Maryland: I'm picking Ehrlich (R) to win as govenor, but giving Cardin (D) a narrow win for Senate.
Why? Most pollsters did not even realize MD was in play until recently, assuming that it is a thoroughly "blue" state. But the party machine here managed to come up with stunningly lack-luster candidates: a mistake it made in 2002 when Ds selected Townshead-Kennedy to run against Ehrlich the first time.
Ds have held power in MD too damn long. The most dynamic races are those with young challengers promising fresh ideas. In addition, the demography of MD has changed dramatically even since 2002. Rising property values and massive influx into the Washington DC exurbs has produced a voter pool with no particular loyalty to either party and therefore up for grabs. Meanwhile, Ehrlich acquited himself reasonably well as an R governor in a D state.
Finally, I think most independents voting to "send Bush (or the Republican Congress) a message" simply do not translate anger at the R Congress and Bush to the Governor's level. To the extent there is state level anger about the status quo, it gets directed at the hugely D Assembly in Annapolis.
Nevertheless, I still pick the lack-luster white Jew-boy Cardin (D) over the much more telegenic and African American Steele (R) for the open Senate seat. Anger at R Congress really does matter at this level. The recent contretemps over PG County African American political leades endorsing Steele may supress some Democratic votes, but I suspect it will be difficult for a significant percentage of middle-class African Americans (who are the bulk of PG County's African American population) who loath Bush and the Iraq war, who support abortion rights and stem cell research, to vote for Steele and risk giving Rs the Senate. Similarly, I think a fair number of MD centrist Rs (what used to be called "Reagan Democrats") will just stay home.
Polls are all over the place on this one. It will be interesting to see if people are honest with pollsters (particularly if they are voting against the party line).
VA appears to be trending D. Allen has been remarkably incompetent in his campaigning. Having refocused folks back on issues with an unconventional advertisement, he proceeded to go back to personalities and focus on Webbs' writing. I think the idea that he is going to convince pro-choice anti-war women in Northern Va that Webb is a pig and therefore they should vote with Allen (who votes in lock-step with Bush) is rather unlikely.
MT is a state where polls are at such variance that I am convinced there is something odd going on here. USA Today/Gallup gave Tester a 9-point lead, which is pretty strong right before election day. But a Mason-Dixon Publishing and Research Poll puts the candidates at 47% each.
That's a wide variance for professional polls. What also tips my "oddness" meter is that Mason-Dixon is uniformly more positive for Rs in the "up for grab" states than most other polls.
But why would anyone, regardless of political affiliation, want to provide inaccurate polling? Well, it depends on what you think polling information does. If you are trying to mobilize your dispirted base, for example, you need to persuade them that their vote matters.
OTOH, PEW research shows that on the neutral ballot questions of "who do you trust more, Rs or Ds" without getting into specifics of races, the Rs are making serious headway into the double-digit negatives they had weeks ago. So the races may in fact be closer than anticipated.
TN- Appears to be trending R. That was always the safe bet. But several factors raise hopes for the Ds. First, Rs polled may be reluctant to admit they are voting for a black Democrat. Second, TN has a significant percentage of electorate voting absentee. Surveys of voters intending to vote on election day may undercount D votes. Finally, there is the possible "Haggard" effect. Will the latest sordid confession from a leading Conservative depress turn out among Evengelicals and conservatives just sick of the whole thing and no longer knowing who to believe in? Or are they secure enough in their faith that they hate the Ds so much they will remain undaunted?
MO- Appears trending D. Stem cell research issue appears to be backfiring against Rs.
NJ- Appears to be trending D. State-hate of Bush may overcome qualms about Menendez.
RI, PA, OH -- Most folks still put these in the D column.
CT- Leiberman appears to be winning, primarily because so many Rs and the "Reagan Democrats" who voted for Leiberman in the primary prefer him to Lamont. Leiberman remains coy about how he will caucus -- promising to "build bridges" between the parties.
For House -- I'm still pegging the Ds to pick up about 30 house seats overall, primarily in NY and OH, but scattered elsewhere as well.
Anyhoo, I'm getting myself an industrial tub of popcorn and a six pack of beer for tomorrow night to watch my equivalent of the Super Bowl. We'll just have to see how it plays out.