I’m not a pollster, I’m not a political scientist, I’m barely a pundit. The only thing I have in common with Nate Silver is that we’re both gay and Detroit Tigers fans. Other than that, I’m just some guy with a blog typing away in the wee hours of the morning.
But I’ve also been watching the midterm election campaign with varying degrees of interest, focusing less on individual races and more on the overall character, so to speak, of the electorate and what’s been making up the whole mise en scene, if you will. (I am, after all, a theatre scholar with a PhD in dramatic criticism, so I can at least look at this election from that point of view.) Plus, this year marks the 50th anniversary of the election of 1964, the first election I really paid attention to as far as issues were concerned. Civil rights, for instance, mattered to me when I was 12, somehow knowing that I would be touched by the fight for equality. I didn’t dream that marriage equality would ever be something on the ballot, but then, I didn’t know that I was gay… at least openly.
Anyway, since then I’ve paid attention to and even participated in a number of campaigns and in doing so I’ve acquired a sense of how the election will turn out, and sometimes I’ve been proven right. It isn’t based on percentages or any of the algorithms that Nate and the other pollsters use. It’s just a gut feeling, and about as scientific as reading the entrails of a goat are in predicting the mood of the gods. But I’m also pretty sure that when you get down to it, all those pollsters and algorithms rely on their gut reactions, too.
So here goes. I think the Republicans will win the Senate but not by a lot; maybe one seat. I think the race in Colorado between Mark Udall (D) and Cory Gardner (R) will be very close but in the end Mr. Gardner will win. In Iowa, the pig castrating Joni Ernst (R) will also win, bringing the Tea Party nutsery quotient in the Senate up, which will make the life of the Majority Leader complicated. That will probably be Mitch McConnell (R), who will survive his race in Kentucky against Alison Lundergren Grimes (D), so fair warning: when the TV channels switch to cover his victory speech, you’re going to see a zoological wonder: a turtle smiling. (Grab the remote; there’s gotta be a re-run of The Big Bang Theory on somewhere.)
I think the Senate race in Georgia between Michelle Nunn (D) and David Perdue (R) will be very close. In Georgia, you need 50% plus one to win, so there could be a run-off. I’m thinking the Republicans will prevail because it’s Georgia and even with a large African-American turnout that might favor the Democrats, the white male vote will be out there, as will the evangelicals, and you know how they roll. The run-off is in January… after the Senate in Washington is seated.
The Louisiana race is, like the state itself, unique. It isn’t actually a general election, it’s an open primary, which means that the winner has to be the first to the finish line and there will most likely be a run-off. Mary Landrieu (D) is polling in the 40%, which means the final election in December will be between her and the closest Republican. So there is a chance that we won’t have a final tally until after the new Senate is sworn in.
There are other races that are really close, but I think that the Kansas race between Pat Roberts (R) and Greg Orman (I) will end with Mr. Roberts losing, and I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that Gov. Sam Brownback (R) will be sent packing, along with his Tea Party solutions for screwing up the state’s economy. In New Hampshire, Jeanne Shaheen (D) will survive the challenge from former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown (R) so he can go back to posing for centerfolds. I also think the winds are with Kay Hagan (D) against Thom Tillis (R) in North Carolina. In Arkansas, it looks like Mark Pryor (D) will lose narrowly to Tom Cotton (R). What’s interesting about those two states is that they are trending in opposite directions: North Carolina is inching closer to being Democratic — they went for Obama in ’08 — and Arkansas, home of Bill and Hillary Clinton — is turning right.
The races for governor will be a referendum on the gang that rode in on the Tea Party wave in 2010: Rick Snyder (R) in Michigan, John Kasich (R) in Ohio, and Scott Walker (R) in Wisconsin, and of course Rick Scott (R) down here in Florida (more about that later). My thinking is that all three of the Midwesterners will survive with the only chance for an upset being in Wisconsin. Both Snyder and Kasich benefit from having lackluster or flawed opponents, and both Michigan and Ohio have a maddening tendency for the electorate to vote against their own self-interests.
Then there are governor’s races where it’s hard to believe that the Democrat could lose but it might well happen. Those include Massachusetts where Martha Coakley (D) has blown a huge lead over Charles Baker (R). The thinking is that while she might have the right ideas for governing, she’s just not a very good candidate. Connecticut finds incumbent Dan Malloy (D) fighting for his career in a rematch from 2010 against Tom Foley (R) and a recently-withdrawn independent. And in Maine, they could very well re-elect Paul LePage (R) in a three-way against Michael Michaud (D), the first openly gay candidate to run for that office and Eliot Cutler (I) who is in it, apparently, for his own ego. Mr. LePage has been described charitably as a Tea Partier on crack, and in other circles as an ironclad douchecanoe. With all due respect to the good people of Maine, what the hell is wrong with you if you re-elect that whack-job?
And speaking of whack-jobs, welcome to Florida. Here we have one of the most unappealing governor’s race in the country, pitting the felonious Rick Scott (R) against Charlie Crist (D… for now) who has lived up to the attack ads that the Scott campaign and the outside groups are running against him. Yes, he’s changed parties and positions in the last four years, but it tells you even more about Mr. Scott when such a chimera can run ahead if the latest polls are to believed. It could easily end up in a recount and we all know how the Sunshine State does with that hot mess.
Even if Mr. Crist does win, he’ll be up against a probable Republican super-majority in the Florida legislature that will be in no mood to deal kindly with someone whom they see as a traitor to their party. Expect a lot of vetoes, overrides, and a strong temptation for South Florida to take up the idea of splitting off and working out a deal with the Bahamas.
There is one congressional race here in Florida that strikes close to home. Freshman Rep. Joe Garcia (D) in the 26th district — the one next to mine — is in the race of his life against Carlos Curbelo (R), who currently occupies a seat on the Miami-Dade County Public Schools Board of Education. Discretion and gerrymandering keeps me from taking a position on this race.
Oh, and speaking of local races, the council race in my little Village of Palmetto Bay has gotten so nasty that even Karl Rove would be embarrassed. This is what happens when you have an election where the stakes are so low.
There are interesting ballot measures in a number of states including “personhood” amendments that would grant citizenship to a clump of cells; ironically, these are proposals put forward by people who would deny the same rights to actual children who happened to be born somewhere else and brought to America by their parents. Here in Florida there’s a proposed amendment to the state constitution to allow for medical marijuana. But since it requires 60% approval and it’s currently polling in the mid-50’s, I don’t expect it to pass. Bummer, dude.
If there’s any consolation in store for the Democrats who are bracing themselves for a hangover tomorrow, it’s that history has proved that presidents in their sixth year face opposition parties running the Congress no matter if he is a Republican or Democrat. As Rachel Maddow noted in her opening segment last night, every two-term president since the end of World War II has had that problem. So while President Obama’s poll numbers are in the 40’s, he’s not alone in being the beast of burden for the country’s sour mood. It even happened to Ronald Reagan and Dwight Eisenhower. So, it’s not just you, Mr. President; it’s history.
If you made it all the way through this, now’s your turn to chime in with your predictions on races in your own area or the ones that I missed. If you’ve already voted, either today or in the weeks past, share with us the experience (if not your choices). I know that between now and the times the polls close we’re going to hear breathless reporting about big turnouts that turn out to be average or even below average.
Have at it.