Handicapping the Midterms

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Let the race begin! [mescobosa / Flickr]

Let the handicapping begin!

On the eve of the last big round of primaries, and in the wake of the rest, we’re looking forward to the midterms. There’s been talk of a reversal not seen since the ’94 Republican revolution, and there’s recent talk of a resurgent Bush. But what have we learned so far? What rhyme or reason do you see when Lamont beats Lieberman, Clinton trounces Tasini, and Chafee takes Laffey? Is there any lesson beyond the fact that if you’re taking on an incumbent it’s best to bring your own war chest to the party?

Is there a defining issue for this diverse set of elections, something that unites House, Senate, and gubernatorial races? Is it all terror, all the time? (Or maybe all Iraq, all the time?) Is it Fear vs. Loathing? Who’s putting immigration front and center? Health care? Global warming? Or the “values” issues that supposedly defined the 2004 election, before the conventional wisdom changed? Any chance that flag burning will return to the agenda?

Are we looking at a reprise of Kos and the netroots vs. Dobson and the megachurches, or is there another demographic electoral shift no one’s paying attention to? And who gets out more votes?

Step right up. Be a prognosticator. What races are you following, either in your neck of the woods or in another corner of the country? What’s your favorite bellwether? What’s your favorite outlier?

Gregory Giroux

Senior Reporter, CQ Politics.com

Conn Carroll

Blogger, The Hotline‘s Blogometer

Ari Berman

Contributing writer, The Nation

Contributor, The Notion

Ryan Sager

Columnist, RealClearPolitics.com

Blogger, Miscellaneous Objections

Author, The Elephant in the Room


  • 1st/14th

    Roskam and Duckworth in the Illinois 6th. If it were not for the fact that Duckworth wasn’t Rahm Emanuel’s toady, she would have a much better chance of winning. I would say Roskam by a hair.

  • zeke

    I love political gossip and prognostication as much as the next guy. But I look to ROS for more elevated fare than I can find on every cable channel and radio talk show. One issue which I think could elevate it beyond the norm would be a discussion of the implications of an incipient conservative disenchantment with the Republican party. Some are even (quietly) hoping for defeat in November. The Washington Monthly website recently published the concerns of seven writers including Christopher Buckley. And Dick Polman has a good run down on Friday, Sept. 15 at http://dickpolman.blogspot.com/

    As I read it, the gist is:

    1. True conservative priniciples have been trashed by the Bush administration.

    2. The stng of defeat would reenergize the base for 2008.

    3. Republican legislators would be freed from having to cobble together watered down legislation that doesn’t really address pressing problems.

    4. Defeat would allow Presidential candidates to run as “outsiders” against the depradations of a Pelosi congress.

    If I were a conservative, I don’t think any of the above would offset the risak of two years of congressional oversight hearings. But then, if I were a conservative, perhaps I wouldn’t think the administration had anything to hide from the American people!

  • zeke

    Former congressman, now cable TV commentator, Joe Scarborough adds his voice to the conservative choruscited above.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/09/15/AR2006091500996.html

  • nother

    A quick unrelated dispatch from ROS nation: A co-worker of mine died a couple of days ago and her husband has reported that moments before she passed away, she said what’s most important is to “live, laugh, and love.”

  • http://studio-nelson.com plnelson

    “True conservative priniciples have been trashed by the Bush administration.”

    Care to show us the official list of True Conservative Priniciples?

    Terms like “liberal” and “conservative” are virtually meaningless in modern English.

  • http://studio-nelson.com plnelson

    The sad truth is that we face a host of serious, complex issues including: Islamic terrorism; a quagmire in Iraq; a rapidly changing economy driven by technological change occuring with dizzying speed and unknown implications; health care costs rising at double-digit rates; a social security system about to go off a cliff; and global climate change that recent scientific studies suggest may be happening even faster than the wildest predictions.

    NEITHER party seems to have the SLIGHTEST CLUE how to address these. Neither party has issued a comprehensive, detailed, concrete proposal with believable numbers that does more than make a gesture at dealing with them.

    And gestures are all they have. Both parties are mired in the idea that gesturres, postures, slogans, symbols, suggestions, and soundbites, are a substitute for actual governing.

    Given these circumstanes it really doesn’t matter who wins.

  • http://www.rockisland.com/~pmcrae/index.html peggysue

    I just voted (absentee ballot) for Hong Tran, democrat challenger to Washington State’s Senator Maria Cantwell. Tran is the Peace Candidate. We just switched to the kind of primary where you have to declare your party and the only choice is Democrat or Republican. We are not used to that and I just heard that many people are not filling out the party preference section so their partisan votes will not be counted non-partisan judicial votes will be counted.

    Re-electing Cantwell will certainly be better than her Republican oponent but I’m hoping Tran makes an impression on her in this primary regarding the war issue.

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  • tbrucia

    The phrase ‘midterm elections’ instantly brought to mind a fragment of Matthew Arnold’s poem ‘Dover Beach’: “And we are here as on a darkling plain, Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight, Where ignorant armies clash by night.” I reread the poem (see http://www.gober.net/victorian/dover.html) and realized why the fragment seemed appropriate…. :-(

  • nother

    Wow, what a debate on Meet the Press on Sunday, James Webb just tore Allen up. This could be the defining race. In my mind, as Webb goes, so goes the chances of the Dems taking over the Senate.

    Someone please explain to me how Webb is not way ahead in this race. He has all the credentials for national security and he outclasses Allen in every respect. If Allen holds onto his seat in the face of such a strong candidate it will tell me two things, first how much money is a factor, and second, how Americans are still reluctant to face up to the mistake of Iraq. To vote in the anti-war Webb is to admit WE were wrong to let this Iraq folly happens and it ‘s always hard to admit a mistake. What keeps me up at night is wondering how many of our young people have to die until our nation inevitably eats it’s humble pie. I guess my nephew has to keep fighting over there until we find a way to save face. Pathetic!

    My friend said to me last night, but Garrett if we leave Iraq, thousands will die. My reply was: as opposed to what? If we stay thousands die. They are grown-ups over there, they will figure it out. When I asked him if he would be willing to send his child there now, he stared at me blankly. This is not a war of theory, I told him, this is not some video game, people are shedding their damm blood.

  • nother

    I’d be curious to know how many of the Democratic candidates avoid using the word “liberal” anywhere in their campaigns. It seems that the Republicans have been successful in turning that word into a synonym for “weak.”

  • Old Nick

    plnelson @ 8:50 PM, Sept. 17th, says a lot of truth: neither party is worth an honest damn. Both are beholden more to Big Money than to perceiving and imaginatively addressing real problems.

    I’ve always voted for the Donkeys even though they don’t truly represent my preferences for an egalitarian society that can’t “leave (anyone) behind” because it would instead be grounded in the principle that “we’re all in this together.” If we’re all in it together, then we would share, voluntarily, without greed and cupidity. (A putatively ‘Christian’ message coming from your resident nontheist, mind you.) The Donkeys claim the mantle of that sort of sentiment, but can’t realistically mean it. The Elephants meanwhile venerate—and unapologetically—greed and cupidity. Yuck. True, they toss out rhetorical bones like ‘faith-based charity’ but that’s just a smokescreen of jingo allowing the greedy (and the would-be greedy) to feel absolved from guilt over their cupidity.

    So, maybe the paradoxical best outcome is to let the Elephants win election after election until their policies so effectively parasitize the national commonwealth for the richest of the citizenry that we all, at last, wake up to their ingenious use of jingo. Then, and only then, in the smoldering ruins of our creaky old Republic, we can start over with a clean slate. And write ‘Equality’ onto that slate in place of ‘Liberty’ – which the propagandists of greed have turned into a mantra whose true meaning is: “the freedom to exploit others without fear of societal restraint or recompense.”

  • girlsforscience

    I WANT MY VOTE BACK!! That’s my scoop from the state of Washington. This election I received my mail in ballot that required me to choose my party. I have always been the type of voter to cast based on who I think is the best candidate for the job, versus ‘straight down the party-line’. Apparently other Washington voters are annoyed as well. Votes are being thrown out in large numbers this year because an unusual percentage REFUSEd to vote by party, and shockingly voted for candidates in both Republican AND Democratic categories. It wasn’t always this way. I reserve the right to make up my own mind, but the Republican and Democratic parties in our state insist that this is for our own good, and will reduce voting fraud. Personally, I’ll take my chances with CHOICE. I hope it’s not against the law, but I will make the personal confession that when I received my ballot…I put it through the shredder. I will continue to do so until I can choose my votes, and I can believe again that my vote means something.

  • http://studio-nelson.com plnelson

    “I guess my nephew has to keep fighting over there until we find a way to save face. Pathetic!”

    But I have a nephew in the Army who WANTS to go to Iraq. He’s looking forward to being deployed there, probably this coming spring when he finishes a program he’s in now. I talked to several of his Army buddies a few weeks ago, including one who recently returned from Iraq, and they all seem to feel the same way.

    This illustrates what I mentioned above, that we live in an incredibly diverse nation! One of the problems created by the internet is that it makes it easier for us to all live in our own, narrow ideological communities where we come to believe that our view is in the majority or is the natural order of things. We can select the blogs and forums and news sources that reinforce our picture of the world and be blissfully unaware of the others.

    In a diverse society there may not even BE a majority – even the plurality might be tiny.

    Polls show that (FINALLY!) a majority in the US think it was a mistake to invade Iraq, but so what? They certainly do not agree on what we should do next.

  • http://studio-nelson.com plnelson

    “So, maybe the paradoxical best outcome is to let the Elephants win election after election . . . ”

    There was an interesting op-ed piece in the NY Times suggesting this a few months ago. They basically pointed out that the US is heading off a cliff on at least a half-dozen major issues and the $#!+ will probably hit the fan during the next administration or Congressional term. So better that the GOP is in charge and gets to take the blame when that happens than the Democrats. The op-ed piece said that quite a few GOP leaders are also starting to think in these terms.

  • http://studio-nelson.com plnelson

    “I WANT MY VOTE BACK!! That’s my scoop from the state of Washington. This election I received my mail in ballot that required me to choose my party. I have always been the type of voter to cast based on who I think is the best candidate for the job, versus ’straight down the party-line’. Apparently other Washington voters are annoyed as well.”

    Well, just GET OVER IT.

    A PRIMARY election is how the parties get to choose their candidates. It’s not a general election. You have no God-given, or Constitutional right to even VOTE in a primary! A political party is a basically a private club or organization and they can decide for themselves who they want selecting their candidates.

    Sheesh! You know, this is ONE reason why we’re stuck with two parties. Because they’ve become so intertwined with the state voting apparatus that voters like “girlsforscience” get confused and start to see the Republicans and Democrats as part of the natural order of things. I have LONG been of the opinion that primary elections should NOT involve tax-funded public voting mechanisms. The parties should have their own primaries using their own standards and facilities. That’s how all the third-parties do it.

  • girlsforscience

    Pleaae review the new voting system in Washington state, and HOW are state system is organized. The people of Washington have rights that other states simply do not, including the right to initiative. Washington’s new primary has not been constitutionally challenged so we do not know for sure if the courts will uphold this primary. It DOES limit your vote, and does scew the results, when you compare a prior system where we chose our votes from a list of candidates under the electable position. In Washington state, where an initiative can be created by the people and our state constitution works in our favor, I DO have rights and alternatives, as do the rest of the voters. There is enough dissent within my state to create an inititiative that challenges this new voting method, and enough dissent to bring it before the courts. We promote that while the parties select their candidates as they best see fit, we get to decide if they are popular enough to make it to ballot. The old system: It is our vote that promotes one candidate out of several to the final vote. Once the candidates make it to the final ballot, voters may change their minds and decide to vote for other candidates. In the end, the best candidate out of everyone wins…hopefully. Why even hold a primary otherwise? New system: Once I choose a party in the primary, I cannot decide to vote for the other party come election time. I MUST vote for the party I have chosen in the primary. Therefore, it becomes a way to gaurantee my vote for only Republican or Democratic candidates come election time. I may only choose a Republican, Democratic or non-partisan ballot. Non-partisan candidates are positions like judges and so forth. YOU MUST CHOOSE EITHER DEMOCRAT OR REPUBLICAN ONLY, you cannot mix your votes between both parties depending on who you think is the best person for the job, and so forth. Where is the ‘third party’ in this? According to the state capitol, Washington state has never elected an Independent candidate anyway. There wouldn’t even be a seat in our upper or lower house if we did, they would have to sit in the back separate from everyone else. Third parties are not included in this voting system BECAUSE THERE WAS NO ONE TO REPRESENT THEM WHEN THE LAW WAS PASSED IN BOTH HOUSES. Before you accuse me of being fundamentally flawed in my reasoning, let me point out that the PRIMARY voting requirements here finalize and narrow our vote that I do NOT support. It used to be that if you didn’t vote in the primary, you could still cast a vote on election day. That is no longer an option either. I want to make it very clear that the non-partisan ballot does not give a ‘choice’ outside the 2-party system. It merely manages to include the election of judges and etcetera that are non-partisan ANYWAY. I believe that this system deliberately limits voting. The voter does not have the option to vote independently in either the Primary or the actual election. You must vote by party-line, and NO MIXING with both parties! RECOGNIZE THE SIGNIFICANCE of the primary here, and how it plays into the final election in this state! Do your research!

  • http://studio-nelson.com plnelson

    “Why even hold a primary otherwise?”

    I already answered that question. The purpose of the primary is so the PARTY can select its candidates.

    A primary is NOT a runoff election. The US Constitution has no provision for runoff elections. I agree that the state of Washington’s primary system is one of the worst in the country, but . . .

    “Once I choose a party in the primary, I cannot decide to vote for the other party come election time. I MUST vote for the party I have chosen in the primary.”

    You obviously don’t understand your own system. For the above to be true there would have to multiple ballots in the general election – a ballot for Republicans, a ballot for Democrats, etc. That would not stand up in a federal court because it would violate the US Constitution.

  • rc21

    plnelson; I find myself agreeing with you on most issues. Personal experience may lead to some differences.

    Your comment about both parties not having any real answers is spot on. It seems that America has gotten away from what our founding fathers had intended. When I go back and read about the revolution, the bill of rights,the declaration of independence,andour constitution,it seems that we have gone off track in many ways.

    How many people even remotely know the history of our nation?We are still the country with the most freedom. We are also the country that offers the greatest opportunity for sucsess. Maybe it is just a matter of the lesser of two evils.

  • girlsforscience

    Umm…plnelson…its in the news. Do a little research in Washington State, and please respond then. You are the only one in the room who hasn’t taken the time to understand the Washington State voting system as it currently stands. Thank you. This is not meant to offend you, merely to inform you. It may be shocking to you, but it is why it is currently an issue here.

  • girlsforscience

    “You obviously don’t understand your own system. For the above to be true there would have to multiple ballots in the general election – a ballot for Republicans, a ballot for Democrats, etc.”

    That is exactly what we have….check it out.

  • girlsforscience

    It may not stand up in Federal court…but it has to get there first, or be downed by initiative. Why are you so intent on ignoring the issue in favor of simply entering a Google search and quickly reviewing the matter?

  • http://www.creepysleepy.com DHP

    Not to toot my own horn, but I’m a podcaster/blogger from South Dakota, and have closely been following the Abortion Ban issue. I was the only blogger in the press conference when Governor Mike Rounds announced that he would sign the abortion ban. On my last show I interviewed a rape survivor and discussed Referred Law 6 in depth.

    Interestingly, South Dakota also has a gay marriage ban on the ballot, as well as a medicinal marijuana referendum. Who knew my tiny little Red State would be so controversial this year?

  • http://studio-nelson.com plnelson

    ” ‘You obviously don’t understand your own system. For the above to be true there would have to multiple ballots in the general election – a ballot for Republicans, a ballot for Democrats, etc.’

    That is exactly what we have….check it out. ”

    You have different ballots with different choices in the GENERAL election? Can you point us to where can see that for myself?

  • girlsforscience

    Go to the KUOW website and listen to the NPR podcasts. Google the Washington government offices. Ask Washington representatives. Google Washington news choices. You should have no problem.

  • http://studio-nelson.com plnelson

    “Go to the KUOW website and listen to the NPR podcasts. Google the Washington government offices. Ask Washington representatives. Google Washington news choices. You should have no problem.”

    I did most of those things, I didn’t see anything that would substantiate your claim. I even went to websites of groups opposed to I-872 and even they didn’t support your claim. I think the onus is on you to point us to a link, and text within it, that specifically backs you up.

    Just to recap – Washington is going to a new primary scheme that limits the number of candidates that can appear on the final ballot in the general election. Minority parties such as the Libertarians object to this because it virtually guarantees that the only parties that will appear in the general election will be Republicans and Democrats. “Science”Girl claimed, above that in the general election voters will be given different ballots depending on whether they are registered Republicans or Democrats.

  • girlsforscience

    “Washington is going to a new primary scheme that limits the number of candidates that can appear on the final ballot in the general election.”

    Washington’s already gone there.

    “Minority parties such as the Libertarians object to this because it virtually guarantees that the only parties that will appear in the general election will be Republicans and Democrats.”

    AND then there are those of us who REFUSE to declare a party based on principle, and will never do so. The new primary scheme is responsible for very low turn-outs. Crossover voting encourages independent decision making and anonymity.

    Our ballot system has been through numerous changes in the last three years. I believe that why the answers to your questions may not be self evident is the history of the issue has not been simple.

  • girlsforscience

    plnelson – I can see that the blog between us has taken on a life of its own. Remember that I merely tried to raise my hand in this forum concerning an issue that is very important to people in my state. It has pitted the people against the parties. This is not conjecture on my part, only a real phenomena that I have been swept along in. While you may view what I have stated as protagonistic, I am really just repeating the growing furor of the voting masses in this state. My entry point here was just a “hey, everybody, hello, since you are on the topic there was this issue here in Washington state that has a lot of people feeling like THEY WANT THERE VOTE BACK.” Don’t blame the messenger. Chow!

  • http://studio-nelson.com plnelson

    “My entry point here was just a “hey, everybody, hello, since you are on the topic there was this issue here in Washington state that has a lot of people feeling like THEY WANT THERE VOTE BACK.” Don’t blame the messenger. Chow!”

    It sounds like you’re still ducking the question. You claimed that in the general election people will be issued different ballots depending on what party they’re registered in. I went to the places you suggested but found no corroboration.

    BTW, the words you’re looking for are “their” and “ciao”, unless you’re calling us for dinner.

  • girlsforscience

    Nelson – I simply have no interest in carrying this conversation any further. Your primary approach to discussion relies on character assassination and embarassing your opponent. I don’t find you engaging, or exceptional. Go find someone else to pick fights with. Unless you are a Washington state voter, I’m no longer interested in engaging with you, unless you are willing to entertain me with mutual collaboration and spirit. You are too antogonistic for a thread that you have transformed into ridicule. Go find something better to engage in, please, unless your pursuit has something more than personal ego to promulgate. Thankyou!

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