Election Eve

A View From Across the Potomac | 0 comments | by The Hawthorn Group

To Hawthorn Friends & Family —
Millions of Americans will go to the polls this Tuesday – and millions more have already voted – to decide the future of 36 U.S. Senate races, 36 state governors’ races, 435 U.S. House seats, 87 state legislative chambers, and 146 state ballot measures. Hundreds of millions – if not billions, a majority of it by outside groups – have already been spent, and given the likelihood of at least one post-election run-off, millions more are likely.

Right now, it looks like party control of the United States Senate will come down to the outcome of a dozen competitive races. Nate Silver, of fivethirtyeight.com, today upped his prediction on the chances of a GOP takeover to 72.3%, his highest percentage yet. The Washington Post’s “Election Lab” has the chance of a GOP takeover at 94%.

Last Friday in a presentation to the Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, I put at 75% our confidence level this election would see the Senate go Republican. Given recent trend lines, I still think that’s about right.

Last-minute polls have shown GOP candidates up in Iowa, Alaska, Louisiana, and Georgia, four states they will need to carry to win a majority. However, Democrats are clinging to narrow leads in North Carolina, Colorado, New Hampshire, and, shockingly, Kansas, where Governor Brownback also looks increasingly likely to fall on Tuesday.

Nate Cohn of the New York Times reported on October 31 that Democrats have a narrow lead in early voting in several competitive states. In Georgia and North Carolina, African American turnout looks to be as high as 30%, a figure the Democrats will need to maintain. In Colorado, a completely mail-in ballot state, Republicans currently hold a narrow lead in a state with marquee races for both Governor and Senator.

As the Washington Post explained yesterday, late breaking undecideds – usually lower-information and lower-interest voters – often break for the incumbent. Lately though, the increasingly negative tone of reelection campaigns, not to mention widespread dissatisfaction with Congress and the status quo, may turn those voters towards challengers.


[image url=”http://www.hawthorngroup.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/PollClosings.png” alignment=”center” margin_left=”0″ margin_right=”0″ margin_top=”0″ margin_bottom=”0″ width=”864″ height=”720″]

The above map – with credit to Democratic political blog Daily Kos– tells the story of when the polls will close.


Who knows when we’ll really know all the outcomes? Close races may lead to re-counts (and those, with court challenges, can take weeks). Returns are always slow in Alaska (where there are close senate and governor races). Senate in Louisiana is nearly sure to go to a December run-off. In Georgia, if there are run-offs as expected, Governor’s is December and Senate is January (two days AFTER the new Senate is seated).

As we all ready ourselves for election night, it might be useful if we – informed (or confused) by last minute campaign developments, warring polls, and gaffes (Mary Landrieu’s in Louisiana) – go on a “Magical Mystery Tour” of our questions as we look at the states, above:

Alabama – In this “all-Red” GOP state, will recent controversies with the indictment of the State House Speaker penalize, if not defeat, Attorney General Luther Strange?

Alaska – One of a number of states this year with major Senate AND Governor races.

In a race with almost no really reliable polling, will Democrat incumbent Senator Mark Begich’s “ground game” prove sufficient to overcome the consistent (if unreliable) polling leads of GOP nominee Dan Sullivan?

We’ve predicted the Independent candidate for governor Bill Walker (whose lieutenant governor running mate WAS the Democrat candidate for governor before switching to the more likely victorious #2 spot on the Independent ticket) will defeat GOP incumbent Gov. Sean Parnell, who was not helped by court-order disclosure of National Guard scandal documents in the last few days. Are we right?

Will marijuana pass? And what effect will it have on turnout? Same questions on minimum wage — ??

Arizona – Are we right that despite 30 years of personal friendship, Fred DuVal will NOT win the governor’s office and it will stay in GOP hands?

On the congressional front:

  • Arizona 1st – Will Representative Ann Kirkpatrick (D), who lost her seat in 2010 only to win it back narrowly in 2012, survive the challenge from State Representative Andy Tobin (R)?.
  • Arizona 2nd – Will former Gabby Giffords staffer Representative Ron Barber (D) survive his rematch with Air Force pilot Martha McSally (R) (he won by less than 2,500 votes in 2012)?.

Arkansas – Will Democratic U. S. Senator Mark Pryor lose the “family seat” as expected to Tom Cotton?

In the face of expected Republican gains for senate and governor with the Democrats be able to pick off one of the GOP’s vacant congressional seats?

California – All the real action is on ballot issues (with $200+ million spent), from education (read “teachers’ unions”) to healthcare. Will there be any national predictors of future action in other states (or, even, congress . . . should it ever figure out how to act)? Whose money will have been most effectively spent (a question we have nationally about the enormous sums spent by the Kochs/right and Steyer/left)?

There are some notable congressional races:

  • California 7th – Representative Ami Bera (D) is battling a tough challenge from moderate republican Doug Ose, who represented the district in the early 2000s.
  • California 26th – Freshman Representative Julia Brownley (D) is running a rematch against state Senator Tony Strickland (R), whom she defeated in 2012 by less than five points.
  • California 52nd – Freshman Representative Scott Peters (D) is running against an openly gay Republican, San Diego City Councilor Carl DeMaio, in another rematch of a close 2012 race without the benefit of a national presidential election.

Colorado – We’ve predicted Democrat Mark Udall will lose his re-election to the Senate while Democrat Governor John Hickenlooper will, in a total come-back, barely survive. Any chance we’re right on both? Either?

How will mailing ballots to every voter be seen as a factor in the ultimate outcome? Will the hotly debated personhood amendment drive turnout?

Connecticut – Does incumbent Dem. Gov. Dan Malloy survive, or after a race ending dead even, does the GOP take Connecticut?

Florida – In the most expensive gubernatorial election in history – and one of the hardest to predict – can Republican incumbent, Rick Scott carry (with a late $12+ million of his own money) his return-from-the-dead over former Governor, former Republican, former Independent Charlie Crist “over the goal line” on Tuesday (and in subsequent re-counts)?

Can Gwen Graham daughter of former Governor and Senator Bob Graham, take a U. S. House seat that was formerly safe from the Republicans?

Also, in Florida’s 26th Congressional district, Freshman Representative Joe Garcia (D) won a fluke contest in 2012 after his opponent was investigated by the FBI for fraud and campaign finance violations. He faces a much stronger opponent this time in Miami Dade School Board Member Carlos Curbelo. If not justice, which candidate prevails?

How close – expected above 50% — will the marijuana amendment get to the required (but nearly unattainable) 60%? How will it affect voter turnout?

What will happen to another critically important ballot measure, the Water and Land Conservation Initiative?

Georgia – Does Senate candidate Michelle Nunn (D) force businessman (and proud out-sourcing defender) David Perdue (R) into a runoff, as most expect? Does she lead him into the runoff, as some expect and some polls predict? Does she win it outright with no runoff, which almost no one expects?

Does State Senator Jason Carter (D) force incumbent Governor Nathan Deal (R) into a run-off?

Can either Democrat win a two-party (no third party/independent candidate) run-off (governor in December, senate in January)?

Will John Barrow – the only white Democrat left from the South – survive in his House seat?

Hawaii – Will the independent former Honolulu mayor – a loser in his bid for the 2010 Democratic gubernatorial nomination – have any real effect of the governor’s race (the incumbent having already been thoroughly trounced in his primary)?

Will former Congressman Djou score a return upset for the GOP?

Illinois –Is Illinois so blue that it will re-elect a deeply unpopular governor?

What effect will the drag of Governor Quinn’s candidacy beyond Cook County have on the prospect of Democratic congressional candidates?

Iowa – Can GOP state senator Joni Ernst hold on to her lead by riding the coattails of Governor Branstad and the full-throated endorsement of Senator Grassley and shift the seat from D (retiring Tom Harkin) to R?

Kansas – Another state with major battles for senator AND governor . . . and where we predict the partisan reverse outcome of Colorado.  Is it POSSIBLE U.S. Senator Pat Roberts will be the first Republican to lose a U.S. Senate race in Kansas since FDR’s landslide victory over Herbert Hoover in 1932? Yes, it’s possible, but we don’t think probable. Are we right?

And are we right that it’s not only possible, but probable, GOP Governor Sam Brownback will lose?

Louisiana – Just how badly will Democratic U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu be positioned as she is forced into a run-off with Republican Congressman Bill Cassidy?

Will 87-year-old former governor and congressman Edwin Edwards make it into a runoff for congress in the Cajun version of the “Last Hurrah”?

Maine – Can America’s nuttiest governor, Republican Paul LePage, survive? Any ONE Maine citizen could beat him, but he’s drawn two, making it a three-way race. Will his base vote be enough to win? Note that Elliott Cutler effectively suspended his third party candidacy late last week by urging his supporters to vote for whomever else they might choose. Independent Senator Angus King, who had previously endorsed Cutler, then endorsed Democratic candidate Congressman Mike Michaud.

Maryland – Is it possible Democrat-dominated Maryland might actually fail to elect its first African-American governor (and first to be elected from the lieutenant governor’s office) Anthony Brown, instead giving it to Larry Hogan (R)? This is the second state the Cook Report has just shifted from “Lean D” to “Toss-Up.” Is this race the who would’ve thought result of the year (there always is one)?

Massachusetts – Can the Democrats’ worst gubernatorial nominee Martha Coakley prove the pollsters wrong, or is she toast, turning the Bay State’s governor’s office from Blue to Red?

Michigan – Will Republican Governor Rick Snyder prove that a GOP take-tough-action governor CAN, as predicted, be re-elected in Michigan?

Will House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton survive anti-incumbent fervor and a last-minute mini-surge by Democratic challenger Paul Clements? We think so but an Upton loss would have major repercussions on energy policy.

Mississippi – Will traces of his second place GOP primary finish and near-death run-off also show up in unanticipated anti-Thad Cochran votes thus diminishing his expected 58% Senate re-election victory?

Montana – Another predicted “lock” GOP gain. The only question is the magnitude of Congressman Steve Daines’ margin of victory?

Nebraska – In a hotter than expected U.S. House race, can seven-term Republican incumbent Lee Terry – assisted by this decade’s “Willie Horton” ad – survive a three way race with state Senator Brad Ashford (D) and state Senator Chip Maxwell (I) in a district that voted narrowly for Obama in 2008?

New Hampshire – Will the locals accept Massachusetts GOP carpetbagger (and former U. S. Senator) Scott Brown’s bid to return to Washington, retiring Democrat Jeanne Shaheen? Or are the polls right that she’ll survive?

Will Representative Carol Shea-Porter (D) who lost her seat in 2010, regained it in 2012, and looks vulnerable to lose it again this cycle, lose to her opponent in those past races, former GOP Representative Frank Guinta?

New York – About the only races to question are U.S. House races:

  • New York 1st – Representative Tim Bishop (D) has won narrow races in 2010 and 2012, and faces Republican State Senator Lee Zeldin in November.
  • New York 18th – Representative Sean Patrick Maloney (D) faces a third consecutive rematch with former Representative Nan Hayworth, whom Maloney narrowly defeated in 2012.
  • New York 24th – Representative Dan Maffei (D) is neck and neck with former federal prosecutor John Katko (R) in this Syracuse-based district.

North Carolina – In the highest-spending (over $100 million combined), most over-advertised race for the senate, does Democrat incumbent Kay Hagan hang on to her narrow lead, or does it go to State House Speaker Tom Tillis, despite the less than popular record of his fellow super-conservative state legislators?

Do the Republican state legislators under brutal attack from the national environmentalists survive?

Ohio – Will GOP Gov. Kasich’s expected sweeping re-election add to his claims to national attention?

Oregon – In fact, will there be no surprise and Democratic Gov. Kitzhaber not be penalized for the “First Girlfriend’s” scandals?

Will the marijuana measure pass?

Pennsylvania – Just how badly does GOP Gov. Tom Corbett lose the office to the Democrats? What effect does the Corbett drag have on Republican state legislative majorities?

Rhode Island – Does Gina Raimondo, as expected, return the governor’s office to the Democrats after an Independent’s election four years ago? Note that the Cook Report just changed it from “Lean D” to “Toss-Up?”

South Dakota – Will the GOP – as once, then almost not, then now again, expected – not fall victim to former GOP Senator Larry Pressler’s third-party bid and take another seat out of the D (retiring Tim Johnson) column?

Texas – Will the GOP’s hold on every statewide office since the late Ann Richards continue (in part because of an inept Democratic gubernatorial candidate and despite a very appealing Democratic lieutenant governor candidate running against a hard right Republican)?

Will the anti-fracking ballot issue pass in Denton? (yep, fracking being questioned even in Denton, Texas)

Virginia – Will former Governor, and current U.S. Senator Mark Warner (D) enjoy an expected solid win over former Republican National Committee Chair Ed Gillespie?

Washington – Competing gun control measures are on the ballot. Will neither, either or both pass . . . and, if both, which prevails?

Washington, D.C. – the anomaly that is “neither fish nor fowl,” neither state nor territory, elects its mayor Tuesday. And for once, there is actually talk it won’t be an automatic rubber-stamping of the Democrat primary victory. Is it possible a gay, white, male, Independent could actually win? Seems unlikely, but unlikely things have happened this year (see, “Cantor, Eric”).

West Virginia – Will GOP Congresswoman Shelly Moore Capito’s victory margin in the Senate race propel her onto the national stage?

It was 38 years ago, in 1976, I worked in the congressional campaign of a very young radio station executive, Nick Rahall. We won and he has served, with great distinction, for 19 terms. Now, he is in an extremely tight – and expensive – race against State Senator, and former Democrat, Evan Jenkins. Republicans have tied Rahall to President Obama and the “war on coal,” while Democrats have attempted to portray Jenkins as a lackey for big business and the Koch brothers. Can the “Nicky Joe” brand rise above the Obama brand?

Wisconsin – Will Scott Walker reclaim his national GOP/anti-labor prominence, winning a re-election against Mary Burke after his lead has declined to dead even in the polls?

If we figure out anything we think you haven’t already heard/read, we’ll be in touch on/after Wednesday.

John and the Hawthorn Team



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