Election Eve: The 2008 Senate races

Bumped - Todd

This is it.  It's time for my final look at all the 2008 Senate races.  There are 35 seats up for election because of a scenario in Wyoming and Mississippi where both seats are up, due to the passing of Craig Thomas and the resignation of Trent Lott, respectively.  Obviously, quite a few of the races are considered "safe" for the incumbent.  So what are the competitive races?

Again, just to be clear, I don't do predictions.  Every time I do, horrible things happen.  So I won't even make an actual prediction on the Virginia Senate race, because doing so would effectively jinx Mark Warner.  And with the election tomorrow, tiers no longer matter, so I'll simply rank the competitive races where party control of the seat may switch.  All others are deemed safe seats, which now include all of the Tier II and III seats from last time.

See my previous mid-October diary to see what things have changed since my last update.  Previous rankings are in parentheses.

Tier I

1. Virginia (1): Former popular Governor Mark Warner (D) is still cruising.  Former unpopular former Governor Jim Gilmore (R) hasn't even gotten above 35% in any poll taken since early September, and Warner cannot get below 55%.  Only God or the Devil can stop this one now, but still, no official predictions from me.

2. New Mexico (2): Rep. Tom Udall (D) is running against Rep. Steve Pearce (R).  Since October, Udall's re-opened his massive lead after getting hit by attacks from conservative independent groups.  Pearce has not gotten above 42% since early September, while Udall has been consistently over the 50% mark at the same time.  The NRSC has basically conceded defeat in this race.

3. Colorado (3): Rep. Mark Udall (D) is Mo Udall's son, and Tom Udall's cousin.  He's facing off against former Congressman Bob Schaffer (R).  All the late October polling shows Udall ahead by double digits.  The NRSC finally pulled out of Colorado last week after doing a head fake.

4. New Hampshire (4): Former Governor Jeanne Shaheen (D), who John Sununu (R) beat in 2002, is back for a rematch.  She has led Sununu in almost every single poll taken in 2008, and without some illegal phone-jamming on Election Day to help Sununu out this time around, Shaheen looks to be in good shape.  Though Sununu still has a significant cash on hand advantage, it hasn't helped him.

5. Alaska (8): Conviction!  84-year-old Ted Stevens (R) was convicted on all 7 felony counts for not disclosing the gifts (over $250,000 worth) he got from oil company Veco Corp. last Monday.  Anchorage mayor Mark Begich (D), who had been in a very close race with Stevens, has now opened up a decent lead in the polls, turning what seemed to be a nailbiter into a more comfortable lead.  Something about voting for a convicted felon, I guess.  Still, Rasmussen's poll has it as a single-digit race, so don't count out Alaska's unique brand of crazy just yet.

6. North Carolina (5): The polls have shown a complete reversal of fortune starting in August.  Kay Hagan (D) has been climbing steadily in the polls, while incumbent Elizabeth Dole (R) has been steadily falling.  So what do you do if you're Dole?  Run an incredibly horrible attack ad calling your opponent, a Sunday school teacher, "godless".  That's the sign of a desperate and losing campaign, as four different polls taken in late October now show Hagan at or above the 50% mark.

7. Oregon (6): Oregon House Speaker Jeff Merkley (D) is challenging incumbent Gordon Smith (R), and has been steadily gaining ground in the polls over the past month.  Every non-partisan poll taken in late October showed Merkley with some kind of lead.  Still, none of them showed him at 50% or above, so this one's not a done deal yet.

8. Minnesota (7): Norm Coleman (R) won this seat in 2002 only after Paul Wellstone (D) died just a few weeks before the election.  Comedian Al Franken got the DFL (basically the Democratic Party for Minnesota) nod.  The recent polling now shows a pure tossup, with some polls showing Franken in teh lead, and some polls showing Coleman leading.  But late-breaking news has a new lawsuit filed against Coleman alledging $75,000 being funneled to Coleman's wife from a big GOP donor.

9. Georgia (9): Former state representative Jim Martin (D) is going up against Saxby Chambliss (R), who ousted Vietnam veteran and triple amputee Max Cleland (D) in 2002 by running a despicable ad blending the images of Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein into Cleland's face, earning him the nickname "Shameless Saxby".  Starting with the economic collapse, poll after poll showed a completely different race, with Martin only behind by a statistically insignificant margin.  However, they all still show Martin trailing.  Now, Georgia has a rule that the winner must get over 50% of the vote, and the Libertarian candidate may take enough away that nobody can get 50%, in which case it will go to a runoff in December.

10. Kentucky (10): Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R) is now a top target of the Democrats.  Wealthy businessman Bruce Lunsford (D) can afford to self-fund, and he'll need to, with McConnell's HUGE warchest of over $9 million.  In just the last month, the polls suddenly showed Lunsford gaining significant ground on McConnell, but the latest two polls show McConnell gaining ground again, getting over the 50% mark.

11. Mississippi-B (11): Roger Wicker (R), appointed by governor Haley Barbour (R) on New Year's Eve after Trent Lott (R) resigned to become a lobbyist, was previously the Congressman from MS-01.  Former Governor Ronnie Musgrove (D) has kept it close in the polls until recently.  As with Kentucky, the latest two polls now show Wicker above 50%.

Democratic safe seats
Arkansas (Mark Pryor)
Delaware (Joe Biden)
Illinois (Dick Durbin)
Iowa (Tom Harkin)
Louisiana (Mary Landrieu)
Massachusetts (John Kerry)
Michigan (Carl Levin)
Montana (Max Baucus)
New Jersey (Frank Lautenberg)
Rhode Island (Jack Reed)
South Dakota (Tim Johnson)
West Virginia (Jay Rockefeller)

<u>Republican safe seats</u>
Alabama (Jeff Sessions)
Idaho (Jim Risch)
Kansas (Pat Roberts)
Maine (Susan Collins)
Mississippi (Thad Cochran)
Nebraska (Mike Johanns)
Oklahoma (James Inhofe)
South Carolina (Lindsey Graham)
Tennessee (Lamar Alexander)
Texas (John Cornyn)
Wyoming (Michael Enzi)
Wyoming (John Barrasso)

So there you have it, my final rankings for the 2008 Senate races, as they stand with less than 24 hours to go.  We'll see what happens tomorrow.

Tags: 2008 elections, AK-Sen, CO-Sen, GA-Sen, KY-Sen, MN-Sen, MS-Sen, NC-SEN, NH-Sen, NM-Sen, OR-Sen, Senate, VA-Sen (all tags)



Re: Election Eve: The 2008 Senate races

We pick up 7 seats with number 8 still to close to call.  Intrade has this a 50 50.  The thing is all pick ups are not all equal.  The right wing noise machine completely hates Al Franken from his days on Air America.

If Franken can win Hannity's head will explode.


by giusd 2008-11-03 11:53AM | 0 recs
Re: Election Eve: The 2008 Senate races

Another reason to vote for Al!

by CoolHandLuc 2008-11-03 03:11PM | 0 recs
Re: Election Eve: The 2008 Senate races
Bummer on Rick Noriega, he would have been a great Senator.
Thanks for the diary, BK, I always appreciate your work in pulling it all together.
by skohayes 2008-11-03 12:20PM | 0 recs
hope so

It sorta is reflective of the kinda year we have that a comedian is now expected to knock off a sitting senator.

by Jerome Armstrong 2008-11-03 01:06PM | 0 recs
the other races

I predict one of the following races will be close enough the networks take some time to call it:


by Carl Nyberg 2008-11-03 01:09PM | 0 recs
Re: Election Eve: The 2008 Senate races

I agree on the rankings.  The top 7 are pretty solid, Minnesota I honestly have no idea, and the last three are tough, but all we have to do at the moment is hold Saxby under 50 and then we have a runoff where we can swamp him.

by Skaje 2008-11-03 03:09PM | 0 recs


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