Keller's Election Commentary ~ Annapolis Capital Punishment

Monday, October 18, 2010

Keller's Election Commentary

Below is our latest installment of the 2010 Election Update by Annapolitan Mike Keller for the week of October 18. The comments are solely those of the author.

U.S.  House of Representatives – Leaning Republican.  No change from previous week.

Analysis:  One can deduce the outcome of a football game by observing the amount of time each team spends in the other’s side of the field.  If most of the action takes place between the goal line and 50 yard line in the territory of one of the squads, that team is almost certain to be the loser.  The same holds for politics.  If the bulk of the competitive races are predominately those in areas held by one party or the other, the outcome tilts to the opposite party.  In 2006, a majority of the undecided contests were in districts which the Republicans held – and the Democrats captured the House.  This year, the reverse is true.  Currently, 212 House seats are either safe for or leaning to the GOP (just six short of a majority) and 181 for the Democrats.  Of the 42 toss-up races, 40 are in districts with incumbent Democratic representatives or with open seats held by Democrats.  Just two Republican seats are up for grabs.  The great majority of the Democratic seats are held by “blue dogs”—moderates or conservatives who have tried to distance themselves from many of the policies of the Obama administration.  Many hold seats that have traditionally been in the GOP camp and were captured by Democrats only because of the unpopularity of the Bush administration in 2006 and 2008.  With unhappiness with Obama at  a peak in these constituencies, they are trending back to their Republican roots.  While the Democrats still have a mathematical chance of clinging on to the House by a narrow margin, it is hard to think of what event could cause virtually all of these swing seats to remain in the party’s hands.  And that is what Democrats need to keep control.  Maryland’s First Congressional District will likely witness a party turnover, where the race continues to lean to conservative State Sen. Andrew Harris.  Democratic Rep. Frank Kratovil is just three points behind Harris in the latest poll.  But Kratovil stands at 40 percent, and incumbents this far below 50 percent seldom win.    

U.S. Senate – Toss-Up.  No change from previous week.

Analysis:    While contests for the House of Representatives reflect national tides, those for the Senate are somewhat more immune to trends and can be impacted by the nature of the candidates.  Voters pay much more attention to statewide races, and senatorial contenders are more visible to the public.  That has kept the question of whether the Democrats will manage to hold control of the Senate resting on the outcome in a handful of states with very close electoral battles.  Presently, Democrats are on track to have 49 seats in the next Senate (including two independents), and the Republicans 46.  Five tight contests, all of them for Democratic-held  seats,  appear likely to determine who will have the majority in the next Congress:  California, Colorado, Illinois, Nevada, and West Virginia.  In California, Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer holds a deteriorating lead against former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina.  Boxer has not been able to rise about 50 percent in the polls, never a good sign for incumbents, and is especially weak in parts of the state that have been hardest hit by the subprime mortgage crisis.  Appointed Colorado Democratic Sen. Michael Bennett, who has carved out a centrist stance on issues, has gained ground on District Attorney Ken Buck, a Tea Party favorite who has been hurt by a divisive split in the GOP in the gubernatorial contest.  In Illinois, both candidates are damaged goods:  Democrat Alexi Giannoulias by the collapse of his family business and Republican Mark Kirk by his exaggerations of his military record.  This contest is exceedingly tight, and home state support for Obama could make a difference here.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid should be dead politician walking in Nevada.  His approval rating resembles the Las Vegas housing market, and he is exceedingly uninspiring on the stump and in debates.  But his opponent, Assemblywoman Sharron Angle, is chronically gaffe-prone and is running as a proud Christian conservative in Sin State.  Nevada is the sole state that has “none of the above” as a choice for voters in all races.  It will be interesting to see how many votes this option attracts.   By all estimates, West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin, a conservative Democrat, should be a clear favorite against John Raese, a perennial GOP candidate who supports abolishing the minimum wage in one of the poorest states in the country.  However, Raese has made it a neck-and-neck race by branding Manchin as a “rubber stamp” for Obama.  Maryland’s Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski remains a shoo-in for re-election against an unknown opponent.    

Maryland Governor – Leaning Democratic.  No change from  previous week.

Analysis.  Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley has stormed into a strong lead in the polls over former Gov. Robert Ehrlich.  It is not yet time to put a fork in Ehrlich, but he needs to start closing that gap quickly.  The quandary for him is how to do it, since most of the swing voters in this predominately “blue” state are moderate to conservative Democrats who appear to remember the  battles which Ehrlich had with Democratic lawmakers during his four-year term.  Ehrlich had two chances in the two debates he held with O’Malley.  He gained no ground in the first with a lackluster performance.  He came out more aggressively in the second contest, but did not appear to latch on to any issue that would change the dynamic of the race.    The only new initiative Ehrlich revealed was a proposal to change the pension program for new state employees from the current defined benefit plan to a defined contribution plan similar to 401(k)s.  One could hear a yawn from the public.  Meantime, O’Malley stuck to his script about the accomplishments of his administration and his claims that Ehrlich’s increase in fees during his term in office renders the tax issue meaningless. 

Look here for frequent updates to all the 2010 election campaigns with 2010 Elections Again! LISTEN TO CP Publisher Paul Foer on 1430WNAV at 8:15 every weekday morning or click on the WNAV icon to the right, press On demand and On The Foerfront to listen. READ CP Publisher Paul Foer's "The Ninth Ward" every Wednesday in The Capital at Identified comments are always welcome. ALL ANONYMOUS COMMENTS will be automatically rejected without being opened.


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