Tuesday, November 07, 2006
Election Day, 2006
Well, the general election for 2006 has finally arrived. It has been a long road to this point for many of us, especially here in Tennessee. The campaign for U.S. Senate started only hours after George W. Bush was elected to a second term in November of 2004, making this a long two years for most political beasts in Tennessee.
As with all elections, I am up well before sunrise preparing for the physical rigors of Election Day. After some thought, I've decided that the physical toll of today is the worst part (the VOLConWife and I went over 40 hours without sleep in the August primary, working and traveling the entire time), followed by the mental rigors of having to stay sharp in your tasks, with the emotional toll bringing up the rear. It's not that I don't get emotional when my candidate wins or loses; it's just that such moments are private and have little impact on anything else.
The rain started here in Knoxville about 3:15 A.M. It's not pouring by any means, but it is wet out. It certainly appears to be a Democratic forecast.
But herein lies the rub - for the Democratic Party, this is the "perfect storm" in Tennessee. You have the perfect weather forecast - the best I have seen for your party in recent memory. You have the candidate from the liberal center of the state (Memphis) whom you have been grooming for years. He is by far your best candidate for Congress in several election cycles, and you have no one waiting in the wings with more political skills. You have seen a flood of political cash flow into the state from out-of-state liberal sources to give your candidate equal footing financially. Several big names from your party have been in Tennessee to support your candidate, including Clinton, Obama, and Clark. The national political litmus has been called the most toxic Republican environment since Watergate. Democrats nationally are seeing some signs of success in areas once thought to be firmly Republican.
With all of that, you have a major problem - you are going to lose. And with that, I don't think that a Democrat stands a chance of carrying Tennessee for several election cycles, maybe for a decade or more. You are simply not going to be able to align the political planets like this again, and even with everything going in your favor, you're still going to be whining at the end of the day.
Now, on with the predictions:
Tennessee: Some like to say that if this race was held a month ago that Harold Ford, Jr. would have won. OK, that might be true, but that's also like saying that if the football game in Knoxville had been declared over at the 59:00 mark that UT would have beaten LSU. The race has been set to conclude on November 7, 2006, for some time now. Ford peaked too early (as many correctly stated at the time), lost his mind in the Memphis Meltdown, and then was helpless as Bob Corker transformed into a personable, likeable candidate to which the conservative base eventually warmed. If it wasn't for the forecast today and the inevitable voting fraud that will result in 150% turnout in some Memphis precincts, I would predict a much bigger margin, but those that know me know that I am a big believer in weather as a factor in Tennessee statewide elections. Of course, it is an endorsement of how strong the Corker campaign has come on over the past few weeks, as my prediction on Open Source radio a few weeks back was Corker by 1.5%. I'm willing to stretch that out a bit now - even in the rain. Corker by 4.3%
Virginia: This race has been one of the strangest ever. The Washington Post has been more of George Allen's opponent that smut author Jim Webb. However, Allen's political operation has been impotent to stop the attacks, and a once safe 16-point lead has dwindled to a dead heat. Perhaps I am naive here, but I believe that Virginia voters still care about issues, and this race has been anything but about the issues. Webb has delivered no decisive plans on anything, and Allen - whether you like his personality or not - has a strong record that is appealing to most Virginians. This race has been all about character and not about the issues, but that's enough to make it closer than it should have been. Larry Sabato has this one going to Webb, so this is where I draw the line in the sand and declare my crystal ball better than his. Allen by 2.2%
Missouri: This is another smoke-and-mirrors race, much to the credit of the Democratic Party. If Claire McCaskill was my candidate, I would want to make this race a referendum on Michael J. Fox, too. Talent has a good voting record in the Senate, and it is my belief that the last ditch efforts by outside groups to defeat the cloning initiative will be enough of a spark in the base to carry Talent to a win that we won't be able to verify without a recount. Talent by 0.2%
Maryland: I have been on the Michael Steele bandwagon ever since Ehrlich brought him aboard as his running mate. Steele's speech at the Republican National Convention kickstarted his campaign for the U.S. Senate, and he's been off and running ever since. Recent polling has shown Steele pulling even in this race against the atrociously bad campaigner, Democrat Ben Cardin. However, Maryland is just too liberal of a state in the Baltimore County area to believe that it is going to elect a Republican to the Senate. There is a 70% chance of rain in Baltimore, though, so that could be enough to swing this one to Steele, but I just don't see it. If Steele is able to capture 25% of the black vote, it would be enough to swing this one to Steele, but I just don't see it. Maryland just isn't kind to Republicans. Cardin by 1.3%
Montana: I cannot believe how much I have written about this race. A Tennessean has never written so much about anything in the State of Montana. It just boggles my mind that a state of rational people would elect an unqualified-to-be-a-JV-football-coach candidate like Jon Tester to the United States Senate. Republican incumbent Conrad Burns has done a good job of closing, but I'm afraid that it's too little too late. I can't believe I'm about to write this... Tester by 1.7%
New Jersey: Oh, New Jersey, you tease. Just like the popular cheerleader in high school, you do just enough to get us all interested, only to dash our hopes in the end. I think that Tom Kean, Jr. is a fantastic candidate for this race against the scandal-ridden Bob Menendez, and every fiber in my being would think that Kean pulls off the upset here - if this wasn't New Jersey. Menendez could show up at the polls with a dead body in his trunk and Tony Soprano in tow and he'd still win. It's Jersey, folks. Menendez by 4.8%
Ohio: Mike DeWine goes down in flames. Brown by 9.8%
Pennsylvania: Regular readers know that I firmly believed that Santorum would come back to pull this one off. He closed the gap from over 25% down to within the margin of error in only a matter of weeks. The problem for Santorum is much like with Ford, Jr. here in Tennessee, though - he peaked too early. Without the help a strong run by Lynn Swann for Governor (a campaign that has been a disaster against socialist incumbent Ed Rendell) and swarms of negative ads, Santorum was never able to grab the upper hand. With the House races around Philly going badly for the Republicans, this one will probably be called rather early this evening. Casey by 9.0%
Rhode Island: Call me crazy, but I think that residents of the Ocean State send Lincoln Chafee back to the Senate just to screw with us conservative Republicans that wanted him to lose in the primary against Laffey. Chafee by 1.1%
Arizona: Jon Kyl
Connecticut: Joe Lieberman
Florida: Bill Nelson (in a landslide that ends Katherine Harris' political career)
Michigan: Debbie Stabenow
Minnesota: Amy Klobuchar
Nebraska: Ben Nelson
Washington: Maria Cantwell
U.S. Senate Bottom Line: Democrats pick up 3 seats (Montana, Pennsylvania, Ohio)
As for the U.S. House, I have poured over the fifty races that most people feel are most vulnerable for the Republicans, and things don't look too good there. With polling showing that Republicans have the momentum nationally, though, it makes it a difficult call on several of the races. A few weeks ago, I posted that I saw 14 seats going to the Democrats that had been in GOP hands, but that was before the Foley scandal. I think it's going to hurt a little more than that now...
U.S. House Bottom Line: Democrats pick up 25 seats, mostly in the Northeast from moderate-to-liberal Republicans
Here in Tennessee, we also have the Marriage Amendment on the ballot. With the efforts to get it passed having been ramped up over the past few weeks, I see it passing with bipartisan support.
Tennessee Marriage Amendment: Passes with 69% of those who voted in the gubernatorial race
Which brings me to the gubernatorial race... As I posted here this week, this race was about building name recognition for Jim Bryson. On that count, it was a success. It's a shame that voters still - after the campaigning - don't know the sleaze element that Phil Bredesen has brought to State government in Tennessee. The media failed in that respect, but, to a lesser extent, so did the GOP. Of course, it was a longshot to knock off Bredesen, and with control of the Senate being so important (especially with substantial reports that Justice Stephens may be gravely ill and set to resign from the Supreme Court), efforts had to be focused on the Corker campaign. Given that, I don't fault the Party for this loss. Jim Bryson lives to fight another day, folks.
Tennessee Governor's Race: Bredesen by 28.3%
Well, it's time to hit the precincts to make sure that no one is being disenfranchised. I will have a wrap-up post tomorrow for Open Source radio (providing that I make it through today).