Today, Sunday marks one-hundred days until the November Midterm elections. Aside from the Gubernatorial races, one third of the Senate and all of the House is at risk, begging their constituent employers for another chance at serving them.
Here are the top races I’m following, that I truly believe to be the potentially most influential races both in the summer/fall primary season, and in November.
TOP SIX in ’06
1. Connecticut Senate – Joe Lieberman/Ned Lamont (Schlesinger)
Connecticut August 8th Democratic Primary is arguably one of the most covered races in the country, as liberal groups push to oust Senate veteran Joe Lieberman, accusing him of allegiances to the Bush Administration. Lieberman put it best during his debate with Ned Lamont earlier this month, pointing our that he “ran against Bush twice” (unsuccessfully in 2000 as VP Nomination with Al Gore, and 2004 as a candidate for the Democratic Nomination). Lieberman will be victorious, but this teaches us that no incumbent is ever completely safe. Expect the primary to be a close race — if Lieberman’s Democratic base does not come out, expect him to win as an Independent in December, overwhelmingly. Who the hell is Alan Schlesinger? Expect Schlesinger to pick up a few votes.
Primary Prediction: Too Close to Call
November Prediction: Overwhelmingly Lieberman
2. Massachusetts Governor – Reilly/Gabrielli/Patrick/Healey (Mihos)
Every Governor of Massachusetts seems to be influential on a national level. Just to name a few — Mike Dukakis (’88), Paul Tsongas (’92), Mitt Romney (’08), and Former Lt. Governor under Dukakis, John Kerry (’04) — and who can forget names like Bill Weld, or Paul Cellucci? Heck, Jane Swift even made headlines. Right now, I am intrigued but the Massachusetts Gubernatorial Race as Attorney General Tom Reilly, businessman Chris Gabrielli, and lawyer Deval Patrick. All three candidates lead Lt. Governor Healey in the polls, in every possible scenario. Patrick has the most support, after receiving the June Democratic Convention Endorsement, and leads recent polling. Honestly, I don’t know what to say about this one. The Primary really is the race to follow — Kerry Healey’s political career is all but over. Healey has called for a four-way debate, which, if Healey wants to make a comeback, she needs. Healey needs to go after the “division” in the party (even though there really isn’t one), if she wants to pull it off. As a longtime follower of Boston media, I really like all three Democratic candidates. Chris Gabrielli’s ads really stike home (“I will be held accountable”…”I won’t make any promises I can’t keep”), and is gaining ground (being the last to join the race), count Gabrielli out of coming out with a stunning victory (I’ll be covering this race as it gets closer). While the July 11 Rasmussen report showed Gabrielli with 51% compared to Reilly’s 44% (when all four candidates, plus Independent Christy Mihos), Reilly needs to push his accomplishments harder — he needs to buy advertising where Bostonians are watching (NESN, home of the Boston Red Sox, WBZ-4, etc.) and boast his accomplishments — MORE so than he is doing. Don’t count Chris Gabrielli out — I can see a “surprise” upset — or even a strong showing to make him a possible contender for US Senate, should John Kerry decide not to seek re-election when he (most certainly) runs for President in 2008. Look for a possible appearance on the Blue State Observer by Attorney General Reilly in the weeks to come.
Primary Prediction: Reilly will come out victorious, in a very close race, leaving questions about how strong a candidacy. Patrick and Gabrielli will be within a few votes, opening strong future options for Gabrielli.
November Prediction: All Democrats victorious over Healey, with Polls much closer than now in late October. Count Mihos completely out.
Aftermath: Kerry Healey’s loss will raise significant questions over Mitt Romney, should he make the ultimate decision to run in 2008. If Healey loses significantly, it questions Romney’s popularity. Right now, Kerry Healey is Mitt Romney — she’s running on the record. If Healey loses (which she ultimately will), it is a loss for Romney. Romney has a tough decision to make — distance himself, and get exposure with the Big Dig crisis, or help Healey (especially if the polls are close) — risking 2008.
3. Utah Senate – Orrin Hatch v. Pete Ashdown
I’m a big fan of Pete Ashdown, I’ll make that clear, but it’s unlikely to think that Ashdown will beat veteran Hatch, who trails the Senator in the polls, 63-21. Unfortunately, Hatch who was once a supporter of term limits, has too much pull and seniority in Utah. The man will serve in Utah until he is incapable. Still, Ashdown is one hell of a gutsy guy to run against Hatch. I don’t predict it (with the Mormon-conservative population of Utah), but I suppose it is possible that Ashdown could give him a ‘scare.’ Ashdown is young — expect to see more of him down the road. I’m one of the few who doesn’t think there’ll be a major Democratic surge in November, but this race is influential — if Ashdown can take 35-40%, I can see Utah Republicans worrying just a bit.
Prediction: Hatch (60-75%), Ashdown (25-40%)
Why this race is influential: If Ashdown can make a decent showing in one of the reddest state in the nation, it tells the GOP they have to work a little harder in 2006.
4. Texas – Perry/Bell/Friedman
Unless you are completely apolitical, you probably have heard of Kinky Friedman, who is making noise in Texas. Independent Friedman, of the ‘Texas Jewboys’ band is giving Incumbent Republican Rick Perry a run for his money in the Texas Gubernatorial Race. As virtually none of Texas votes, Kinky’s “Why the Hell Not” is getting him second place in the polls. Keep in mind Jesse Ventura was widely counted out in 1998.
Prediction: Friedman will win, with a 3-7 point margin over Perry. Count Bell out.
5. Maine – State Legislature
Surprise, surprise. You probably wouldn’t count Maine in the top five races nationally. Here’s the deal…should Republicans push for any kind of Constitutional amendment, Maine is one of the few states that could block an amendment on something like, say, gay marriage. Right now, the party separation is extraordinarily slim. I don’t know what kind of effect the Gubernatorial race will have over Maine — I’d like to say that the house will go with the Governor — but we don’t know that.
Prediction: Democrats will maintain a very slim lead in the House — however, Maine has had the problem with party-switchers — Democrats need to fight for EVERY seat possible, keeping in mind that this race matters NATIONALLY.
6. VA Senate – Webb v. George Allen
According to recent polls, Allen is leading former US Navy Secretary (under REAGAN) 50-31. After a disgustingly small turnout in the Democratic primary, Webb (who endorsed Allen in 2000) is making waves, against a potential ’08 candidate. If Allen is serious for 2008, he’ll need to really make an impact. Allen’s goal is to be seen as the conservative alternatives to McCain and Giuliani — keep in mind that Virginia, now twice, has gone Democratic in its Gubernatorial race — most recently for Kaine, prior to that, Warner. I’m not saying Allen can be beat –but he needs to get an overwhelming win to be considered for 2008. Allen needs at LEAST 60%, in my opinion, to avoid questions. There’s no question he’s ‘thinking’ — I attended a conference in Washington, DC in June — and I saw the ads on TV.
Prediction: Allen over Webb, with a majority — but less than 60%
7. Pennsylvania – Santorum v. Casey
It is the “top six,” however, after originally keeping this race out, I have to add it. I have faith that the relatively liberal Pennsylvania will give neocon Santorum a run for his money. I’m interested to see how the debates go.
Prediction: Bob Casey Jr., in a VERY close race.
Why This Race is Influential: Any incumbent at risk is anyways influential — especially when it comes to someone with as much pull as Rick Santorum.
Other races I’m following…
Montana – Senate … Tester/Burns (Inc.) — edge to burns …
Tennessee – Ford/Various … polls say ‘dead heat’ … ege to Ford…
New York – Hillary/Various … Hillary, but margin of win dictates 2008
Texas CD-22 – Tom Delay’s former district …
NY CD-25 – Dan Maffei (D) v. James Walsh (Inc.)
More to come…