O'Neil Perspective

Everything You Need to Know About Tonight's Election

mikeoneil | 02 November, 2010 13:20

Education. The piece I sent you last week was published in the Huffington Post. Created a minor firestorm of comments.  Evidently pricked some sensibilities among that readership.  Regardless of your reaction, I'd love it if you would add your comments to that lively discussion.  Click here to do so.


Election Broadcasts. I'll be on Fox 10 (Phoenix) election night and Horizon (PBS, 8) on Wednesday.  But, if you want to keep me honest you can click here to see some of my earlier prognostications on the election-starting from things started to heat up earlier in the year.


Election Night Forecast.  We're really more in the analysis than the prediction business, but the world doesn't accept that, so I will play that game and tell you exactly what is going to happen so you can go to bed early tonight. Print this out and see if I have nailed it.


House. Republicans pick up 55 seats-plus or minus 20.  Since they need 39 to gain control of the House, that means that the outer reach of Democratic hopes are that they maintain a slim majority (unlikely, but possible).  Chinese Proverb: Be careful what you wish for.  With the Republicans in control of the House, the next election will be about which party people prefer, not a referendum on the Economy or Obama's stewardship of it.  The Republicans have made this election about the latter, and that's why they are winning -- and big.  If the election were about which party people like more right now, the Democrats would actually win, but narrowly.  The Republican Party is actually less popular than either the President or the Democratic Congress, but that will not matter tonight.


U. S. Senate.  I'll get specific: There are only 10 seats in real contention.  All are held by Democrats.  The Dems will lose three with certainty (North Dakota, Arkansas and Indiana), two with near certainty (Wisconsin and Pennsylvania), and will probably lose Nevada as well.  (Though note the slight changed in adjectives, that's deliberate). 

Now it gets fun.  I'd rate the Republicans as slight favorites to take Colorado and Illinois.  If they fail to carry both, Senate takeover hopes are toast.  Give them these and they are within one seat of an evenly divided Senate.  (While Joe Biden breaks the tie, don't count on that holding.  With a 500-50 Senate either Joe Lieberman or Ben Nelson could jump ship.  That scenario would be both fun to watch and unseemly.   The Democrats really need 51, not 50). 


So we have the end result: the Republicans end up with 49 Senators.  (Keep an eye on who might get sick). My guess is that's where they stay.  They have a reasonable shot in West Virginia and Washington, but not quite as good as the Democrats have of holding Colorado or Illinois).  


The Democrats chance of winning any currently Republican held Senate seat: Near Zero.  This is a wave election, like 2006 or 2008.  What will make the numbers somewhat bigger this time is that many of the seats the Republicans will pick up are low hanging fruit: the seats they lost in the last four years.


Wild Card.   Really screwy things are going on in Alaska.  May well provide post-election night entertainment (think Al Franken's election which took weeks to count all the ballots) after which some Republican probably ends up with the seat. But a lot of people can see all kinds of things from their back yards there, so who knows?


The 2012 Presidential Election will start no earlier than Wednesday morning.  Maybe Tuesday night.  Something to chew on: a Republican takeover of the House will help Obama's prospects for re-election.  He will no longer have sole ownership of the economy, which is likely to be improving some but still sputtering in two years.


For the Locals.


The only interesting races will be the Congressional Seats.  Five of the eight (more than in Arizona history) have at least an interesting story.  Republicans sweep everything else in sight. (If there is an exception, it would be Felecia Rotellini: will the voters want a Democratic Attorney to keep the Republicans who will control everything else honest?  Maybe.)


Here's the congressional story.  Three seats are safe:   Ed Pastor (D, CD2), Trent Franks (R, CD4) Jeff Flake (R, CD6).  Don't even bother counting the votes: they have already won.


Three seats currently held by Democrats that are all traditionally Republican seats.  All were swept by Democrats in one or both of the last two Democratic sweep elections:  Anne Kirkpatrick (CD1), Harry Mitchell (CD5), and Gabrielle Giffords (CD8).  All three Democrats are in jeopardy.  All the races are close.  My guess is that Giffords hangs on, but that Kirkpatrick does not. The Mitchell race is the closest of the three, but most national prognosticators give his challenger Schweikert the edge.  Mitchell is a beloved figure in the District, and until this election, not seen as a particularly partisan one. But given the Republican tidal wave, will this be enough? They'll actually have to count the votes on that one.


Fantasy Wins. Each party has a chance to win in a district where they would normally have no chance:   


CD3: Ben Quayle has been an extraordinary weak and flawed candidate, providing an opening in a district that is as safe a Republican district as they come. If elected, however, John Hulburd would probably be among the most conservative Democrats in the House.  And, I'd bet he'd serve a single term: he could be beaten by a generic Republican in two years; this is way too Republican a district for any Democrat to hold.


CD7: Raul Grijalva supported a very unpopular boycott of Arizona. This district is the flipside of CD3, if people are peeved enough to vote him out for this reason (don't bet on it), his successor will serve two years and be beaten by any Democrat in 2012.


Neither of these upsets would have anything whatsoever to do with national trends.  But the three competitive races, Kirkpatrick, Giffords, and Mitchell could be national bellwethers. If the Democrats hold all three, the Republican wave will be on the small side.  If the Republicans carry all three, that wave is BIG.  My guess: split decision.


The only Blue State victory over a Red State this week was when the San Francisco Giants beat Texas yesterday.  The only suspense will be how big the puddle of blood is on the floor tonight.


But it could be short-lived. We have national political ADD: the Dems held the House for 40 years, and then the Reps for 12, the Dems then got it back for 4.  At that rate, the trend would suggest that the Dems will be back in 2.     


Print this out and see if I nailed it.  Accountability.


Micheal J. O'Neil, PhD


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