Eight days out from the election, the Democrats' prospects for holding the state Senate remain as murky as they have been all year. The Republican money machine has come out in force, throwing millions of dollars at a dozen or so seats, so Democrats are finding themselves at a fundraising disadvantage in the home stretch. I wish I had some more quantitative factors to weigh other than money, but nobody will poll state senate races, so here we are. My final race rankings are below.
6th (Ralph Northam - D) - Removed from the list - Northam is a fundraising machine, having entered the final month of the campaign with $321,000 in the bank. Loyola has struggled to find support; local Republicans have given him some money, but the big hitter (Bob McDonnell's Opportunity Virginia PAC) has kept Loyola at arm's length, instead favoring 1st District candidate Mickey Chohany with some big bucks. And, as I've said before, Loyola has no roots or base in the district. I think Northam will cruise to victory.
13th (open - R) - Moved from Lean Republican to Tossup - Republican Dick Black's primary win may cost the Republicans this seat. His fundraising has dried up, leaving him dependent on the Republican Party for help; they've chipped in about $185,000 in in-kinds in October. Democrat Shawn Mitchell has racked up a long list of endorsements, but it remains to be seen whether he can pick up enough support to win in this pretty Republican district.
21st (John Edwards - D) - Moved from Likely Democratic to Lean Democratic - Republicans are heavily targeting this race; between the Republican Party of Virginia and Bob McDonnell's Opportunity Virginia PAC, $140,000 has been poured into Republican Dave Nutter's campaign account. Nutter's going to need that money to counteract his complete lack of appeal in the Roanoke part of the district (which he actually lost in the low-turnout primary), but if the Republicans are putting big money into this race, they must sense some kind of opportunity.
22nd (open - R) - Moved from Likely Republican to Lean Republican - Democrat Bert Dodson entered the general election with a big fundraising lead over Republican Thomas Garrett. Dodson will still have to overcome the district's Republican lean, however.
29th (Chuck Colgan - D) - Returned to the list at Likely Democratic - Republicans might be sensing an upset here; they've thrown in a good $300,000 for Republican Tom Gordy in the past month. I still think Colgan is heavily favored, but it may not end up a rout.
33rd (Mark Herring - D) - Removed from the list - Herring is looking like a lock to win re-election, given that he's got the same opponent as last time (who is struggling to raise money) and he's in a more favorable district.
House of Delegates
9th (Charles Poindexter - R) - Moved from Lean Republican to Tossup - This seat has been on my radar as vulnerable but leaning toward the incumbent, despite the massive piles of cash Democrat Ward Armstrong has had to spend. Now it's obvious Republicans are starting to panic: in October, they spent over half a million dollars on in-kinds for Poindexter. That's the kind of money you'd expect to be spent in Northern Virginia or Hampton Roads, not for a district in between Roanoke and Martinsville.
12th (open - D) - Moved from Likely Democratic to Tossup - Well, if you want to test whether money can buy an election, here's your chance. House Speaker Bill Howell's Dominion Leadership Trust PAC dumped $100,000 into Republican Joseph Yost's bank account, and the Republican Party of Virginia has chipped in another $104,000 of in-kinds. This is five times what Democrat Don Langrehr has raised for the entire year. They must smell blood in the water, or just want to drive Republican turnout in the precincts that overlap with the 21st Senate district, because otherwise this should be a fairly safe district, given that it's centered in Blacksburg.
13th (Bob Marshall - R) - Removed from the list - Stronger challengers than Democrat Carl Genthner have lost by double-digits to Marshall. I doubt this one will be close.
21st (Ron Villanueva - R) - Moved from Lean Republican to Likely Republican - Villanueva has a huge cash lead over Democrat Adrianne Bennett, and Bennett's biggest benefactor seems to be a relative.
31st (Scott Lingamfelter - R) - Removed from the list - A stronger challenger would have made Lingamfelter sweat. As it stands, I don't see Democrat Roy Coffey coming close.
34th (Barbara Comstock - R) - Moved from Tossup to Lean Republican - Comstock has spent an eye-popping $406,000 in the final month of the campaign. Democrat Pam Danner is struggling to keep up, with only about $132,000 in spending. Both have about $50,000 left in the bank. Danner's best shot is if Barbara Favola surprises everyone with a landslide win in the SD-31 race, since much of that district overlaps with the 34th.
42nd (Dave Albo - R) - Removed from the list - Democrat Jack Dobbyn is, from what I've heard, running a spirited campaign, but Albo has outraised him by a significant margin (and half of Dobbyn's money has come from one person in Alexandria, which makes me scratch my head). I don't expect an upset here.
93rd (Robin Abbott - D) - Moved from Lean Democratic to Tossup - Republicans want this seat. They've spent $250,000 on in-kinds for Republican Mike Watson in October alone. Abbott is going to need some strong coattails from John Miller to survive this kind of money assault.
For the Senate, I wish I knew. I can't believe that Republicans will pick up no seats, given how much money they have and the general public unhappiness with government these days. My (optimistic) guess is a net +1 for the Republicans, by picking up the 20th and 38th, while losing the 13th.
For the House, I think the Republicans will net somewhere between 4 and 6 seats. I will be surprised if Democrats win more than one of the new NoVa seats (the 87th seems most likely to be a hold), and I expect Barlow or Abbott (or both) will go down. Meanwhile, Poindexter might lose, or Comstock if Democrats are really lucky.