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Election Snap Shot – Pre-Primary Season

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The initial post healthcare law polls are becoming public now, and, if the new Pennsylvania survey is any indication, the Democratic “bump” from passing the bill has receded. According to Rasmussen Reports (4/12; 1,000 likely PA voters), Republican former Congressman Pat Toomey has a taken a 50 percent to 40 percent lead over Democratic Senator Arlen Specter.

The telling factor of this poll, however, is not the ballot test. When asked whether the sampling universe wanted the healthcare law repealed, by a margin of 60 percent to 37 percent, the answer was “yes”. More importantly, as it relates to the Senate race, a full 84 percent of the people who want the new law repealed are backing Toomey. Should this trend become sustaining and national, Republicans will greatly benefit.

The Senate picture continues to show promise for the GOP despite them having to protect an equal number of in-cycle Senators (18) as the majority Democrats. Though it still appears that the Dems will retain control of the chamber in the next Congress (Republicans would have to win 28 of the 36 Senate races just to reach 51 members), GOP gains are forecasted.

As of this writing, it appears the Republicans will hold all of their open seats: Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, New Hampshire, and Ohio, but the latter three in particular could easily swing the other way as Election Day approaches.  Additionally, the winner of the May 18th Kentucky Democratic primary between the state’s Lt. Governor and Attorney General guarantees the party a very strong presence in that particular general election contest. Republicans, on the other hand, are almost assured of picking up two Democratic open seats: Delaware and North Dakota. The two Democratic openings in Illinois and Indiana are now officially toss-ups, thus requiring major campaign efforts to keep states they already possess.

Republicans also have a very strong chance of beating Arkansas Senator Blanche Lincoln, who now even faces a legitimate primary challenge from Lt. Governor Bill Halter. The next tier of vulnerable incumbents includes Specter, Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nevada), and appointed Senator. Michael Bennet of Colorado. Other Democratic states that could become competitive are California, Washington, and Wisconsin. But, the Democrats have some favorable news, too.  With the announced retirement of embattled Sen. Chris Dodd in Connecticut, the party has saved a seat that was seemingly headed to the GOP column.  Attorney General Richard Blumenthal will prove to be unbeatable in the general election and will retain this important seat for his party.  Though the Democrats likely will retain the majority, their margin will be significantly smaller. A 53 to 47 Democratic to Republican split is a possibility.

The House races are just now taking shape, but it is a sure bet that the GOP will expand their 177-member conference. Currently, we believe Democrats would elect Congressmen in 197 districts, versus the Republicans’ 167. An additional 34 seats lean toward the Democrats, as do 14 for the Republicans. Twenty-three districts are labeled toss-ups, of which 22 are currently part of the Democratic majority. Hence, 71 districts reside in the toss-up or “lean” categories, meaning Republicans would have to score victories in 52 of the 71 (a win rate of 73 percent), just to claim a one-seat advantage in the House. Obviously, this is a very tall order.

It would not be surprising to see the 71 competitive seats to grow in number as we go deeper into the campaign season. If the number of competitive races approaches 100, then the Republicans might have a chance to do what only several months ago was thought to be impossible – re-take the House majority.

Much action will occur in the nation’s Governor’s races. Currently, Democrats hold 26 state houses compared to the Republicans’ 24. Thirty-seven states have gubernatorial elections this year, and 23 feature open seat contests (mostly due to term limits). Expect a great many states to change hands between the parties, thus changing the national balance of power.

Of the 37 races, just three can be rated as “safe” for one party or the other. In fact, eight current Democratic states appear headed to the Republican column, while three GOP states are reversing direction. Nine campaigns can be considered toss-ups: six Republican and three Democratic.

Today, we believe Republicans would score victories in 17 states, bringing their national total to 23, while Democrats would win 11 campaigns and see their grand total drop to 18; all this before the votes in nine undecided races are tallied.

With the specter of reapportionment and redistricting looming large for 2011, some of the most decisive action in our current election cycle will be found in these all-important gubernatorial campaigns.

One thing we can count on - it’s going to be a long, hot political summer.

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