At long last, the 2010 election is finally upon us. Immediately after the 2008 voting ended in a historic Democratic landslide, most pundits were virtually predicting the end of the Republicans, saying that the party might not again attain House majority status in the modern political era. How fast things can change.
As we look toward predicting the final results of the current election, it does appear likely that Republicans will achieve a net gain of more than 39 House seats, allowing them to reclaim majority status after losing it to the Democrats in 2006. The actual number should exceed 39 by quite a margin, topping perhaps even 55 seats, according to some estimates.
If the GOP wave does develop as most believe it now will, it will do so in several states. First, the Northeast, where Republicans dwindled down to two elected Representatives in New York and none in New England, must rebound. Republicans are competitive in both New Hampshire seats, three in Massachusetts, two in Connecticut, and one in Rhode Island. In New York, as many as 10 Democratic seats are still on the board, and Republicans are virtually assured of gaining at least three seats in the Empire State. It is unclear as to what their final Northeast number will be, but the fact that the party is still alive here in the final days is a big step forward for them.
Next, to the Mid-Atlantic, and Pennsylvania and Ohio are the big prizes there. The GOP is still alive in six Pennsylvania Democratic seats and should have a big night in the Keystone State. The same is true in Ohio, where as many as five Democratic seats could swing back to the Republican column.
Moving to the South in the Eastern Time zone, watch for two and possibly three seats to swing back in Virginia; North Carolina is a wild card with action occurring in four seats; Georgia has two Democratic incumbents in trouble; House Budget chairman John Spratt (D) is likely to lose in South Carolina; and Republicans stand to score big in Florida, where their gain could reach four seats. Tennessee is also proving to be in the wave column. Watch for two open Democratic districts to go Republican in the Volunteer State.
Turning to the Midwest, Michigan and Wisconsin will play a key role in any Republican resurgence. Possibly as many as five GOP pick-ups could come in the two states, but more likely four. Illinois could also see a Republican comeback. Three Democratic seats are in danger of flipping as the election looms. Likewise for Indiana.
Out West, the key point states are Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona. If the Republicans have a wave night, these states will lead the way. An upset or two in California is possible, too.
Turning to the Senate, Democratic prospects for holding control of the chamber are much brighter. The fact that Republicans must defend 18 of the 37 contested races effectively prevents them from returning to majority status. In the Eastern Time zone, if Democrats carry Connecticut and West Virginia, coupled with their sure victory in Delaware, the Senate majority will be virtually clinched.
That’s not to say Republicans won’t make significant gains. Beginning the election cycle in a position where most analysts believed Democrats would strengthen their majority, the GOP will be knocking on the door of returning to control. Expect the party division split to be in the 52 – 48/51 – 49 range, with Democrats still in control.
Republicans will successfully protect all six of their, heretofore, perceived vulnerable open seats. GOP candidates in New Hampshire (Kelly Ayotte), Florida (Marco Rubio), Kentucky (Rand Paul), Ohio (Rob Portman), Missouri (Roy Blunt), and Alaska (either Joe Miller or Sen. Lisa Murkowski) will record their states in the Republican column when two years ago it appeared that all of these states, save Alaska, would be battlegrounds.
The GOP appears set to take Democratic seats in North Dakota (John Hoeven), Indiana (Dan Coats), Arkansas (Rep. John Boozman defeating incumbent Sen. Blanche Lincoln), and Wisconsin (businessman Ron Johnson unseating Sen. Russ Feingold). Toss-up battles remain in Nevada, where Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has his hands full with Tea Party-backed GOP nominee Sharron Angle; Colorado (appointed Sen. Michael Bennet in a difficult battle with Tea Party-backed District Attorney Ken Buck); and Pennsylvania (Democratic Rep. Joe Sestak battling GOP former Rep. Pat Toomey). Races in California (Sen. Boxer vs. Carly Fiorina) and Washington (Sen. Murray against Dino Rossi) are still alive, although the Democratic incumbent is projected to have a slight advantage in both of these contests.
But, the GOP may have the best part of their night in the Governors races. It is here, on the cusp of a new national redistricting battle that will lead to the drawing of Congressional maps for the next ten years, where the Republicans may score their most impressive victories. On the eve of the election, it is probable that the GOP will approach 30 Governors and could gain control of a record number of state legislative chambers. Normally, these numbers, from a national political perspective, don’t mean a great deal. In a redistricting cycle like this one, however, they could literally mean the world.
The 2010 election has been nothing if not exciting and unique. Expect the unexpected as we finally turn for home.