Editor’s note: With the critical mid-term elections taking place next Tuesday, we present a special election preview edition of This Week in Washington.
Control of the House of Representatives is not in question, indeed there is almost unanimity among election watchers that Republicans will not only hold the House but actually increase their margin. The question, of course, is how many seats will the Republicans gain?
The current House is made up of 234 Republicans, 199 Democrats and two vacancies. Larry Sabato, from the University of Virginia, currently projects that the post-election composite of the House will be 243 Republicans and 193 Democrats.
Some interesting races to keep an eye on include:
Virginia 10th CD: Retiring Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) is looking to be succeeded by state legislator Barbara Comstock (R-VA), but Democrats are hoping for a pickup in this increasingly suburban district. John Foust (D-VA) would likely be the favorite in almost any other election cycle, but President Obama's low approval ratings make Comstock the slight favorite.
New Hampshire 1st CD: There is probably no better example of a swing district than New Hampshire's 1st Congressional District. Former Rep. Frank Guinta (R-NH) is attempting to re-take the seat against incumbent Rep. Carol Shea-Porter. Guinta defeated Shea-Porter in 2010, she re-took the seat beating him in 2012, and we will see how the rubber match between these two goes.
California 7th CD: Rep. Ami Bera (D-CA) is facing off against former Rep. Doug Ose (R-CA) in this district. Ose was a leading moderate voice in the House when he served and his resume is well suited for this district.
New York 11th CD: Democrats thought picking up this seat would be a slam-dunk after incumbent Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY) was indicted on 20 federal charges. Domenic Recchia (D-NY), however, has run a lackluster campaign and given the national environment for Republicans, it is possible that Grimm holds on.
West Virginia 3rd CD: Incumbent Nick Rahall (D-WV) is always swimming upstream in conservative West Virginia, the question is whether the terrible environment for Democrats will finally cost Rahall his seat in Congress. Republicans have nominated Evan Jenkins (R-WV) and this race will be a real test of whether the GOP wave is real.
California 52nd CD: Openly gay Republican Carl DeMaio (R-CA) was one of the top recruits of the National Republican Congressional Committee coming into this cycle. DeMaio's campaign has faced some setbacks, the most critical of which was losing the endorsement of the Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber, which rarely endorses Democrats in races like this, endorsed incumbent Rep. Scott Peters (D-CA). Despite his struggles, the polling still shows DeMaio is within striking distance.
Maine 2nd CD: If there is a real GOP wave then it could help Republicans finally pickup Maine's 2nd Congressional District. The district, which is the more conservative of the Maine districts, has always been a target by Republicans and with incumbent Rep. Mike Michaud (D-ME) running for Governor the open seat may now be in reach. Polling has shown Emily Cain (D-ME) and Bruce Poliquin (R-ME) running neck and neck.
Unlike the House, where there is no question about who will control the Chamber after Tuesday night, a great deal of uncertainty continues to exist about whether Republicans will be able to take control of the Senate.
Republicans need to pickup a net of six seats to take control of the Senate. They appear poised to easily add at least three seats in Montana, West Virginia and South Dakota. The real question is whether they can net an additional three from the races below:
Colorado: Democrats thought they had gotten a break when no major Republican got in the race against incumbent Senator Mark Udall (D-CO). That changed when Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO) decided late in the primary season to make a run. For much of the cycle the Gardner-Udall race has been one of the closest in the country. Over the last two weeks or so, however, Gardner has opened up a consistent lead over his Democratic opponent. Democrats claim that the polling has under-estimated the Latino vote and no one is quite sure how Colorado’s new all-mail-in ballot will affect the race. Polls close at 7 PM MST/9 PM EST, if this race is called early for Gardner it could be a very long night for Democrats.
Iowa: The Iowa race has really been a tale of two campaigns. Republican Joni Ernst (R-IA) has run an almost flawless campaign, while Rep. Bruce Braley (D-IA) has been a gaffe machine. Despite the almost perfect Ernst campaign and the less than perfect Braley campaign, the dynamics of this race have been unchanged for months: it's simply too close to call. Control of the Senate could come down to the winner of this race.
The Real Clear Politics average of polling in this race gives a slight two-point advantage to Ernst. The polls close at 9 CST/10 EST, but expect it to be late in the evening before a call is made on this race.
North Carolina: At the beginning of the cycle, North Carolina’s Kay Hagan (D-NC) looked like one of—if not the most—endangered Democrat in the Senate. Amazingly, as we look ahead to Tuesday night, Hagan may be one of the Democrat’s bright lights on an otherwise dim evening.
Establishment Republicans thought they caught a break when Thom Tillis (R-NC) emerged from the Republican primary over two more conservative candidates. Tillis, however, has struggled to overtake the incumbent—even in North Carolina where President Obama’s approval ratings are dismal. Hagan has run to the center with an overwhelmingly positive campaign, which has kept her slightly ahead in all of the polling. While the race remains very close, the latest Elon University poll gives Hagan a four-point edge. Polls in North Carolina close at 7:30 EST, and a Hagan loss would all but guarantee Republicans were on their way to the majority.
Georgia: If you would have said at the beginning of the cycle that Democrats were eyeing a pickup in Georgia, you would assume that Democrats were having a big night nationally. In the crazy 2014 mid-terms however, Georgia is in play even as incumbent Democrats—particularly in red states—are in serious danger.
Like in North Carolina, establishment Republicans were thrilled when businessman David Perdue won the Republican primary over a gang of GOPers, most of whom were to his right.
Most political talking heads expected that once Perdue locked up the nomination, the on paper promising candidacy of Michelle Nunn was expected to evaporate. That didn’t happen. Nunn jumped on comments Perdue made about outsourcing and exploited his business history, something that was considered a positive at one point. Polling in Georgia is all over the place on this race. A Monmouth University poll released this week put Nunn up by eight points while a SurveyUSA poll from this week had Perdue up three points.
Polls close at 7 PM EST and if Democrats are to maintain their majority in the Senate, stealing this Georgia seat would be a great start.
Kentucky: Kentucky is kind of the anti-Georgia. National Democrats had high hopes for Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D-KY), much like they did for Nunn. However, unlike Nunn in Georgia, Grimes' campaign faltered, in part due to some unforced errors by the candidate herself.
It was always hard to imagine that Republicans would win control of the Senate, but that their leader—Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell—would lose his race. It is looking less and less likely. Democrats, however, claim that the race is still in play and just last week outside groups pumped money into the race on behalf of Grimes.
McConnell enjoys the lead at this point, but just how big a lead remains to be seen. Two of the last three polls have shown McConnell with a sizeable lead (plus-six and plus-eight), but a Courier Journal poll showed Grimes within one.
Polls close in the Bluegrass state at 6 PM EST.
Kansas: This has been one of the most fascinating races of the cycle to watch. Most talking heads believed that if Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS) survived his primary against a Tea Party challenger then he would coast to victory. Unfortunately for Republicans, this has not been the case.
Democrats managed to get their nominee off the ballot, which cleared the field for businessman Greg Orman (I-KS) who is running as an independent. Orman has refused to say whether he would caucus with the Democrats or the Republicans and has masterfully run against both parties in his race. Roberts, still limping from his bruising primary battle, has been forced to spend time in the general locking up his base by bringing in conservative luminaries like former Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK). It’s tough to consolidate your base and reach out to centrists and independents at the same time in a general election.
Another factor complicating the race for Republicans is that Governor Sam Brownback (R-KS)—a staunch social conservative and polarizing figure—is locked in a very close race where several high profile Kansas Republicans have endorsed his Democratic opponent.
Polls in Kansas close at 7 PM CST/8 EST and current polling puts Orman slightly ahead, but Roberts has been closing the gap over the last month.
New Hampshire: Incumbent Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) is a popular former Governor who, at first blush, hasn’t done anything in the Senate that you would constitute as a “fire-able offense,” especially in Democratic-leaning New Hampshire. Her opponent is former Senator Scott Brown (R-NH), who served in the Senate from neighboring Massachusetts. Brown is an affable candidate and a good campaigner whose campaign has caught fire in the last few weeks, and Shaheen’s once reliable lead in the polls has begun to dwindle.
Current polling puts the race tantalizingly close for Republicans. A CNN poll showed Shaheen with just a two-point lead. If Scott Brown pulls this off and knocks off Shaheen then Republicans are likely in for a very good night.
Polls close at 8 PM EST, and if you are looking for a sign of a Republican wave then this is it.
Louisiana: Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) has faced an uphill battle all cycle. For the last two years she has constantly been mentioned as the most endangered Democratic incumbent in red state Louisiana. The Real Clear Politics average of polls has her opponent Bill Cassidy (R-LA) with a 4.5 advantage over Landrieu in a one-on-one race. However, it isn’t a one-on-one race—yet. In Louisiana all candidates from all parties run in the general election, and if one candidate doesn’t reach 50 percent then there is a runoff between the top two finishers. Current polls put Landrieu at just around 38 percent of the vote in the November election, which will be enough to put her into a very tough run-off with the likely top Republican Cassidy, who checks in at 34 percent according to the polls (another Republican Rob Maness (R-LA) has been pulling right around 10 percent in the polls).
Polls close at 8 PM CST/9 PM EST and, barring something unforeseen, this race will not be decided on Tuesday night.
Alaska: Republicans got another lucky break in Alaska when former GOP nominee and Tea Party-supported Joe Miller (R-AK) lost the primary to Dan Sullivan (R-AK). They also caught a break when Miller decided against a 3rd party or independent run in the general. Sullivan is the opponent who incumbent Senator Mark Begich (D-AK) least wanted to face in a general election. While Begich has attempted to distance himself from President Obama, the President’s unpopularity in deeply Republican Alaska has been a huge albatross to the incumbent.
Current polling shows Sullivan with a small but consistent lead. A CBS News poll out this month put Sullivan ahead by four points. Democrats, however, continue to point out that polling in Alaska is notoriously difficult to rely on, and they are talking up Begich’s ground operation.
Polls close at 8 PM AHST/1 AM EST. If Democrats need to hold this seat to hold on to the Senate, then it might be a very late night for both parties.
Arkansas: The Pryor name and the Pryor family are an institution in Arkansas, and that institution is facing its stiffest challenge ever. Incumbent Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR) is squaring off against Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR). While the polling has consistently shown Cotton ahead in this race, the actual size of that lead is in question, with polls showing wildly different margins ranging from as high as plus-13 to within the margin of error at plus-two.
National Democrats continue to talk up Pryor and this race.
Polls close in Arkansas at 7:30 CST/8:30 EST. If Democrats hold on in Arkansas it could be a sign that any national GOP wave has evaporated and would vastly improve the Democrats chances of holding on to the Senate.
Click here to view the Washington Business Brief video, "Special Extended Election Preview!”
A look ahead
The House and Senate are in recess next week.
Washington by the numbers
$20/hour – Base pay for fast-food workers in Denmark—roughly 2.5 times the compensation of such employees in the United States.
61.9 percent – Share of wealth owned by the top 10 percent of U.S. households by income.
They said what?
“I actually do.” – Libertarian Senate candidate Sean Haugh of North Carolina, asked whether he has smoked marijuana during the campaign (Bloomberg)
"Over the weekend, President Obama told Americans not to panic about Ebola. Then, when asked about the Democrats' chances in the upcoming midterm elections, Obama said, 'Man, that Ebola sure is scary.'" – Conan O'Brien
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