First, let me start with my premise which is that the GOP only has to reach 50 seats to claim the majority. I believe if they get to 50 Ben Nelson will switch parties and come home to where there might actually be a home to the things he says he believes in assuming he actually believes in them. As a D he is toast so he might as well swallow the pill now so he can have a couple of years to try and get back in the good graces of Cornhusker voters. So, how to get to 50.
There are no longer any races in play on the Lean D or Lean R side. NH, MO, and WI are still listed as Lean R but, let’s face it, we are winning all three of those. And as much as I would like to think Connecticut voters had more sense than to send the achingly boring Dick Blumenthal to the Senate it looks like we are going to have to put up with that guy for at least 6 years. Ugh. So the starting point is 48 D, 44 R with 8 Tossups. The GOP will have to take 6/8 to reach the magic number of 50. It is a tall order but eminently doable. Here is how I rate the races from most likely GOP to least. We have an outside shot at going 8/8 so we really need to keep enthusiasm high.
1. Kentucky- No poll has shown Conway closer to Paul than -3 and no poll has shown Conway with more than 42% while Paul has consistently polled 46+% and has gotten as high as 48%. The recent hit ad on Dr. Paul looked like and was seen to be an act of desperation and has generally been seen as a misfire. Guessing Conway had info the race wasn’t as close as some polls suggested before he played the college prank card. That’s 45.
2. WV- Polling has been all over the place in this contest but the most reliable polling organization to publish a poll, Rasmussen had Raese up 7 and more significantly had him at 50% of likely voters. I’m just not buying the Daily Kos poll that shows Manchin with a lead and the Marshall University poll is a joke. This state went big for McCain and Manchin has turned out to be a less than effective campaigner trying hard to juggle his support and now opposition to unpopular Obama initiatives. His most recent statements about now opposing Obamacare because he is learning some of the things that are in it when his voters already know what’s in it have made him look even more buffoonish. That’s 46.
3. PA- Okay so we have one Daily Kos poll that shows Sestak ahead by +1. Big whoop. Two other polls since that one have Toomey +4(Rasmussen) and widening his lead to +5(Daily Tracking). Toomey has never polled below 47% and only once has Sestak gotten over 44%. That’s 47.
4/5(Tie). NV/CO- Close call between who is doing better, Sharon Angle or Ken Buck. They both have been prone to some rookie mistakes. I think they should be even having an easier time of it than they are if they were better on the stump. I’m going to give the edge to Angle because Reid was so ineffective in their debate that I think she closed the deal. Going after Reid for getting rich while in office was a smart tactic. I think Buck made a mistake to go on Meet the Press and let himself get grilled by hack David Gregory while Bennet just sat there. He has had a tendency to get off message occasionally. You don’t have to answer every question in detail, Ken. That all being said, I think Angle is pulling away and Bennet isn’t a good enough candidate himself to overcome the wave coming at him. That’s 48 and 49.
6. ILL- I just got back from Chicago and this is one of the yecchiest elections I have ever witnessed. However, I do think the attacks on Alexi by Kirk are more substantive than the ones on Kirk. I got the sense while I was there that maybe Illinois was coming to grips with sending a Republican to take Obama’s seat. I see in the latest poll that Kirk may be opening a lead at +3. Yes, it’s Illinois but I think that state is in such a shambles and Brady is running well for Gov that I am feeling better about it all the time. That’s 50.
7/8(Tie). WA/CA- I think both these races are tough but extremely winnable. In case they figure out how to steal it in NV or ILL we still have a chance to pull one of these out. I think they are both within the margin of error. Boxer and Murray remain unpopular and I smell upset, especially in CA. Hopefully we won’t need them but how sweet to send one or both of these dingbats home.
Just a final anecdote about polling. I lived in Michigan in 1990 when John Engler was down 16 points in the polls just days before the election to Democrat favored son Jim Blanchard. Somehow, Engler pulled it out and went on to govern the state for 12 years. Don’t let polls get you too fired up or too down. It is hard work, money, and passion that wins elections. Vote and be heard.