Sunday, May 2, 2010

Latest 2010 Updates, The Giant Gulf Oil Spill, The GOP Clock Play

2010 -- A Big Year for the GOP
The Republican wave continues in polling for the 2010 race. Here are the latest updates for the Senate races. As always, I'll begin with race designation switches, followed by polls that reconfirm existing ratings:

Illinois -- moves from Toss-Up to Lean GOP Pick-Up as Republican Mark Kirk has been up by 4% and 8% in the latest two polls. This race pits a moderate against a liberal and the moderate appears to be winning.

Washington -- moves from Likely Democratic Hold to Lean Democratic Hold, as Patty Murray could be in real trouble this year. In the one poll available, she leads three potential GOP candidates by only 2 points and actually trails prospective Republican candidate Dino Rossi by 10 points. This race could shift further with additional polling.

Delaware -- moves from Lean GOP Pick-Up to Likely GOP Pick-Up as moderate at-large Rep. Mike Castle is up by 23 points in an April 30th Rasmussen poll. Castle is popular state-wide and appears to be headed for an easy victory.

Indiana -- moves from Lean GOP Pick-Up to Likely GOP Pick-Up as Coats leads by 16 and 21 points respectively in the latest two polls. Without Evan Bayh, Democrats appear sunk in this race.

Ohio -- some rare good news for the Dems as this race moves from Toss-Up to Lean DEM Pick-Up. Fisher appears headed to primary victory and leads by 3 points and 4 points in the latest two polls. This one has been very close for as long as we have been tracking it.

Florida -- moves from Likely GOP Hold to Lean GOP Hold, not because the Democrats have a shot at this seat, but because with Charlie Crist running as an independent, there is some chance that GOP-nominated Marco Rubio will not win. Rubio is still showing as up by 7% in a three-way race, so he is still favored to win, but it is quite plausible to see a reverse of what happened with Joe Lieberman in 2006 , when Republicans abandoned the Republican nominee to support the independent. This could happen with Democrats in Florida, as Meeks really has no shot. Crist may well still align with the GOP in the Senate even if he wins, but since he is running as an independent, that's what we'll consider him for rating purposes.

Other polls reconfirm existing ratings:
Arkansas -- Baker is up by 7 and 12 points in two new polls. Stays a Lean GOP PIck-Up.

North Dakota -- Hoeven is up by a staggering 45 points in a new poll. This may be the biggest rout for an open seat since Barack Obama won his Senate seat in 2004. Stays a Safe GOP Pick-Up.

New Hampshire -- Ayotte up 15 in the latest Rasmussen poll. Stays a Likely GOP Hold.

Arizona -- McCain up by 22 in the latest Behavioral Research Center poll. Stays a Likely GOP Hold.

North Carolina -- Burr up by 18 to 22 in two new polls. Stays a Likely GOP Hold.

Georgia -- Isakson up 16 points in a new poll. Stays a Likely GOP Hold.

All of this leaves us with:
Projected Democratic Holds (9)
Safe Holds (4)
Connecticut, Maryland, New York (Schumer), Vermont

Likely Holds (3)
Hawaii, Oregon, Wisconsin

Lean Holds (2)
California, Washington

Potential Democratic Pick-Ups (1)
Lean Pick-Up (1)

Potential Republican Pick-Ups (9)
Toss-Up (1)
New York (Gillebrand)

Lean Pick-Ups (4)
Arkansas, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Illinois

Likely Pick-Ups (3)
Delaware, Indiana, Nevada

Safe Pick-Ups (1)
North Dakota

Projected Republican Holds (17)
Safe Holds (8)
Louisiana, Iowa, South Dakota, Alabama, Idaho, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah

Likely Holds (7)
New Hampshire, Kentucky, Arizona, North Carolina, Georgia, Alaska, Kansas

Lean Holds (2)
Missouri, Florida

Net Projection: GOP +7 to 8 Seats
(10 seats needed to win control)

So, the GOP continues to project big gains. In order to take the Senate, they would need to hold Ohio, win Kristen Gillebrand's Senate seat and win either California or Washington. Still tough, but certainly not impossible, given the trend.

In the House,

Our generic polling average of averages has Republicans at +1.7%. This projects a GOP Pick-up of 35 seats, just shy of the 40 needed to retake the House. This result has been pretty consistent over the past couple of months.

Look at the race by race analysis, the Cook Political Report, shows 6 likely GOP pick-ups and 28 races marked as toss-ups, with 26 of those being Democratic seats, leading to a range of GOP Pick-Up from 4 to 32 seats. As I've said before, Cook tends to be pretty conservative (numerically, not politically) with his projections, so if the race is trending GOP, he will tend to lag most observers in projecting the size of the gain.

Realclearpolitics has the GOP projected to pick up a net 17 seats, with an additional 35 races rated as toss-ups, 34 of them being Democrats. This implies a GOP pick-up of 16 to 51 seats. This is far more in line with what I would expected, given the generic polling.

The GOP will have a big year in November, I think that much is assured at this point. Will they retake either or both houses of Congress? The next 6 months will tell us.

A Big, Nasty Oil Spill
We all know by now that the massive oil spill coming from a BP offshore oil platform is now approaching the gulf coast (as if the gulf coast needed another environmental disaster). This will have a devastating effect for years to coming on the environment, the fishing industry, tourism and public health. It is a terrible shame. And, apparently, something that happened because equipment designed to prevent these kinds of spills failed.

The political ramifications of this will be significant. This gives everyone pause about the role and regulation of offshore drilling. Clearly, additional measures need to be taken to ensure that this does not happen again. I'm not ready to say offshore drilling is a bad idea, simply that we need much better regulation of safety mechanisms. Oil rigs should be treated like nuclear plants, with intensive regulation. And the companies profiting from those rigs should pay for the cost of that regulation and oversight. And BP damn sure needs to pay not only for the clean-up, but for the damage to local economies that this spill will do.

No Shot Clock in Sight
In the era prior to the shot clock in college basketball, there was a play called the four corners that was designed to run minutes off the clock with every play. If I'm a Republican, I have a very simple strategy for the rest of this congress: run out the clock. I don't yet know if the GOP will have control of the House or Senate next year, but I do know that they'll have more seats than they do now.

So what does running the clock out look like?
(1) Move financial reform, but go slow
The House and Senate could easily be tied up for a month or two debating a financial reform bill. As I've said, I firmly believe that the final bill will pass with bi-partisan support. But the GOP has the tools to take their sweet time doing it.

(2) Run clock on a Supreme Court Nominee
President Obama will likely name his pick for the court in late May. Republicans could easily kill at least a month debating even a non-controversial candidate.

(3) Get tied up in the budgeting process
The House and Senate have to pass a full series of appropriations bills this year. Take it slow

In short, I think this strategy will be employed and utterly precludes a bill on immigration or climate change this year. That means the President will have a much tougher road with a more Republican congress next year. Perhaps he will be forced to live up to his promise of bi-partisanship.

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