USA Senate 2008 Archive

Minnesota Senate update

I’ve avoided trying to properly cover the ongoing count to determine the winner of the Senate seat in Minnesota, between Republican Senator Norm Coleman and Democrat Al Franken. The best place to follow it all has been FiveThirtyEight.com.

In the last day the Canvassing Board have been resolving challenges, and the trend seems to be towards a significant advantage for Al Franken. FiveThirty Eight predicts Franken leading by 251 votes at the end of the count. I’m still not sure how long this is going on for, but Franken has to now be considered the favourite.

However, the Canvassing Board must now consider 5000 withdrawn challenges on ballots and restore the ballots to their original pile. As Franken withdrew about 300 more challenges than Coleman, you would expect this would reduce the margin down to a handful of votes either way.

US Congress update

Over the last few days most of the remaining undecided seats have been decided. In CA-04 the Republican has held on, while the Democrat was elected in OH-15. In the Louisiana delayed elections last week, it appears that the Democrats could be on track to losing two seats. Corrupt congressman William Jefferson has been defeated by Joseph Cao, who will become the first Vietnamese-American member of Congress. In Louisiana’s 4th Congressional District, it is currently a dead heat and will be the last one to be decided. The seats currently stand at 257-177, with 1 outstanding.

In the Senate, Senator Saxby Chambliss was safely re-elected in the runoff election in Georgia. After a recount, the race in Minnesota remains extremely close, and will be decided by the resolution of the specific challenges made by either campaign. As it stands, the Senate is made up of 56 Democrats, 41 Republicans, 2 Independents and 1 Undecided.

I’ve updated the US congressional results maps on the “maps” page.

US08: Summary of results part 2 – Congress

The Senate

The Democrats have picked up at least six Senate seats:

  • Virginia
  • North Carolina
  • New Hampshire
  • Colorado
  • New Mexico
  • Oregon, which was only declared today after a close count.

Three other races could end up going to the Democrat. In Alaska, despite the polls, convicted felon Ted Stevens was re-elected, 48% to 47%. However, Stevens may well resign or be expelled if his appeal fails. After Senator Frank Murkowski was elected as Governor of Alaska in 2002, he appointed his daughter Lisa to fill the senatorial vacancy. In response, a referendum passed in 2004, which means that future Senate vacancies will remain vacant prior to a special election. This would give Democrat Mark Begich a second chance to take the seat, although you would have to think that, if he couldn’t win against convicted felon Stevens, he would fall short against a fresh-faced Republican candidate.

In Georgia, late counting pushed Republican Senator Saxby Chambliss just below 50%, thus triggering a runoff election under Georgia election law. This runoff against his Democratic opponent will take place in December. In Minnesota, comedian Al Franken fell 477 votes short of defeating Senator Norm Coleman, and a recount has been automatically triggered, in a race of almost 2.9 million votes. It is very easy to see a scenaro where the seat could flip.

So as it stands, the Democrats hold 57 seats (inc. 2 independents), the Republicans 41 (including Ted Stevens), one seat going to a recount and one seat going to a runoff election.

House of Representatives

I haven’t been paying close enough attention to break down all of the results in the House of Representatives, however I can say a few brief things. The AP has currently given 254 seats to the Democrats, 173 seats to the Republicans, and 8 seats still too close to call. This is in comparison with the 233-202 split at the 2006 election, although the Democrats gained three Republican seats in special elections earlier this year.

It appears that four Democrats have been defeated. This includes the scandal-plagued congressman who succeeded the even-moreso-scandal-plagued Mark Foley in 2006, the Democrat who won Tom Delay’s seat when his Republican opponent needed to run a write-in campaign, and a Democrat elected in a special election in a conservative Louisiana district. In other news, the sole remaining Republican in New England, Chris Shays, was defeated in his Connecticut district.

Liveblogging USA

5:22pm – So I’m going home. With the Presidency, it appears that Obama will pick up North Carolina and Indiana, while Missouri will go to McCain. Montana is going down to the wire, with McCain just taking the lead, with a lead of 850 votes, out of 250,000 votes cast. In the Senate, the Democrats have gained five Senate seats, and should pick up Alaska when the results flow in. In Oregon, the Democrat leads by 9500 votes, with 40% of the precincts reporting. In Minnesota, Democrat Al Franken has fallen behind, with Senator Coleman leading by 3300 out of almost 2 million votes. However, at least 150,000 votes are yet to be counted in Hennepin County, which covers Minneapolis. Franken is leading 52-35 in Hennepin County, so it’s not over yet. Anyway, I’ll post a summary post hopefully tonight or maybe tomorrow. Until then, goodbye.

4:20pm – So Obama’s speech finished. He is slightly ahead in Indiana and North Carolina, leading substantially in Montana and behind in Missouri. It appears the result will be 368-170. In the Senate, the Democrat is ahead by 1% in Oregon and only 15,000 votes behind in Minnesota. Polls are yet to close in Alaska, while the Democrats have won five other Senate seats. I probably won’t keep updating this now.

3:08pm – All the networks called the result immediately after polls closed on the West Coast. Barack Obama elected President of the United States. He’s now pulling even in Indiana and North Carolina and is in a strong position in Virginia and Florida. The Senate race in Minnesota is on a razor’s edge.

2:05pm – Oz wants a summary. Obama looks to have made modest gains in the electoral map, winning Ohio and New Mexico, possibly also Colorado, Virginia and Florida with outside shots in North Carolina, Indiana and Missouri. In the Senate, the Dems have gained 4, will almost certainly gain 3 more, with Minnesota a toss-up. No idea about the House of Representatives.

1:57pm – The sole remaining Republican in New England, Chris Shays, has been defeated in his congressional race.

1:46pm – In the Senate, the Democrats have gained 4 seats. In Colorado it is too early to call, Minnesota is too early and too close to call, and Alaska and Oregon are still voting. Minnesota has Coleman leading 45-38, but only 1% has been counted. Udall is leading 47-35 in Colorado with 3% counted.

1:34pm – The presidential race is over. Obama has now picked up New Mexico and Ohio, plus all Kerry states which have closed. The only four remaining Kerry states, Hawaii, California, Washington and Oregon, will be safely Obama and put him over the top. I’m gonna focus on the Senate now.

1:25pm – If you take MSNBC’s number of 195 for Obama, add 55 in California, 4 in Hawaii, 11 in Washington and 7 in Oregon, you come up with 272. Those four states are the only four Kerry states not to be called already for Obama. It’s almost over.

1:22pm – Obama has won Ohio, according to MSNBC. The first state to flip. MSNBC has the race as 195-76. He could lose Virginia and every other Bush state and still win.

1:19pm – Some interesting factoids: Ohio now, with 8% counted, has Obama leading 57-41. Texas has McCain only leading by a slim margin, although I don’t expect that to hold. McCain’s lead in Virginia has shrank to a slender 25,000 votes with over 60% counted. This is going to be one close state. Incredibly, South Dakota is close while North Dakota appears to be safely going to McCain.

1:03pm – Chris Matthews says they won’t be able to decide the race until after 11pm (3pm our time).

1:00pm – MSNBC has called a bunch of states with the latest poll-closing. The only toss-up was North Dakota, which went to McCain. MSNBC now has it as 175-70, with no states changing from the 2004 race so far.

12:54pm – Republicans hold a solid lead in Senate race in Georgia, although the race is only 51-49 for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell with a lot of votes counted. Polls close in much of the Mountain West at 1pm. 2% of votes counted in Texas senate race, and it’s extremely close

12:51pm – McCain has held onto Georgia. In Florida, North Carolina, Ohio and West Virginia Obama is leading, although the numbers are miniscule in Ohio and West Virginia and the lead is slim in Florida. In North Carolina, Obama leads by 9% with 16% reporting.

12:49pm AEDT – Democrats have also won Elizabeth Dole’s Senate seat in North Carolina. 3 gains so far. No states have switched parties in the presidential race so far, although Obama is neck-and-neck in three key Bush states.

12:44pm AEDT (8:44pm EST) - Just got back to the office, sorry about the absence. In the Senate, the Democrats have already gained two seats, in New Hampshire and Virginia. MSNBC has Obama on 103 EVs, with McCain on 58. It appears that Indiana, Florida and Virginia are all extremely close. The only two blue states in danger, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, are holding firm.

7:50am AEDT (3:50pm EST) – I recommend this map, showing closing times in both US eastern time and AEDT for the entire US. Very useful to know when to watch where.

6:30am AEDT (2:30pm EST) – Votes are being cast across the entire mainland USA by now. First exit polls should come through around 9am AEDT. For a guide to which states close their polls when, read Slate’s hour-by-hour guide. The first races of interest are Indiana and Kentucky at 10am. If Indiana goes to Obama, then he’s on track for a solid victory. If Kentucky falls to the Democrats in the Senate, the Dems are on track for a 60-seat majority, and will have knocked off the Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell. Liveblogging is also available at Pollbludger and an open thread on the topic has been posted at Larvatus Prodeo.

Just f**king vote already! The US election prediction thread

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With twenty-four hours to go until polls close in the first states in the US election, I thought it was a good time to make predictions and look at the state of the race. The Pollster.com national average has Obama leading McCain by 7% as undecided voters make their choice. Both candidates’ numbers are increasing, but the gap remains solidly in Obama’s favour. Likewise in the key states.

So here is my predicted election map result:

This prediction gives Obama all Kerry states, as well as Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado, Iowa, Missouri, Ohio, Virginia and Florida, for a total of 349 Electoral Votes. I came close to calling North Dakota and North Caroline for Obama, but I decided against it.

With the Senate, my prediction is that Democrats retain all of their seats, and pick up the following Republican seats:

  • Alaska
  • Oregon
  • Colorado
  • New Mexico
  • Minnesota
  • North Carolina
  • Virginia
  • New Hampshire

This produces a total of 57 Democrats, 41 Republicans and 2 Independents. I called Kentucky and Georgia for the Republican incumbents, but those two races will be the most interesting contests to watch tomorrow. If they fall, the Democrats with Bernie Sanders will have the fillibuster-proof majority, and will have defeated the Senate Minority Leader.

So what are your predictions? Post them in the comments below.

I’m going to try and liveblog tomorrow as the results flow in. Check in then for the latest updates.

Swing state stories: Virginia

Since Eisenhower’s first election in 1952, Virginia has been a solidly Republican state, only going to the Democrats in the landslide election of 1964. As a former Confederate state, the state was solidly Democratic until the 1950s and 1960s, which saw a switch to the Republicans.

In local politics, Virginia was dominated by Republicans in the 1990s, with Republican governors George Allen and Jim Gilmore winning election in 1993 and 1997 respectively. Virginia has the stricted term limits law in the country, with governors limited to one four-year term in office. During the 1990s the Senate contingent was split between Democrat Chuck Robb and Republican John Warner.

Virginia gained an extra seat in the US House of Representatives in 1993, going from 10 to 11 seats. After Democrats lost one seat at the 1994 Republican landslide, but held six of eleven seats from 1994 to 2000. The 2000 election saw Virgil Goode change from Democrat to Independent, resulting in a 5-5-1 split, while the Republicans won control of the Virginian House of Delegates and former governor George Allen won the Senate seat for the Republicans. The following redistricting in 2001 strongly favoured the Republicans. They gained a seat at a 2001 special election in the 4th district. The 2002 election saw one more Republican defeat a Democrat, while Independent Virgil Goode was re-elected as a Republican. The Republicans have maintained this 8-3 lead in Virginia House of Representatives seats at the 2004 and 2006 elections.

The Democrats won back control of the governorship in 2001, when liberal businessman Mark Warner was elected to office. The 2005 election saw his lieutenant governor, Tim Kaine, elected as his successor.

The 2006 race for the Senate saw former Reagan Secretary of the Navy and Vietnam veteran Jim Webb challenge sitting Senator George Allen. Webb remained behind for most of the campaign, until the turning point of the Macaca scandal in August, when Allen was videoed using a racial epithet against a Webb supporter of Indian heritage who appeared at an Allen event. After Webb began climbing in the polls, he took the lead in late October and ended up defeating Alllen by a slim 9329 votes, a margin of 0.4%. The race was the closest in the country and decided which party would hold a majority in the Senate.

Geographically, Virginia is a divided state. A quarter of Virginia’s population lives in Northern Virginia, which is made up essentially of the southern suburbs of Washington DC, leaning heavily to the Democrats. In contrast, the southern, more rural districts, are heavily dominated by the Republicans.

The races in 2008

In late August 2007, long-serving Republican Senator John Warner announced that he would retire at the 2008 election. Two weeks later, former governor Mark Warner (no relation) announced he would run as a Democratic candidate for Senate. Facing no Democratic primary opposition, Warner took an early lead over his potential Republican opponents. The Republicans chose another former governor, Jim Gilmore, following Gilmore’s withdrawal from the Republican presidential primary. Yet Warner has dominated the race for the entire campaign. The Pollster.com average has strongly favoured Warner for the entire campaign, Warner currently leads by 59.4% to 32%. Out of all the Democrats’ potential Senate gains in 2008, Warner is the most likely. It seems impossible that the Democrats won’t pick up this seat.

In addition to the three seats won in the past three elections, the Democrats appear on track to win back the Northern Virginia 11th District, after losing it at the 1994 election. In addition, the Democrats have outside shots of winning the 2nd and 5th Districts. In particular, the 2nd District has seen a rapid rise in the Democrat vote in the last few months.

The presidential race in Virginia has also shifted strongly to the Democrats. John McCain held a lead from February until June, when his gradually declining lead was eliminated. McCain and Obama remained neck-and-neck for three months, before McCain’s vote collapsed in mid-September, with Obama taking a dominant lead in the state, with Obama now leading by an average of 8.1%. Virginia’s status as a solid Obama gain is making it extremely difficult for McCain to find the 270 electoral votes needed to win. If Obama carries through on his current lead and wins, Virginia will likely be an essential component of that victory.

Pollster.com rolling average of the Virginia presidential race

US08: State of the Senate

In addition to the Presidential election and the House of Representatives, one third of the US Senate will be elected. In addition to the 33 “class II” senators last elected in 2002, two special elections will be held to fill casual vacancies in Mississippi and Wyoming, which means those two states will elect two Senators at this year’s election.

Following the 2006 election, the Democrats held 49 seats, the Republicans held 49 seats, along with two independent: Vermont independent socialist Bernie Sanders, who moved from the House to the Senate in 2006, and Al Gore’s former running mate Joe Lieberman, who lost the Connecticut Democratic Senate primary in 2006 over his support for the Iraq War, then went on to win as an independent in the general election.

Because Vice President Dick Cheney has the casting vote in the Senate, a 50-50 split would result in Republicans enjoying the privileges of the majority. Lieberman and Sanders both officially caucus with the Democrats, which allows Democratic leader Harry Reid to claim the majority.

While the House rules mean that the Democratic majority is sufficient to pass most Democratic legislation, the Senate makes it much more difficult. Recent convention means that you require 60 votes to block a fillibuster, which is threatened by the Republicans on most legislation, and has managed to block much of the agenda the Democrats took to the 2006 election. If the Democrats can win 60 seats, it will make it a lot easier for a possible President Obama to implement his agenda.

Senator Lieberman has moved much closer to the Republican Party during the last two years, culminating in his active endorsement and support of his friend John McCain in the presidential race and his speech at the Republican National Convention. Rumours suggest he will be expelled from the Democratic caucus following the election. I am working on the assumption that the Democrats’ numbers include Senator Sanders but not Senator Lieberman. Effectively that means they need to gain 10 seats to win the magic 60.

It’s also worth remembering when the current class of Senators were last elected. The 2002 election was in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq, as well as being the first national election since the September 11 terrorist attacks. The Republicans won 22 seats, against 12 seats for the Democrats. Such a low level of support for the Democrats makes it easy to expect them to win seats.

There are many, many, many polls flying around in the US at the moment, so I rely on the poll averaging website Pollster.com, although Real Clear Politics also performs this role.

To cut to the chase, the Democrats are currently leading, according to Pollster.com, in nine Republican-held seats:

  • Oregon – Held by Gordon Smith, who is running for re-election, Dems winning 46-41
  • Alaska – Held by Ted Stevens, running again while facing a corruption trial, Dems winning 48-46
  • Minnesota – Held by Norm Coleman, who won the seat in 2002 following the death of the sitting Democratic senator in the last days of the campaign, he is losing to former SNL cast member and radio host Al Franken 40-38
  • Colorado and New Mexico – Both states held by retiring Republican senators, cousins Mark Udall and Tom Udall, both sitting House members, are leading by solid margins in these two states over their Republican rivals.
  • New Hampshire – Sitting Senator John Sununu is losing 48-42 to the Democrat
  • Georgia – This has just flipped over to the Democratic side, with the Democrat leading by only 0.5%
  • North Carolina – Kay Hagan leading over sitting Senator Elizabeth Dole 46-41
  • Virginia – Former Governor Mark Warner is leading over his Republican opponent by 27%. Sitting Republican Senator John Warner is retiring.

Some of these are clearly very close. Pollster.com rates Alaska, Minnesota and Georgia as “toss ups”.

The only Democratic seat targetted by the Republicans, Louisiana, is strongly leading to the Democratic opponent, and the National Republican Senatorial Committee has considered pulling out support in the state.

So clearly the Democrats are in an incredibly strong position. A few months ago, most considered the 60-seat majority only achievable in 2010 after reaching 55 or 56 in 2008. So can the Democrats win the full 60?

The most likely races to fill out the 60 are:

  • Mississippi B – where the Democrat is only 1.5% behind. Mississippi now has three House Democrats, as opposed to only one House Republican, and the largest African American population in proportion to the total population in the entire US. If that constituency comes out in large numbers to vote for Obama, this seat could flip.
  • Kentucky – Held by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, the Democrats are behind by 4.5%. This would be a big blow to the Republican rump if their leader is defeated.
  • Texas – Senator John Cornyn is now just 6% ahead of the surging Democratic Rick Noriega.

If Obama keeps his dominant lead, with the Democrats also dominant in the House of Representatives, this handful of Senate races in solidly Republican states could be the races to follow on November 4, to see if the Democrats can complete their humiliation of the GOP.

Update 8:01pm – Wayne in comments has pointed me to this classic video promoting Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn’s re-election campaign. It looks like an episode of Deadwood.