Salon’s rash predictions on the election

In which Salon makes predictions we'll probably regret about the outcome of the undecided races still remaining.

Topics: 2008 Elections, War Room, Al Franken, D-Minn., Ted Stevens,

We’re tired of waiting for pesky local election officials to count the last few votes in the handful of congressional races that have not yet been officially decided. Because it’s fun, and because we’re not betting real money, we’re going to pick the winners ourselves. If we’re right, the final totals will be eight new Democrats in the Senate and a net Democratic gain of 24 seats in the House. That gives the Democrats a caucus of 59 in the Senate (57 Democrats plus independents Bernie Sanders and, um, Joe Lieberman), one short of a filibuster-proof majority. Here’s how we did the math.

Senate

Alaska
Incumbent Republican senator-for-life and convicted felon Ted Stevens leads Democratic challenger Mark Begich by about 3,200 votes. Fully 30 percent of Alaska’s total votes, however, in the form of 90,000 early and absentee ballots, remain uncounted. The counting begins at noon Alaska time Wednesday. Analyst Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight.com says that since the vast majority of votes left to be counted are early and absentee, that should favor the Democrat. Since Silver is always right, we believe him.

Winner: Begich

The actual result will be known when?
Barring a recount, the results of the race should be announced by Nov. 19.

Georgia
Incumbent Saxby Chambliss, a Republican, narrowly missed the 50 percent plus one threshold needed to win this race outright against Democrat Jim Martin, who received 47 percent of the vote. Under Georgia law, the two highest vote getters, Chambliss and Martin, must face each other in a runoff, scheduled for Dec. 2. The odds favor a Chambliss victory in the runoff. There will be no Barack Obama on the ballot to pump up African-American turnout, and overall turnout figures for runoffs are generally lower anyway. Both factors should help Chambliss. Georgia Democrats will remember that in 1992, one-term incumbent Democratic Sen. Wyche Fowler won a plurality of votes on Election Night, only to lose the subsequent runoff to Republican Mack Mattingly. As in 1992, the first round of voting featured a Libertarian who will be absent in the runoff. Sixteen years ago, those Libertarian votes seemed to end up in the R column in Round 2.



Winner: Chambliss

The actual result will be known when?
Probably before midnight on Dec. 2.

Minnesota
Norm Coleman, an incumbent Republican, leads Democratic challenger Al Franken by 206 votes. Since the margin between the candidates is so small, the race appears to be headed to an automatic retally. Coleman’s lead has slowly dwindled since Election Day and the all-knowing Silver gives Franken a slight advantage in a recount. In the state’s 2006 Senate race, which was not close, final adjustments in vote totals for Democrat Amy Klobuchar (the winner) and Republican Mark Kennedy added a net gain of 2,100 (to be fair, both lost votes in the recount, but Kennedy lost 2,100 more, so Klobuchar added 2,100 to her total) to Klobuchar’s tally, suggesting that another close accounting might help the Democrat close the gap. However, the clearest signal that Franken might be headed for a win is the preemptive howling from the right that Minnesota’s Democratic Secretary of State Mark Ritchie is about to steal one for his team.

Winner: Franken

The actual result will be known when?
The recount should be completed by Dec. 19.

House

According to our math, Democrats are set to pick up a total of 27 House seats in this election, to just four for Republicans, giving Democrats a net gain of 23 seats. Democrats would thus control 259 seats overall in the House.

Alaska, at-large congressional district
Incumbent Republican Don Young led Democrat Ethan Berkowitz by a healthy 52 to 44 percent margin after Election Day, even though Young had enough ethical issues of his own that his  party tried unsuccessfully to take him out in the primary. Alaskan officials will begin tallying a massive trove of uncounted ballots on Wednesday (see Stevens v. Begich, above), but his lead over Berkowitz is so substantial that he will probably survive.

Winner: Young

The actual result will be known when?
Nov. 19.

California, 4th District
Republican Tom McClintock leads Democrat Charlie Brown by 1,092 votes. There are still nearly 43,000 votes to be counted in this race, so it’s really too difficult to call. That won’t stop us. Given that Republicans have a 15-point registration advantage in the district, it should be an easy win for McClintock, who is also a hero of the conservative wing of California’s GOP. But Brown, who nearly won this seat two years ago, seems to have the advantage when it comes to the votes left to be counted — more votes are outstanding in places where he is doing well or splitting the vote with McClintock, specifically Nevada and Placer counties. Brown won Nevada County in 2006 in his bid to unseat Republican incumbent John Doolittle, who retired rather than run again. In addition, McClintock is an outsider, having moved to the Northern California district from the L.A. exurbs to run, and Doolittle retired under an Abramoff-related ethical cloud.

Winner: It’s a tossup, but we’re going to give it to Brown.

The actual result will be known when?
Barring a recount, around Nov. 25.

Louisiana, 4th District
Hurricane Gustav may have cost Democrat Paul J. Carmouche his best shot to win this open seat, vacated by retiring Republican Jim McCrery. Carmouche is battling Republican John Fleming, but now, Carmouche won’t benefit from Obama’s Nov. 4 coattails, which were nonexistent in Louisiana anyway. Though the district has a significant black population, McCrery won easily in past contests. Republicans picked up a seat in Louisiana on Election Night, when Bill Cassidy beat Democrat Don Cazayoux in the state’s 6th Congressional District.

Winner: Fleming

The actual result will be known when?
Dec. 6.

Louisiana, 2nd District
If allegedly stashing cash in a freezer didn’t hurt incumbent Democrat William Jefferson, what power does a hurricane have? Like the 4th District contest, the 2nd District tilt was delayed by Gustav. Jefferson will face a runoff against Republican Joseph Cao on Dec. 6. Though Jefferson faces federal corruption charges, he remains popular in his heavily black New Orleans district and history is decidedly on his side. A Democrat has held the seat since 1924.

Winner: Jefferson

The actual result will be known when?
Dec. 6.

Ohio, 15th District
Republican Steven Stivers holds a 149-vote edge over Democrat Mary Joe Kilroy. Sure Stivers leads, but probably not for long. Thousands of provisional ballots and some absentee ballots are left to count. The provisional ballots, which in Ohio are usually cast by new residents and the young, should favor the Democrat.

Winner: Kilroy

The actual result will be known when?
Barring a recount, the winner should be known by Nov. 19.

Virginia, 5th District
Democrat Tom Perriello holds a 745-vote lead over Republican incumbent Virgil H. Goode Jr., squeaking past the incumbent thanks to an extra dollop of votes from African-Americans and liberals (and college students) in Charlottesville. Some locals may also have been embarrassed by Goode’s loutish comments about Muslims. Virtually all the votes in the race have been counted, so Goode’s only path for overtaking Perriello appears to be a recount.

Winner: Perriello

The actual result will be known when?
Though Goode can call for a new tally, the election will be certified on Nov. 24.

Justin Jouvenal is an editorial fellow at Salon and a graduate student in journalism at New York University.

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