Where things stand

Democrats appear poised for victory in the House, but late changes in Senate races make the hill seem steeper there.


Tim Grieve
November 5, 2006 10:17PM (UTC)

We're two days out from Election Day. Here's where things stand -- or at least where people think they do.

The House: Expectations are now set so high for the Democrats that it will be bigger news if they don't take control of the House on Tuesday than if they do. In the Washington Post today, David Broder and Dan Balz conclude that the Democrats "appear almost certain to pick up more than the 15 seats needed to regain the majority." Broder and Balz say the Republicans have "virtually" conceded 10 House seats they hold now; the New York Times' David Nagourney and Robin Toner put that number at 12. If Democrats win even a handful of the other competitive seats -- the Post puts 30 more in the "toss-up" category -- they'll take the House for the first time since 1994. Joe Gaylord, who helped Newt Gingrich engineer the GOP takeover in '94, tells the Times that he believes the Republicans will lose between 25 and 30 seats Tuesday -- an assessment shared by a lot of big-name prognosticators.

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The problem for the Republicans: The battlefield is huge, and they're playing defense just about everywhere. By the Times' count, the two parties are advertising this weekend in 50 congressional districts, almost all of them currently represented by Republicans. "I'm playing defense in one or two districts and offense in 46," DCCC chairman Rahm Emanuel tells the Times. "I like those odds. I'd rather be us than them."

The RNC's Ken Mehlman is still insisting that the GOP will hold on to the House, and a new Washington Post/ABC News poll does show some tightening on the generic Republican vs. Democrat ballot question. Still, Tuesday's field of play keeps growing, and not in a way that favors the Republicans. In the last two days alone, CQ Politics -- which ranks each race on a scale that ranges from "Safe Republican" to "Safe Democrat" -- has moved 10 races a notch away from the GOP. The latest: The seat now held by Katherine Harris, who is leaving the House in order to lose badly to Democrat Bill Nelson in the Florida Senate race.

The Senate: The Senate has always looked like a steeper climb for the Democrats, and Republicans are feeling a little better about their chances to stop the ascent.

To take control of the Senate, the Democrats need to defend all of the seats they hold now and pick up six seats currently held by the GOP. Although the Republicans are putting up fights in New Jersey, Maryland and, now, Michigan, polls suggest that Bob Menendez, Ben Cardin and Debbie Stabenow will hold those states for the Democrats.

So that leaves the small matter of picking up six other seats, and the news isn't so encouraging for Democrats there. Bob Casey Jr. seems like a lock over Rick Santorum in Pennsylvania, and Sherrod Brown will almost certainly beat Mike DeWine in Ohio. That's two. Getting four more isn't impossible, but it won't be easy, either.

The Times says Republicans are bracing for the defeat of Lincoln Chafee in Rhode Island, but a new McClatchy Newspapers/MSNBC poll has Chafee a point ahead of Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse today. A week or so ago, Democrats were awfully confident that Jon Tester would beat Conrad Burns in Montana -- as were we -- but Burns has been closing fast, and the McClatchy/MSNBC poll shows the race as tied now. The Democrats' hopes have all but died in Tennessee, where the McClatchy/MSNBC poll has Harold Ford Jr. trailing Bob Corker by 10 points.

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That leaves Virginia and Missouri, both of which are way too close to call now. The McClatchy/MSNBC poll puts Jim Webb a point ahead of George Allen in Virginia, making it the sixth poll in a row to show the Democratic challenger either tied with or leading the Republican incumbent. The McClatchy/MSNBC poll also puts Claire McCaskill up by a point over Jim Talent in Missouri; McCaskill leads in each of the five most recent polls in the race, but mostly by numbers that are well within the margins of error.


Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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