Posts Tagged ‘Senate’

The Sad State of South Dakota Democrats

Posted: Wednesday, November 3, 2010 at 11:47 pm
By: Ken Blanchard
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mcgovernI grew up in a one party state.  I escaped in my early twenties by driving my Ford Maverick across the borders when an ice storm confused the authorities.  The one party state was Arkansas, and I can tell you that it was not a model of political excellence.

One party states encourage corruption and diminish the power of the voters to punish it.  Voters can rarely get a grasp of the powers that work around the tables, day to day, in their state government offices.  When there are two competitive parties, voters can punish large blocks of legislators.  With each party hoping to gain on the other in the next election, there is some general incentive for reducing corruption and promoting good government.  When there is only one effective party, the worst excesses result in a few individuals taking all the blame.  The larger body of scoundrels remains immune to censure.

As state governments go, the Republic of South Dakota is pretty good.  Unlike, say, California, there are fewer forces corrupting our legislative chambers and our state house.  But we should worry when one of our two great parties seems to be fading faster than tomatoes after the first frost.

Yesterday South Dakota Democrats failed to win a single state wide race.  The gubernatorial election was won by a Republican, which happens so often you’d think it’s in the state constitution.  The constitutional offices were swept by the GOP.  Our lone representative to the U.S. Congress, Representative Herseth Sandlin, lost by a narrow but sufficient margin to her Republican opponent.  To her credit, Herseth Sandlin was the only Democrat to win more than 40% of the vote in a state wide race.  Our junior U.S. Senator, John Thune, had no opponent.  This was the only non-contested Senate race in the nation and the first in the state’s history.

I heard a rumor that the Democrats decided not to field a Senate candidate in order to reduce Senator Thune’s incentive to involve himself in this year’s state politics.  I have no idea if that is true, and if it isn’t I apologize for repeating it.  If it is true, it’s damning.  I mention it because I can’t understand why else they couldn’t find someone, anyone, to run.  The uncontested race is a scandal in itself.

If all that weren’t bad enough, the showing of Democrats showing in the state legislative races was worse.  Democrats won just 20 out of the 70 seats in the state House of Representatives.  I haven’t calculated the vote totals, but that’s less than a third of the House.

It doesn’t get better in the State Senate, where Democrats won just six of thirty five seats.  That’s going to stretch those six Senators mighty thin across the Senate committees.

To say that the South Dakota Democratic Party is in disarray is misleading.  The problem is not organizational but existential.  The party is on the point of going clean out of business.  It is effectively dysfunctional.  Maybe the State House is beyond their reach, but clearly the House and Senate seats are not.  The party is going to need someone to run against Kristi Noem in two years.  Tim Johnson is going to retire, sooner or later.  In those contests, the Democrats have no bench.

South Dakota needs a viable opposition party.  It needs someone like George McGovern to reorganize it, county by county, rebuilding the local party apparatus.  Someone like Tom Daschle could have done that.  But Daschle, set free by defeat, had neither the time nor the interest for his state or its affairs.  What is Stephanie Herseth Sandlin going to do, now that she has time on her hands?  I am guessing she is not going to stick around.

There is a tragic flaw in the South Dakota Democrat.  The best of that species tend to look beyond our borders for greater things.  The voters frequently recognize that, and in an act of grace, set them free.  Meanwhile, the party withers.  This is not good for Democrats in the state, or for the state itself.

Post Mortem in the Wee Hours

Posted: Wednesday, November 3, 2010 at 12:25 am
By: Ken Blanchard
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For much of the last year I have been arguing with my friends at Badlands Blue and the Madville Times about the Rasmussen polls on the South Dakota U.S. House race.  They argued that Rasmussen was biased in favor of Republicans, and it appears that they were right.  Rasmussen’s last poll gave Kristi Noem a five point lead.  It looks like Noem’s margin of victory will be a little less than three percent.  I could take refuge in the margin of error, but I prefer to be magnanimous in victory.

I speak here not as a Republican but as a political nerd.  By victory I mean only that I have been predicting a Noem win based on a number of indicators.  Maybe I am biased as well, but I wasn’t wrong.

Why did Noem win?  Over the next several days there will be a lot of post mortems.  It looks to me pretty simple.  Herseth Sandlin did well in all the traditional Democratic strongholds in the state.  Noem surged everywhere else, racking up large margins in county after county.  Two things, I think, explain this.  One is that a lot more South Dakotans can identify with Kristi than with Stephanie.  The second is that the Republican wave that swept across these United States did in fact wash across South Dakota.

At this hour, it looks like the Republicans have bagged at least 57 seats in the House of Representatives.  That gave Orange John Boehner the opportunity to give an acceptance speech.  He choked up a couple of times.  He is going to be Speaker.  A lot of seats are yet to be determined, so it may well go over sixty.  It might not reach the seventies, which last happened in 1938.  It is going to be well over the Republican surge of 1994.  That might be a good thing and it might be a bad one, but it is a thang, as my Southern brethren say, and it’s a big thang.

Republicans fell short of immortal fame in the Senate races, if only because the bar was set so high.  They have bagged six Senate seats, and will probably get two more: Colorado and Alaska.  Harry Reid survived, and that is one of the great heroic stories that Democrats are well-entitled to tell.  However, Mitch McConnell will have forty-one votes when he needs them, and that changes the board.

What astonishes me about this election cycle is how stable it has been.  Fifty plus seats in the House and eight Senate seats is what the wizards have been predicting all year.  The game was fixed as early as summer a year ago.  That is food for thought.

The Republic makes up its Mind

Posted: Tuesday, October 19, 2010 at 10:59 pm
By: Ken Blanchard
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heston mark anthonyAll year long I have heard people say, and have seen people write, that the polls and the electorate have been unusually volatile.  All year long I have thought otherwise.  The patterns that emerged in the gubernatorial elections in Virginia and New Jersey were manifest in the primary elections through the summer: Republicans turned out to vote in larger numbers than Democrats and independents shifted Republican by a dramatic margin.

I see no evidence that isn’t about to happen in this year’s election.  Consider the recent spirit lifting poll (for Democratic spirits) in Pennsylvania.  Republican Toomey has been leading Democrat Sestak for some time.  Three recent polls had Toomey ahead by margins between seven and ten points.  Then along comes the PPP poll to show Sestak ahead by one point.  Is Sestak coming back again as he did against Democrat turned Republican turned Democrat Arlen Specter?  The Democratically affiliated poll assumes that Democrats will turn out in larger numbers relative to Republicans than they did in 2006 and 2008, two big Democratic years.  There is no earthly reason to expect that that will be true.  PPP looks to be trying to cook the books for Sestak, perhaps to generate some enthusiasm among Democratic voters.  Good luck with that.

Then there is the news from Nevada, where early voting has begun.  From the Politico:

Early-voting numbers out of Nevada’s two biggest counties could spell trouble for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in his tough contest against Republican Sharron Angle.

In Reno’s Washoe County and Las Vegas’s Clark County, Republican turnout was disproportionately high over the first three voting days, according to local election officials. The two counties together make up 86 percent of the state’s voter population.

Some 47 percent of early voters in the bellwether Washoe County so far have been Republicans, while 40 percent have been Democrats, according to the Washoe County Registrar…  Voter registration in the county is evenly split, 39 percent to 39 percent. The disproportionate turnout is a concrete indication of the Republican enthusiasm that is expected to portend a nationwide GOP wave.

That is indeed bad news for Senate Majority Leader Reid and bad news for Democrats across the board.

President Obama has a theory about all of this.  He thinks the voters are angry because they’re scared, and they’re scared because of the difficult economy.  Again from the Politico:

President Barack Obama said Americans’ “fear and frustration” is to blame for an intense midterm election cycle that threatens to derail the Democratic agenda.

“Part of the reason that our politics seems so tough right now and facts and science and argument does not seem to be winning the day all the time is because we’re hardwired not to always think clearly when we’re scared,” Obama said Saturday evening in remarks at a small Democratic fundraiser Saturday evening. “And the country’s scared.”

President Obama thinks the voters (that’s us) are behaving irrationally.  If only we were guided by “facts and science and argument,” and were thinking clearly, we’d all be voting the way he would have us vote.  He is not unique in this thought.  Newsman Peter Jennings famously said after the 1994 election that Americans had a temper tantrum.  Only people who have gone nuts vote Republican.

Maybe.  But when the masses behave irrationally, under the influence of popular passion, their behavior is usually rather jumpy, isn’t it?  See Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.  You can turn ‘em with a good Mark Anthony speech.

The President has been trying to pull a Mark Anthony since last summer, but his Shakespearean oratory just seems to bounce off the electorate.  Could it be that the voters aren’t out of control and off their nut after all?  Might it be that the people have just made up their collective mind?  Might it be that they made up their minds as early as last year, when Congress and the President were hammering the rough, angular edges of their health care bill through the round opening of legislative procedure?

This is what a Republican form of government looks like.  Welcome to the majors, Mr. Obama.

Senate Control in the Balance

Posted: Thursday, October 7, 2010 at 12:00 am
By: Ken Blanchard
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Cicero_Denounces_CatilineIt could be argued that the ideal outcome for the Republicans this November would be a fifty-fifty split in the Senate.  That would give Senate Democrats (plus the Vice President) nominal control over the chamber.  They would then have all of the responsibility and none of the power.

What it would cost the Republicans is bragging rights.  If the GOP were to take control of both chambers, it would as unambiguous a repudiation of the Democrat’s agenda as one could imagine.  Well, one could imagine a 100 seat shift in the House.  If that Gallup poll is right, that is still a possibility.  The impact of a shift of both houses into Republican hands would be monumental.

All year long a Republican takeover of the House seemed possible.  Now it seems very probable.  A takeover of the Senate was discounted until very recently.  With only a third of the Senate in play, it looked as though the Democrats had plenty of safe seats to defend.  Of course the miracle in Massachusetts raised the question of how safe any seat might be.  Massachusetts Democrats had a habit of changing the election laws on a regular basis to ensure control of their Senate seat, and they surely thought that they could replace the late Senator Kennedy with a Democrat.  They were wrong, and that made the endgame on health care a very messy business.  It didn’t help reassure the public about that legislation.

Fast forward to now, and the Senate looks up for grabs.  RCP gives the Democrats 49 seats in the next Congress.  One of them, I note, is Barbara Boxer and I still think Boxer is vulnerable.  She has been above 50% in only one poll, which is a bad sign for an incumbent.  Most polls seem to assume an unlikely surge in Democratic turnout.

RCP gives Republicans 46 seats, with five seats listed as tossups. One of the tossups, West Virginia, seems to be repeating the Massachusetts story.  The governor arranged an election to replace the late Robert Byrd, so he could run for the seat.  Though very popular, Governor Manchin is trailing Republican John Raese in two recent polls.  I think that one is going for the GOP.  If I am right, that’s 47.

That leaves four: Colorado, Illinois, Nevada, and Washington State.  The Republicans are going to take Colorado.  Buck is ahead comfortable in almost all the recent polls.  In Nevada, Harry Reid is behind a bit, after spending millions in advertising to bring Sharon Angle down.  He has no cards left to play.  I think Angle though a weak candidate will emerge the victor.  That puts the Republicans at 49.

Washington State is much the same.  The Republican, Rossi, has a lead in only one poll, but the RCP average favors Murray by only three and a half points.  With independents favoring the GOP across the board, and the enthusiasm gap highly favoring Republicans, I think Rossi is likely to edge out the incumbent.  That would make fifty seats in my calculations.

Illinois is such a basket case that I hesitate to make a call.  The Republican, Kirk, is ahead by four points in the most recent Rasmussen poll.  If my calls are right, a Kirk victory and/or a Fiorina victory over Boxer in California, would give Republicans control.

If this year really is a wave election, then Republicans will take the Senate.  But the uncertainty of many of the above calculations compels me to return to the Delaware election.  If Mike Castle were the Republican nominee, that one would be in the bag.  As it is, Kristine O’Donnell is close to twenty points behind Chris Coons.  Republicans had a once in a lifetime chance of capturing a Delaware senate seat.  We blew it.

There are a lot of virtues, but prudence is the chief political virtue.  Prudence means shrewd judgment in uncertain situations.  Castle is not my kind of Republican, but he is my kind of Senate candidate in Delaware.  A Castle victory would have made a Republican capture of the Senate more likely than not.  Delaware Republicans backed the candidate they wished to see in office rather than the one they might get into office.  That was imprudent.

Gallup Pre-Announces a Double-Digit Lead for Republicans

Posted: Thursday, September 30, 2010 at 10:02 pm
By: Ken Blanchard
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One of the odd features of contemporary politics is the “pre-announcement”.  It is rare these days to hear a major political speech or an announcement by the Administration or Congress without having a pretty good idea in advance what he or she or they are going to say.  The Press is usually informed in advance.

There are a couple of reasons for this.  One is that the government relies on the press to communicate its message in packages, and offering those packages in advance makes them more newsworthy.  Another is that it gives the speaker/announcer a little time to pull out if there is an adverse reaction.

Today, for the first time, I noticed what looks like a pre-announcement of a poll.  Sean Trende at Real Clear Politics offers us a preview of the up-coming Gallup poll.  Lately, Gallup has been offering the Democrats hope.  The most recent Gallup polls on the generic question have shown a tie, with Democrats and Republicans at 46% each.  The poll takes a large sample (3000 voters), but it doesn’t attempt to distinguish likely voters.  As the president of Gallup says in his characteristically cautious video clip, Republicans usually do a lot better than registered voter samples indicate.

By this time in the election year, Gallup has usually switched to a likely voter model.  For some reason, they have been tardy.  Next week they will switch, and Trende gives us a preview.

Preliminary modeling of the likely electorate using Gallup’s traditional likely voter questions (more on this next week) suggests that if current patterns persist, Republicans could have a double-digit lead in the national House vote on Election Day, which would translate into Republicans gaining well above the number of seats necessary to control the House.

The above paragraph is in a quote box in Trende’s piece.  Presumably it comes from some Gallup report, though there is no link or citation.  I haven’t searched the Gallup site thoroughly, so it may be there somewhere.  Or, it maybe something that Trende got from Gallup that the rest of us don’t get yet.  If so, then Trende either disclosed confidential information, or they gave him leave to report it.  In the latter case, this is a pre-announcement.

What motive Gallup may have for preannouncing its coming poll, I can only guess.  Maybe they want to spare us a shock.  Trende considers what it might mean if Gallup is really about to show a double-digit lead for Republicans.

In 1994 the GOP won the national vote by 7 points and held 230 seats on election night.  In 2006 the Democrats won the national vote by 8 points and finished with 233 seats.  And in 2008, the Democrats won the national vote by 10.5 points, and finished with 257 seats.  257 Republican seats would translate to a 78-seat pickup.

Trende is playing fast and loose with the numbers.  How many seats a national vote advantage produces will depend on the situation in each of 435 districts.  It is nonetheless an interesting bit of speculation.  A 78 seat gain would, I think, exceed any electoral event in the last century.

Meanwhile, poll analyst Stuart Rothenberg is warning the Democrats that their control of the Senate is really in jeopardy.  I don’t know what is going to happen.  I do think it my duty as a blogger to prepare my readers for a possible shock.

Thune is a Go pt. 2

Posted: Monday, September 27, 2010 at 9:14 pm
By: Ken Blanchard
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thunemccain2Nobody is reading Steve Hayes’ piece on John Thune as anything other than an announcement.  Senator Thune is running for President.  Well, it’s only been a few days, but the Senator is already beginning to look a lot more interesting.

Chris Cillizza at the Washington Post’s The Fix informs us that Senator Thune is the Republican Barack Obama, except for being White and all.

Thune, obviously, would benefit if the party’s voters — and strategists — believed that the path to the presidency lay in nominating a candidate that mirrored Obama’s skill set: charismatic and handsome but with a fundamentally different approach to government’s role in peoples’ lives. (Thune allies note that he has a longer and deeper resume — three terms in the House, a full Senate term — than Obama did when he ran for president in 2008.)

Thune’s political style also resembles that of Obama — able to ride above the daily who’s up, who’s down to navigate a political course that has risen almost without hiccup since the 1990s.

This isn’t completely silly.  Yes, Thune is charismatic.  As for handsome, I confess I always thought the Senator looked a bit gaunt.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

As for the skill set and “style” thing, the stuff in parenthesis looks more important than the stuff outside and almost as important as the stuff that gets left out.  Barack Obama began running for President almost as soon as he left the Illinois state legislature.  Thune has not only served three terms in the House and one in the Senate, he also defeated the Senate Democratic Leader to get his Senate seat and has risen up the ranks of leadership in the upper house.  Compared to Thune, Obama had no resume.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Of course, Obama’s lack of any significant history, legislative or otherwise, was one of his main advantages.  The other was his race, which for historical reasons gave him a national wedge to use against Senator Clinton.  She of course had her own wedges: the Clinton co-presidency and her status as the first woman in serious contention for the White House.

I admire John Thune, and I like him.  I have had the pleasure of meeting him on several occasions and he has the remarkable ability not only to remember who I am but to remember what we talked about when last we met.  I find that astonishing.  I note happily that if you were stuck in an elevator with John, Tim Johnson, and Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin, you would be among pleasant company.

Senator Thune is demonstrably a nationally ranked talent.  That said, I have yet to guess what his wedge is.  Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee have the most obvious one among Republicans: they are recent contenders.  Thune can present himself as an untarnished and fresh alternative.  In that case, he competes with Governor Tim Pawlenty.  If Sarah Palin turns out to be a serious contender (color me doubtful), he can offer himself as a genuine conservative with a chance at actually being elected.

Thune’s most likely route to serious contention would be as a running mate to some other candidate with a significant wedge, but perhaps some baggage.  The model would be Al Gore in 1992.  If Thune does make it onto a national ticket, in either position, he stands a serious chance of being President.

As I said in my last post on this subject, I picked a good state to teach political science in.  In California, I would have stood a better chance of lunch with Jay Leno than a few words with Barbara Boxer or Governor Schwarzenegger.  In South Dakota I got to chat with Tom Daschle on the eve of the 1994 election.  What a hoot!  God bless South Dakota.

Good News & Bad New 4 Republicans from Delaware

Posted: Tuesday, September 14, 2010 at 9:56 pm
By: Ken Blanchard
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o'donnell senateThe bad news is that the Republicans very likely just lost a Senate seat that was well within their grasp.  The good news is the wind that has been filling the sails of Republican candidates all year long is still blowing at gale strength.

Senate hopeful Christine O’Donnell won 53% of the vote in Delaware’s Republican primary, to Mike Castle’s 47%.  The Republican Party establishment, along with most GOP friendly pundits, analysts, not to mention bloggers, is disappointed.  Democrats everywhere are elated.

Mike Castle served two terms as Governor of Delaware and 18 years as the state’s lone representative in the U.S. House.  He is a very popular politician and was widely expected to win Joe Biden’s Senate seat if he had been nominated.  That would be quite a feather in the GOP’s cap.

Christine O’Donnell came out of nowhere.  She is very conservative, especially on social issues.  She seems to have a lot of personal baggage that will be exploited by the Democrats over the next few weeks.  Delaware is two states in one, rather small state.  Upper Delaware is largely a suburb of Philadelphia.  Lower Delaware is another animal altogether.  The state has been reliably liberal and Democratic for a long time.  It is hard to see how O’Donnell can win it.

So why did O’Donnell win the primary?  She won because Mike Castle’s strengths suddenly became fatal weaknesses.  Mike Castle got a lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union of 52.  John Boehner got 94.  Lisa Murkowski got 70.  Barbara Boxer got 3.  That puts Castle squarely in the middle.  It is what made him viable as a Republican in Delaware.  But it also made him look like a RINO (Republican In Name Only) to a very energized Republican base, a conspicuous part of which is known as the Tea Party.

Democrats have been hoping this year that the Tea Party movement would tear the Republican Party apart.  That didn’t happen, though one can argue that the TP is responsible for weaker candidates in several races.  Delaware is certainly one of them.

Now all the horses (well, except for Hawaii) are at the starting gate.  The Tea Party people are not to be trifled with.  Their support for the Republican Party will probably be almost unanimous this year, but it is conditional.  They expect Republicans to behave like Republicans.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee has said that it will not support her.  That looks to me like a grievous mistake.  The folks who put O’Donnell over the top are the same folks who have been putting flame to the feat of Democratic Congressman and Senators all over the country.

This year the Tea Party activists are the vanguard of a large popular motion in the U.S.  It looks like they will help sweep the Republicans to victory in the House and close to victory in the Senate.  This election is important, but the Republicans ought also to be looking to the future.  Snubbing Christine O’Donnell is snubbing the Republican base in Delaware.  That is not good politics.

In the meantime (now until November 2nd), the gale is blowing fiercely to the right.  It blew O’Donnell past Castle.  It will blow a lot of Democrats clean off of Capitol Hill.

Democrats Cooked

Posted: Wednesday, September 8, 2010 at 11:43 pm
By: Ken Blanchard
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thor2-81I had hoped to bring on my Election Shaman by now, but for the last four days he has been curled up in a fetal position in my spare bedroom, rocking slowly back and forth, while muttering numbers like “80” and words like “Ragnarok”.

So I will make do with Charlie Cook in the National Journal.

For a long time it was primarily the “macro-political,” national polling data that was pointing to increasing signs of major Democratic midterm losses, while Democratic fortunes in individual races looked fine. But there began a gradual erosion in strength on a district-by-district basis, with incumbent Democrats in swing or Republican-leaning districts looking increasingly endangered while their colleagues in some more reliably Democratic seats began to look softer in their support and more vulnerable to a significant challenge.

In recent months, the national data reflecting a reversal of the 2006 and 2008 trends — namely, independent voters swinging strongly toward Republicans and a strong partisan enthusiasm gap favoring Republicans — began arguing that Republicans were in line to win a majority in the House with significant gains in the Senate.

In recent weeks, though, the district-by-district deterioration has reached the tipping point. It can now be said that Republicans will likely take back the House. An individual race analysis points to GOP gains of over 40 seats in the House, but the national polling suggests gains substantially higher than that.

While the individual race-by-race approach to analyzing House seats works great in “normal” election years, it invariably underestimates what happens in wave years, and the evidence is indisputable that this is a wave year.

Well, at least here was a clue to my Shaman’s delirium.  Charlie Cook has warned for months that Democrats were in big trouble, but he has been cautious about House and Senate numbers.  He is still cautious, but he is about to announce that eighty House Democrat seats are in play.

Eighty seats.  Cook quickly notes that no party has ever won every vulnerable seat.  Okay.  But if Republicans win half of those, Orange John Boehner replaces Nancy Pelosi as Speaker.  Given all the signs of a wave election, one has to expect that the GOP will win well over half.  If they get to sixty, this is bigger than 1994.

Then there is the Senate.

While Democrats’ majority status in the Senate is not as endangered as in the House, it does look like Republicans will likely score a net gain of at least eight seats, and a 10-seat swing that would give Republicans control of the upper chamber is not implausible. Cook Political Report Senate Editor Jennifer Duffy  points out that in 1998, six of the seven Senate races rated Toss Up in the final ratings were won by Democrats. In 2000, seven out of nine went Democratic; in 2002, six out of nine went Republican; in 2004, the GOP won eight out of nine; in 2006, Democrats won eight out of nine; and in 2008, Democrats won seven out of nine. There is a strong tendency in Senate races for most of the closest races to break in one direction. In this year, Democrats have gotten few breaks.

If all the close Senate races break in one direction…this is going to be one Hell of a year.

Election Shaman Rolls the Bones

Posted: Saturday, May 1, 2010 at 12:42 am
By: Ken Blanchard
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electionshamanToday the Election Shaman returns from the deep forests and haunted caves to come again within wifi range.  The Shaman informs me that he is most interested in what he calls the voodoo seats.  Go figure.

The Republicans are calling these “trophy seats.”  They are the Senate seats up in Illinois, Delaware, and Nevada.  That would be Barack Obama’s former seat, Joe Biden’s former seat, and the seat the Senate Majority Harry Reid is currently clinging to the very edge of.  Republicans think that a victory in any of these races, let alone all three, would have significant symbolic value.  It would symbolize refutation.

The Shaman is not interested in symbols.  He is interested in spirits and magic, and he thinks that a Republican victory in any of these seats would push a pin into a voodoo doll, a doll that looks like a map of the U.S. and has a lot of Democratic hairs and fingernails woven into it.

The Shaman reminds me that one such pin was already driven into the map when Scott Brown won the seat formerly held by Ted Kennedy.  Powerful magic that was.  So what about the others?

As for Nevada, the Shaman thinks that the spirits large and small have altogether abandoned Harry Reid.  Reid is running about ten points behind two Republican contenders, and isn’t running ahead of anyone important enough to consider in a poll.  The Shaman thinks that an undocumented worker under indictment for bank fraud could beat Reid.  If the Shaman is right, that’s one more pin.

In Delaware, the Shaman notes that Republican Mike Castle is running 55/32 against likely Democratic nominee Chris Coons.  The Shaman likes the name “Castle” and thinks it may confer certain powers.  He urges Republicans in Delaware to carry a characteristic chess piece in their pockets, and sleep with it under their pillows.  That would be a third pin.

And then there is the great wizard’s house itself.  In Illinois, Representative Mark Kirk is eight points ahead of Democrat Alexi Giannoulias for Barack Obama’s former seat.  The Shaman thinks that the recent seizure of a Giannoulias family bank by Federal Regulators was an omen.  Push that pin in, and the map will actually moan.

I have been pressing the Shaman to tell me what the bones say about the election as a whole, but he just makes weird signs in the air.  I do notice that when he casts the bones, he gets an astonished look on his face and doesn’t move for hours.

I also spied him rubbing John Murtha’s former House seat and mumbling something.  So I consulted Sean Trende, another election shaman.  He has this:

DailyKos/Research2000 finds Republican Tim Burns up six points over Democrat Mark Critz, 46%-40% in the race to replace John Murtha.  Large portions of this district haven’t been held by a Republican since before the New Deal.  This isn’t the type of district that Republicans have to take in order to take back the House, but it is exactly the type of district that Republicans have to take to do better than they did in 1994.  Obama sports a 38% favorability rating in the district.  This is the second poll in a row to show Burns up, in a race that’s looking more and more like a pickup.  The election will be May 18.

The Election Shaman reminds me that the spirits are capricious.  It’s his job to make predictions, not mine, so he has greater need for caution.  But I note that a good friend of mine, Professor Casca, a Democrat, made these remarks when I met him yesterday:

Against the Capitol I met a lion,
Who glared upon me, and went surly by,
Without annoying me: and there were drawn
Upon a heap a hundred ghastly women,
Transformed with their fear; who swore they saw
Men all in fire walk up and down the streets.
And yesterday the bird of night did sit
Even at noon-day upon the market-place,
Hooting and shrieking. When these prodigies
Do so conjointly meet, let not men say
‘These are their reasons; they are natural;’
For, I believe, they are portentous things
Unto the climate that they point upon.

Maybe it was something he ate.  Something was surely eating him.  The Election Shaman will check back in from time to time.

South Dakota Democrats Make History

Posted: Wednesday, March 31, 2010 at 11:13 pm
By: Ken Blanchard
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sad-donkeyLike Pat Powers at SDWC, I have not yet gone to look at the historical records.  I do seem to have the impression that no U.S. Senate election in the state has ever gone uncontested.  Until now.  Our state Democrats have failed to field a candidate against John Thune.

This is appalling.  To be sure, Thune is probably unbeatable.  In an ordinary year, or even a bad one for Republicans, he would probably be safe for reelection.  This looks to be no ordinary year.

Consider the Real Clear Politics summary.  In the last Gallup Poll, President Obama’s job approval rating finally flipped to negative, with 50% disapproving to 47% approving.  That will be a drag on Democrats across the country.  Worse still, Gallup has the Republicans up on the generic question: “are you going to vote Democrat or Republican?”  Republicans are ahead by three points.  In the past, Democrats always enjoyed a larger lead on this question than they actually got in the general election.  A CNN poll gives the Republicans four points.  Rasmussen gives them seven.

If these numbers hold up, the Republicans will gut the Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress.  It is not out of the question that they will take control of one or both houses.

Any Democrat running against John Thune would probably face insurmountable odds.  From the start, she or he would be called a sacrificial lamb or something like that.  But the people of South Dakota deserve a choice.  Whatever you think of Senator Thune, and I admire him, he needs to face an opposing candidate.  Senator Thune needs to be challenged to answer hostile questions.  It looks like that won’t happen.

The most basic task of the two parties is to present voters with a choice and create the setting for debate.  This year it looks like the SD Democratic Party couldn’t manage that.