republican seat in a Republican state, being vacated by a Republican majority leader.  Maybe the party thought they could throw any hack into the race and let statistical precedent win it for them.  If so, they have miscalculated badly.  Statistical trends are indeed on Corker's side, but that's all he's got.  He's dull, projects disgust and disdain more than hope or inspiration, and I can't see anyone being moved to vote for  him, Republican or not.  Ford wins this one by 1 to 3 percentage points.

New Jersey Senate
Bob Menendez vs. Thomas Kean, Jr.
Paul's Projection: Menendez

There's no clean-conscience choice in this election, which is nothing new for my home state.  Menendez walks with a cloud of innuendo and suspicion around him, Kean is trying to inherit gravitas from his dad with little substance of his own, and no third party candidate has any chance of even making a showing.  I am sure many Jersey folk feel frustrated by this, but in the end, they will go with the most useful of two evils.  

New Jersey is a blue state through and through, but it feels the national security pull more strongly than maybe any other state in the Northeast.  Kean's name helps him there, especially if people not only associate him with his popular father, but confuse him with his dad, as well.  His name, along with Menendez's oft-alleged corruption are why this is a race at all.  Incumbency doesn't help Menendez all that much, since there are probably lots of people in the state who never realized he was appointed to the Senate at all (when Corzine took office as governor).  

When it comes down to it New Jersey will want a Democratic Senate, and a candidate with some poise and savvy, and Menendez has all of that.  In the end, the voters of New Jersey will hold their noses, and keep Menendez in the Senate, by about 5 points.

Rhode Island Senate
Lincoln Chafee vs. Sheldon Whitehouse
Paul's Projection: Chafee

Once again, I am predicting against the current polls that show Whitehouse ahead by a few points.  I point again to the power of incumbency.  Chafee is non-threatening, congenial, and serves as an ambassador of moderation to the current extreme powers holding sway in the GOP Congress.  I think Rhode Islanders like the man more than they disliked his party, and don't feel one way or the other about Whitehouse, except that they like that he isn't a Republican.  

When the dust settles, folks will decide they're quite comfortable with Chafee, and vote to keep him around by 4-6 points.  

The Rest

I think the remainder of the close races are running themselves at this point.  DeWine, Talent, and Burns are out of here, barring any surprises (see: Pelosi-as-Cylon).  Lieberman is going to win Connecticut pretty comfortably, and it's impossible to say who's side he'll be on when he comes back to work.  Given all that, I would say it's a safe bed that the Senate stays Republican, if only barely so.  

In my next posting, I'll be handicapping the 2008 presidential race, because no one else is doing that these days.  

Originally posted to Qshio on Sat Oct 21, 2006 at 10:13 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Chafee definitely wrong, Allen maybe (3+ / 0-)

    You may not know much about Whitehouse but the electors of RI do, he is a very heavyweight candidate AG with high name recognition in this tiny state, and Bush has one of the worst approval ratings in the country. The voters of RI know this is a vote against Bush and they detest him. Chafee is liked but in this anti Bush mood he is gone imho. Allen, it's basically too close to call which is very bad news for Allen. If he can't open up a lead of around five points and hold it for at least ten days, then Webb has a chance of an upset. Generally speaking the undecideds break for the challenger and they will in this election. I really think this will be determined by ground game and how the women of VA feel about Bush and the Republicans.    

    •  Demographically, close races break for Dems 'cuz (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jaosnhouse, Predictor, Empower Ink

      pollsters can't reach strong blocs of Dem votes, such
      as young people, no land lines,
      new to the country, immigrants tend to be suspicious and not participate in phone polls, so 3 to 4% of Dem vote is usually undercounted in polls.

      On election if it's dead heat, Dem wins.

      •  Fundies Also Don't Respond To Polls (0+ / 0-)

        Historically, repubs have outperformed polls by 1-2 points because of extreme conservatives aversion to talking with "The media." So far at least there is no evidence that missing people without land lines has distorted poll results.

  •  VA Will Be Close (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Fredneck, Empower Ink

    No way Allen wins by 5-7, but he may win. It's going to be a 1-2 point race, maybe less, and I expect the same kind of margin in Tennessee.

    For that matter, MO will also be very close, possibly less than 1 point, how do you figure Talent is definitely gone? He is running stronger than Chaffe.

    Likewise, NJ is going to be closer than 5%, again probably 1-2 points, possibly less than 1.

  •  Undecideds will also break heavy for Dems... n/t (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Empower Ink

    When your country is run by a Dick and a Bush, you know you're going to get f***ed

    by jaosnhouse on Sat Oct 21, 2006 at 10:52:27 AM PDT

  •  Don't forget Maryland... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Fredneck

    That race has proven to be damn close lately too... Surprisingly close imho... I think the Dems will win the race, but watch out.

    oh yeah, and my little prediction for the Senate remains the same... They will wind up with 49-50 seats, but no majority, thanks to Traitor Joe, and losing to Macaca...

    When your country is run by a Dick and a Bush, you know you're going to get f***ed

    by jaosnhouse on Sat Oct 21, 2006 at 10:54:55 AM PDT

  •  Anticipating your 2008 handicapping: (0+ / 0-)

    There's so much Obama buzz these days.  Did you see David Brooks's NY Times column urging him to run?  (Times Select, dammit, but here's the link anyway.)  And Maureen Dowd's column today is also about him.  (And also Times Select, dammit.)

    So, if Obama runs -- how does he stack up?  Frankly, he'd be my bet to take the whole enchilada -- the nomination and the general election.  The dude is just irresistable.  Smart yet sincere, religious yet intellectual, will send black turnout through the roof yet has a Wayne-Brady-like appeal to white people; lacks the negative baggage of Hillary.  If he runs, he's The Man.

    Unless Gore runs, too.  But Al's too smart -- if Obama runs, he'll stay out, so as to avoid making the primary bloodbath any bloodier.

    My 2 cents' worth.

    -4.25, -4.87 "Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler." - Albert Einstein

    by HeyMikey on Sat Oct 21, 2006 at 10:58:29 AM PDT

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