Update: the upcoming Congressional elections
I stand by the spirit of my blog posting of June 30: the Democrats will not face disaster in the 2010 Congressional elections in part because the Republicans are running a pack of clowns. After last week's final round of primaries, now is when predictions can be based more on data and less on speculation. What have we learned so far this year?
1. The Teabaggers did indeed cost the Republicans potential opportunities to pick up seats in the Senate or securely hold them. In Alaska, Colorado, Delaware, Kentucky, and Nevada, RNC-backed candidates, including some incumbents, lost to Teabaggers with lower electoral prospects. (And Republican Senator Bob Bennett lost his primary to a Teabagger in safely red Utah.) Democratic interim-appointed Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado could still lose his seat, but the Democrats could also make otherwise unlikely gains in Alaska and Kentucky.)
2. Generic Congressional polls are worth a lot less than polls about specific candidates. Because most Americans have weak-to-non-existent party identification, one would think that professional commentators would disregard generic polls and that there would not be much of a market for such polls. One would be wrong. Some people seem to be discovering this fact fairly late in the game.
3. No one knows what is happening in Florida. Despite early hopes that Governor Charlie Crist's independent, Lieberman-esque campaign would overtake Republican Marco Rubio's, the worst possible scenario is emerging: Crist and Democrat Kendrick Meek are splitting the left-of-center vote. Someone will have to step down or Rubio will step over both of them on election day.
4. Expected Democratic strengths in North Carolina and Ohio have dissipated. I expected Ohio to follow the Northeast in its regional red-to-blue purge, a long-term trend matching the South's earlier blue-to-red purge. That no longer seems likely. Nor can we count on North Carolina's oddly cursed Senate seat to flip for the sixth consecutive election.
5. The so-called Democratic enthusiasm gap remains to be demonstrated. The states with competitive Democratic primaries that I checked had respectable turnout. In Kentucky's primaries, for instance, 514,173 Democrats voted, compared to 350,783 Republicans.
I remain optimistic, despite the polls, that Pennsylvania will not go red, let alone to a candidate, Pat Toomey, who could not beat Arlen Specter in the 2004 Republican primary. Likewise, I expect New Hampshire's Democratic transformation to continue. As Wikipedia reminds us, the 2006 New Hampshire state legislative elections 'gave Democrats majority control of both chambers for the first time since 1874, 14-10 in the Senate and 239-161 in the House'. After the 2008 elections, New Hampshire's State Senate became the first state legislative house in the U.S. to have a female majority. New Hampshire is set to take its proper place in the coming all-blue New England, preferably sooner rather than later.
I don't take seriously concerns about California and Illinois, although I confess to being bewildered and worried by the suddenly declining poll position of Democratic Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin. Let's hope the most recent poll proves to be just a blip.
The race to watch: Lousiana, where Republican Senator David Vitter's sordid past looks like it might be ready to catch up to him at long last.
What really matters in the end is not predictions but actions and dollars. I will be contributing money to Senate campaigns in the closest states, as should you. Here are some suggestions:
Wisconsin, Russ Feingold
New Hampshire, Paul Hodes
Pennsylvania, Joe Sestak
Kentucky, Jack Conway
Colorado, Michael Bennet
American elections are all about money. If a better Congress is worth paying for, then let's have the best Congress our money can buy.