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PW logo Dead Heat for Colorado Senate Hickenlooper Clings to Small Lead
What's Next for Mark Sanford? One-Third May Still Switch Votes
Study Suggests Tea Party is Not a "Movement" Close Race in South Dakota

News from the Votemaster            

We Might Not Know Who Won Before December     Permalink

While control of the House is likely to be known on the morning of Nov. 3, control of the Senate may not be known until weeks later. The problem is that close races sometimes require recounts and this year there are several special factors as well. For one thing, the most recent poll on the Alaska Senate race makes it an exact tie between Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Republican nominee Joe Miller (R) at 37% apiece. Murkowski is running as a write-in but peculiarities of the voting machinery make it impossible to know how many votes she got until well after election day. Alaska uses optical scan ballots and anyone voting for her has to fill in the little oval next to "Write-in" and then write her name there. A few hours after the polls close, the counties will know how many write-in votes were cast but they won't know for whom. Only if the number of write-in votes is more than what the leading candidate got, or at least within half a percent, do the officials go through the pile and pull out the write-in ballots and sort them.

If this happens, it is a certainty that a large bevy of RNC lawyers are going to suddenly discover what Alaska is like in November as they fly in en masse and begin challenging every ballot that doesn't have Murkowski's name spelled correctly. Alaska law says it is the "intent of the voter" that matters, but that is hard to determine with certainty when all the ballot says is "Eliza Cow Skiing." It could be hand-to-hand combat that might dwarf the Coleman-Franken fight that lasted 6 months in Minnesota in the Spring of 2009. To impress your friends, mention Gail Fenumiai from time to time this week. She is the head of the Alaska Division of Elections and she is likely to be in the news quite a bit if this is a cliffhanger.

But in a certain sense it doesn't matter if Murkowski continues to state she will caucus with the Republicans, despite how nasty they have been to her. Of course, if control of the Senate hinges on Alaska and who she decides to caucus with, she might just have a couple of conditions Mitch McConnell might have to meet to keep her inside the corral. And the Democrats could make her an offer she couldn't resist. After all, her voting pattern isn't much more conservative than Ben Nelson's and they tolerate him.

A second potential problem is the Senate race between Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Dino Rossi (R) in Washington. Voters in 38 of Washington's 39 counties (all except Pierce) vote by mail. Ballots postmarked on or before election day are valid, but for military and overseas voters, three weeks are allowed for the ballots to arrive. This means, in a close race, the Secretary of State will wait until at least Nov. 24 to certify the winner. If one of the candidates doesn't like the results, there could be a recount and court battles starting then and lasting weeks. The Senate might even convene in January with 98 or 99 members.

A third state where it could take a long time to know who won is Illinois, where different counties use different voting equipment, including touch screens, which sometimes fail and do not have auditable paper trails. You can imagine what the courts would do if control of the Senate hinged on the misbehavior of a few thousand balky computerized voting machines. One thing is for sure: it would take a long time to resolve and the Supreme Court might get into the act.

Finally, Colorado could be close. The latest poll (see below) shows an exact tie between Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) and challenger Ken Buck (R) at 47% each. If the final tally is like that as well, a recount there is also certain.

Other Senate races that are expected to be close are in Nevada, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and maybe even Kentucky.

No doubt many Secretaries of State will spend much of Nov. 2 reciting the election administrator's prayer: Lord, please let it be a landslide."

Historic Split in Congress Possible     Permalink

When the votes are finally counted and the courts have had their say--however long that takes--we may end up with a historic split in Congress, with one party controlling the House and another controlling the Senate. Most prognosticators now feel that the Republicans will pick up the net 39 seats they need to capture the House but will fall short in the Senate. A situation in which one party controlled both chambers and then lost the House but not the Senate has not occured since 1930 and will ensure gridlock in Congress. Even with the Democrats in control of both the House and Senate it was nearly impossible to get anything done (due to endless Republican filibusters in the Senate), but with a Republican House and Democratic Senate, even less will be done because the kinds of bills the Republicans are likely to pass in the House, such as repealing the health-insurance and banking laws, have no chance at all in the Senate. In such a situation, the country could be on autopilot until after the winners of the 2012 election are seated.

Six Governors' Races to Watch     Permalink

While every senator has a single vote, no matter how big his or her state is, for governors, size matters. Governors of big states have a lot more power than governors of small ones, for example, in the matter of redistricting (you can't redistrict if you have only one seat). Six key governors' races to watch next week are in big states. In California we will find out if spending $150 million can pay the rent on the governor's mansion. Meg Whitman (R) is giving it a shot but the most recent Rasmussen poll puts her behind former governor Jerry Brown (D) by 6%. In Florida, another very wealthy candidate with no political experience, Rick Scott (R), is also trying to buy himself a job--as governor. There it is a genuine tossup, with all polls showing both he and state Financial Officer (Treasurer) Alex Sink (D) in a virtual tie.

Ohio is another biggie. Former representative John Kasich (R) has led incumbent governor Ted Strickland (D-OH) all year, but the most recent poll, from Opinion Research, puts Strickland ahead by 1%. Many top Democrats, including the President, have spent a lot of time in Ohio, raising money for, and campaigning with, Strickland.

Illinois is another battleground, with Pat Quinn (D), who got the job when former governor Rod. Blagojevich (D) was forced out, in a battle with multimillionaire real estate developer Bill Brady, who is funding his own campaign. All the polls show Brady with a consistent small lead. Since the Democrats control the Illinois house 69 to 48 and the Illinois Senate 37 to 22, a Brady victory will prevent the Democrats from gerrymandering the congressional districts, but will also set up acrimonious battles between the governor and legislature. Illinois could be the next California, where a Republican outsider, Arnold Schwarzenegger, took over and said he would clean up the mess in Sacramento. That was then. Now his approval rating is 23%. And Brady is not starting out nearly as popular or well known as Schwarzenegger.

Two other gubernatorial races that are important, but not quite as close are Pennsylvania and Texas. In Pennsylvania, Attorney General Tom Corbett (R) is ahead of the barely known Democrat, Dan Onorato, the Chief Executive of Allegheny County. Finally, while Democrats have mounted their strongest bid for the Texas governorship in two decades, incumbent governor Rick Perry (R) looks like he will best former Houston mayor Bill White (D).

Could O'Donnell Cost Republicans Two Senate Seats?     Permalink

Virtually every political observer agrees that Christine O'Donnell's surprise upset victory in the Delaware Republican primary is going to cost the Republicans a Senate seat (Delaware) that was theirs for the taking. But now people are starting to wonder if she is going to cost the Republicans Pennsylvania as well. Up until her nomination, Republican Pat Toomey was far ahead of Democrat Joe Sestak in Pennsylvania, but recent polls are showing that Sestak is rapidly closing the gap. There is much speculation that her great visibility in the Philadelphia television market and the Democrats' claims that Toomey is just another tea partier, like her, are starting to have an effect. The Pennsylvania race is now basically a tossup. If O'Donnell ultimately costs the Republicans the two seats they need to capture the Senate, the Republican establishment is going to have some choice words for the tea partiers after the election.

Huckabee Attacks Republicans     Permalink

Former Arkansas governor and 2008 presidential candidate Mike Huckabee yesterday blasted the Republican establishment in general and Karl Rove in particular for dissing Delaware senatorial candidate Christine O'Donnell. Odd thing to do, hitting your own party a week before the elections. But maybe he is thinking ahead and engaging in dog-whistle politics. If Sarah Palin decides to run for President in 2012, she will be the runaway favorite with the tea party voters. But suppose she prefers tweeting and earning $10 million a year from TV contracts and speeches? Then Huckabee might run again and yesterday's statement could have been intended to let the evangelicals and tea party voters know that he's one of them. Of course, it is hard to tell what he meant, what with the 2012 campaign not starting for another 9 days.

Public Believes "Facts" that Don't Happen to Be True     Permalink

It is considered poor form for journalists, columnists, bloggers, and wannabes to point out that the public is woefully ignorant about the news, but sad to say, that is often the case. In an interesting piece, Dave Johnson lists and demolishes eight myths and gives links to detailed discussions of each item. The eight myths are:

  1. Obama tripled the deficit (No: it is lower than in Bush's last budget)
  2. Obama raised taxes (No: the "stimulus" contained a big tax cut)
  3. Obama bailed out the banks (No: the bailout happened before Obama took office)
  4. The "stimulus" failed (No: the CBO estimates it created 1-3 million jobs)
  5. Businesses will hire if they get tax cuts (No: They will hire when they sell more products)
  6. Health-insurance reform will cost $1 trillion (No: the CBO says it will save $138 billion)
  7. Social security is a Ponzi scheme (No: it will continue to be solvent for 25 years)
  8. Government spending takes money out of the economy (No: government buys stuff and hires people)

Today's Polls: CA CO FL IL IN ND OH PA KY-06 ME-01 ME-02 NJ-03     Permalink

New Senate Polls

State Democrat D % Republican R % I I % Start End Pollster
California Barbara Boxer* 50% Carly Fiorina 42%     Oct 13 Oct 20 Louisiana Times
Colorado Michael Bennet* 47% Ken Buck 47%     Oct 19 Oct 21 SurveyUSA
Florida Kendrick Meek 20% Marco Rubio 41% Charlie Crist 26% Oct 15 Oct 19 IPSOS
Illinois Alexi Giannoulias 41% Mark Kirk 44%     Oct 18 Oct 22 Market Shares
Indiana Brad Ellsworth 34% Dan Coats 52%     Oct 20 Oct 21 Rasmussen
North Dakota Tracy Potter 25% John Hoeven 72%     Oct 20 Oct 20 Rasmussen
Ohio Lee Fisher 39% Rob Portman 58%     Oct 14 Oct 18 U. of Cincinnati
Pennsylvania Joe Sestak 43% Pat Toomey 46%     Oct 20 Oct 23 Muhlenberg Coll.

New House Polls

CD Democrat D % Republican R % I I % Start End Pollster
KY-06 Ben Chandler* 48% Andy Barr 44%     Oct 15 Oct 19 Mason Dixon
ME-01 Chellie Pingree* 45% Dean Scontras 40%     Oct 13 Oct 17 Critical Insights
ME-02 Mike Michaud* 49% Jason Levesque 30%     Oct 13 Oct 17 Critical Insights
NJ-03 John Adler* 37% Jon Runyan 40%     Oct 22 Oct 22 Zogby

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