Sabato's Crystal Ball

Election Eve 2006: The Final Predictions

Larry J. Sabato and David Wasserman, U.Va. Center for Politics November 6th, 2006

NOTE: Races we consider “Late Breakers”–those in which we have changed our outlook or prediction since Thursday–are denoted by arrows identifying the direction of momentum. Red arrows () indicate momentum for the Republican candidate, while blue arrows () signify momentum for the Democratic candidate.

Dear loyal readers,

What a wild ride it’s been! As the midterm madness of 2006 draws to a close, the Crystal Ball is reminded just how quickly the facts of our politics can change.

Just last year, we and many others wrote in awe of the 21st Century structural obstacles Democrats faced in putting a sizeable number of GOP-held seats in play. We even speculated that “an entrenched lack of competition may be all the anti-itch medication the GOP needs” to preserve congressional majorities. These days, of course, everyone is singing a much different tune.

This year’s “sixth year itch” election has had its share of rollercoaster-worthy twists and turns, and overall, Republican fortunes have followed a gradually downward trajectory. Competition has expanded rapidly, even into the eleventh hour. For us, it’s this volatility that has made the 2006 midterm cycle both fun to watch and difficult to gauge.

With one day to go, the situation is still very fluid. This weekend, we had a potentially pro-GOP event, the sentencing of Saddam Hussein, and a potentially pro-Democratic event, the unveiling of Rev. Ted Haggard’s family values hypocrisy. The Crystal Ball’s initial guess was that both news headlines, while attention-grabbing, would have only a marginal impact on the vote (and it’s also worth noting that a record percentage of voters will have voted early this year, softening any impact of the last-minute headlines).

Yet something is happening. Both the Washington Post/ABC News poll and the new Pew survey show a dramatic tightening of the generic ballot vote, with Democrats leading by 4 to 6 percent. If these polls are accurate, this is bad news for Democrats, and they suggest that Democratic gains might be more limited than have been widely expected. Perhaps the Republican vote is finally coming home–much later than usual. President Bush’s campaigning in red territory and the GOP’s smart get-out-the-vote operation may be working at last. We will know tomorrow night.

For many a political practitioner, Election Eve is when pure nerves take over. Most of the hard work has already been done, and nearly every vote decided. Surely many Democrats will go to sleep tonight sensing the same giddy anticipation felt on Christmas Eve, with dreams of congressional majorities dancing in their heads and electoral goodies stuffed in stockings. Surely many in the GOP will go to bed dreaming that Democrats’ gifts will be few and far between tomorrow–and that the “gifts” are mainly coal and switches!

Although we’re not out to determine who’s been naughty or nice (believe us, that’s a subject for many other Crystal Ball emails–and both parties have their fair share of people on both lists), we did make a list of predictions on Thursday, and we promised we would check it twice. The result of our re-checking is a last-minute batch of ratings changes, and even several changes of our predictions.

So thanks for staying with us this election year–now fasten your seat belts and hang on for the ride as the Crystal Ball calls ‘em all!

Our best Election Day wishes to all of you,

The Crystal Ball Team

THE SENATE: +6 Dems = 51D, 49R

Despite hard-fought campaigning in every battleground state up until the very end, the overall Senate picture has not changed much since our Thursday assessment. The Crystal Ball still sees 4, 5 or 6 seats going to the Democrats, resting party control of the Senate squarely on the edge of the butter knife.

The Democrats must win all the close ones and capture all the toss-ups to gain control, which is very tough to do. The safe bet is that Democrats will gain no more than five seats, and thus the GOP will remain in charge by a fingernail of the upper chamber of Congress. But what the heck? We’ll live dangerously. We think the Democrats may replicate their feat from 1986 (the sixth year election of Ronald Reagan’s Presidency) and capture just enough seats to take over. This is our least confident prediction. We believe the Democrats have excellent chances to win the House and take a majority of the Governorships, while a thin Senate majority has odds no better than 50.1 percent to 49.9 percent.

Contests remain extremely close in the “Threshold Three”–Missouri, Tennessee, Virginia–with close races still possible in Maryland, Montana, New Jersey, and Rhode Island, where Democrats hold narrow leads. Our outlooks have not changed, save to tilt Tennessee towards the Republicans. When we add together all our predictions, Democrats pick up six seats, sufficient to wrest control from the GOP. Here our our final picks:

Final Senate Predictions

  • ArizonaLeans GOPSen. Jon Kyl (R) will win reelection over Jim Pederson (D). For Jon Kyl, the fact his lead has held steady through October is far more important than the fact his lead is modest. A last minute push by national Democrats to put this race in play is only slightly more convincing than the national GOP’s push to put Michigan in play, and only a massive tsunami (or should we say sandstorm?) could dislodge Kyl at this point. >>>Read More
  • ConnecticutLeans LiebermanSen. Joe Lieberman (I/D) will win reelection over Ned Lamont (D). In August, anti-Iraq War activists knew they could only send an immediate message by targeting Lieberman, but in November they finally have Republicans to target and Lamont has badly lost steam. The quirky outsider image that served Lamont so well in the primary season seems to be failing him in the general election, and his Jesse Jackson-Al Sharpton backdrop on primary night never boded well for his efforts to expand his vote total from 146,404 to the 600,000 or so he will need to oust the three-term incumbent. >>>Read More
  • MarylandLeans DemBen Cardin (D) will defeat Michael Steele (R). Let’s be honest: Cardin’s campaign skills are awful compared to Steele’s, and he is badly underperforming in a Democratic state in a Democratic year. Cardin’s command of his party’s base vote has been tenuous, and Steele has smartly capitalized on local divisions and Democratic neglect of the black vote to keep this race within single digits. Steele has had a comparativel
    y good month, and it’s clear to us that he will score unusually high percentages in areas of the state Democrats normally win with 90 percent, but we just don’t buy the argument that he is within striking distance of the more ideologically in-step (if boring) Cardin. >>>Read More
  • MichiganLikely DemSen. Debbie Stabenow (D) will win reelection over Mike Bouchard (R). Why national Republicans won’t give up on this race is beyond us; many argue Bouchard is gaining back some ground, but we say too little too late. It’s true that many Michigan voters decide between candidates late in the game, but if Bouchard is mounting a miraculous final week comeback, we’re seeing no signals of it. >>>Read More
  • MinnesotaLikely DemAmy Klobuchar (D) will defeat Mark Kennedy (R). The GOP is headed for an unpleasant year in Minnesota, and no matter what new tricks Kennedy tries, Klobuchar’s lead just continues to grow. One sure sign a candidate is headed for defeat: an ad campaign featuring an ending tagline “I approved this message, even if it’s not what you want to hear.” Say hello to Senator Klobuchar. >>>Read More
  • MissouriToss-upClaire McCaskill (D) will unseat Sen. Jim Talent (R). This race couldn’t be closer, but here’s our rationale: “Show Me” a slightly more red-than-blue state in a very Democratic year, and I’ll show you a slightly more blue-than-red Senate outcome. All throughout the year, this has been an even strength tug of war, the classic toss-up race of the cycle. But the advantage of a stem cell research question on the ballot (and not a marriage question) and the fact that the incumbent Talent can’t seem crack 50 percent lead us to tilt this race (along with the Senate) ever so slightly to the Democrats. >>>Read More
  • MontanaLeans DemJon Tester (D) will unseat Sen. Conrad Burns (R). Burns has ably portrayed Tester as well left of Montana’s mainstream, but the Abramoff drumbeat may be insurmountable for him and Tester was quick to criticize Sen. Kerry’s recent statement. Burns has proven his mettle as a survivor over the years, and the polls show an up-tick in his direction, but we believe we’re simply seeing natural closing of the gap in the final days. After all we have seen in this race, even President Bush’s last-minute campaign stop in Billings, it is still very difficult for us to believe Tester could lose. >>>Read More
  • NebraskaLikely DemSen. Ben Nelson (D) will win reelection over Pete Ricketts (R). What started out as a rickety effort to unseat Nelson never really started rolling (sorry Pete, we couldn’t resist), and Nelson will win a second term. The question is: will Nelson win by large enough margins in his native western Nebraska to sweep long-shot candidate Scott Kleeb into Tom Osborne’s open seat? Nelson lost the region in a close race in 2000; we will be interested to see if Kleeb actually outperforms Nelson in those lonely prairie counties. >>>Read More
  • New JerseyToss-upSen. Bob Menendez (D) will defeat Tom Kean, Jr. (R). In our estimation, the race in the Garden State remains Republicans’ best opportunity to pick off a Democratic-held Senate seat, but that’s not saying much. The final week of a New Jersey campaign is Democratic machine turnout time, and every indication tells us that Menendez is poised to reap the benefits of Democrats’ organizational advantages in places like Essex, Hudson, Camden, and Union counties, even if his ethnic last name costs him some votes in other regions of the state. >>>Read More
  • OhioLikely DemSherrod Brown (D) will unseat Sen. Mike DeWine (R). Whether or not national Republicans have abandoned hope in Ohio, it is clear that DeWine’s campaign is in a tailspin as Brown continues to attack him aggressively. Tomorrow’s day of reckoning will not be pretty for the Ohio GOP, and DeWine’s defeat-likely by a large margin-could serve as the best example of just how drastically the party’s fortunes faded over the course of 2006. >>>Read More
  • PennsylvaniaSolid DemBob Casey (D) will unseat Sen. Rick Santorum (R). Santorum’s combativeness on the trail and in debates has only seemed to confirm what voters do not like about him, and the easy-going Casey is now a safe bet to win. So anxious are Republicans about Casey’s dominance, they worry that his unpopularity could drag down a Republican House seat in the western part of the state in addition to the four in jeopardy to the East. >>>Read More
  • Rhode IslandLeans DemSheldon Whitehouse (D) will unseat Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R). It’s often forgotten that the Ocean State is the nation’s most Democratic, and that’s just about the only reason we believe Chafee will suffer a narrow defeat at the hands of Whitehouse in just a few days. But here, we emphasize narrow: Chafee is a strong closer, and we could see a surprise Election Night nail-biter early on here in this must-win state for Democrats. >>>Read More
  • TennesseeLeans GOPBob Corker (R) will defeat Harold Ford (D). The Corker-Ford grudge match continues to both entertain and confound us, but the presence of a gay marriage amendment on the ballot may be just enough to boost Corker’s fortunes in spite of national GOP missteps. Ford may have peaked in mid-October, only to see Republican voters come home to their candidate in the final weeks. The effect of the much-debated RNC ad was probably a draw, but Corker’s aggressiveness late in the campaign appears to be paying dividends. >>>Read More
  • VirginiaToss-upJim Webb (D) will unseat Sen. George Allen (R). Of course we’re not counting him out altogether, and no one remembers better than us that Virginia was the grand exception to the GOP wave of 1994 (is this Senate seat jinxed?). Nonetheless, Allen’s slow self-destruction has been nothing short of breathtaking, and we at the Crystal Ball are still somewhat shocked to find ourselves at the epicenter of the fight for the Senate. Let’s get one thing out of the way: the evolution of this race’s closeness has had little to do with Jim Webb or his campaign’s efforts and almost everything to do with Allen’s self-inflicted wounds, which have made voters’ memories of his leadership of a “silicon Dominion” in the 1990′s as governor less accessible and have recast him as more of a strictly “Red America” politician. A coordinated attack on Webb’s fiction writing may have been the last straw, as the move was roundly criticized by editorial writers. All the alarm bells for Allen are now ringing: he is stuck at about 45 percent in most surveys, the Webb side (an entourage of Governors Wilder, Warner, and Kaine) is clearly being met with more enthusiastic receptions on the stump, and most sources tell us the GOP is headed for major carnage in the Commonwealth’s largest vote trove, Northern Virginia. Much as the toppling of Democratic Sen. Tom Daschle came to symbolize the GOP’s Senate triumph in 2004, the once-unthinkable defeat of Allen would put an exclamation point on Democrats’ wins this year. >>>Read More
  • WashingtonLikely DemSen. Maria Cantwell (D) will win reelection over Mike McGavick (R). This great hope of national Republicans never materialized in the fall, as McGavick stumbled and the political atmosphere became only more hostile to the GOP, especially on the “Left Coast.” In any other year, McGavick would have an excellent chance to turn this into an even-money race, but Cantwell is likely to survive in spite of her unremarkable first term and underwhelming popularity. It’s a familiar storyline for so many weak Democratic incumbents this year. >>>Read More
  • Final 2006 Senate Crystal Ball HotRaceTM Readings

    Republican Held Seats up for Election in 2006: 15 (out of 55 held)

    Solid R (7) Likely R (0) Leans R (2) R Toss-up (0) D Toss-up (2) Leans D (2) Likely D (1) Solid D (1)
    IN (Lugar) AZ (Kyl) VA (Allen) MT (Burns) OH (DeWine) PA (Santorum)
    ME (Snowe) TN (OPEN) MO (Talent) RI (Chafee)
    MS (Lott)
    NV (Ensign)
    TX (Hutchison)
    UT (Hatch)
    WY (Thomas)
    WV (Byrd)
    WI (Kohl)
    NY (Clinton)
    NM (Bingaman)
    ND (Conrad)
    MA (Kennedy)
    HI (Akaka)
    FL (Nelson)
    WA (Cantwell) DE (Carper)
    NE (Nelson) CT (Lieberman*)
    MN (OPEN) VT (OPEN)
    NJ (Menendez) MD (OPEN) MI (Stabenow) CA (Feinstein)
    Solid R (0) Likely R (0) Leans R (0) R Toss-up (0) D Toss-up (1) Leans D (1) Likely D (4) Solid D (12)

    Democratic Held Seats up for Election: 18 (out of 45 held)

    The Brutal B – November 6, 2006: +4 to +6 D

    Click here for individual Senate race analysis.

    THE HOUSE: +29 Dems = 232D, 203R

    We admit: the Crystal Ball approaches the task of predicting the range of Democratic gains in the House with some anxiety. Politically, the House has always been the more volatile chamber of Congress this year; it has been the locus of far more scandal, and as always, there are more than ten times as many seats up for grabs in the House than there are in the Senate. In a “wave” election year, House races often surprise even the most astute observers by sneaking up into competition under the radar screen close to Election Day.

    Even since we last published on Thursday, our list of late breaking races has grown much longer, and most of the shifts we have seen have favored the party out of power. Many of these contests emerged as horse races too late for the major parties to compete dollar-for-dollar in the districts at stake, and many are in such deeply red territory that they might not be good long-term investments for Democrats anyway. The Democratic thinking goes: “if we’re headed for a majority, why play in states like Idaho, Kansas, Nebraska, or Wyoming only to lose the seats in a less favorable political environment two years later?” Still, we’ll bet outcomes in one or two of these places will surprise us. For Democrats, will these “late breakers” prove heartbreakers or supermajority-makers? It’s anyone’s guess, and we’ll only know after the polls close.

    The Crystal Ball believes that Democrats will likely win more than enough races to take control (+25 to 33), and could see even larger gains if a large wave crashes even deeply red territory. By the same token, Democrats may end up leaving several of their 2nd or 3rd tier candidates stranded on 2nd or 3rd base with 47 or 48 percent of the vote on Election Night. We are betting that the toss-ups split evenly between the parties, 18 apiece. When we add up all of our predictions, Democrats gain 29 seats in the House to command the same size majority the GOP currently holds, 232-203. Here are our final picks, with our “late breakers” first:

    Final House Predictions: The 20 Late Breakers

  • t color="red">AZ-01 – Toss-upRep. Rick Renzi (R) will win reelection over Ellen Simon (D). The Crystal Ball knows that Renzi had no problem solidifying his base in the 2004 election, but it wasn’t all that long ago he scored a narrow open seat victory in this marginal district. Renzi has received some bad press over the past few weeks concerning personal land dealings; the allegations won’t be sorted out until after the election, but we still predict Renzi will escape with a narrow win. >>> Read more
  • CA-11Toss-upJerry McNerney (D) will unseat Rep. Richard Pombo (R). Our sources on the ground tell us that momentum is firmly in McNerney’s court and that late campaign help from Bill Clinton and scores of environmental groups is giving Resources Committee Chair Pombo a run for his money. Schwarzenegger’s get-out-the-vote operation may yet save Pombo, but we will go out on a limb and tap McNerney to win in an upset. >>> Read more
  • CO-04Toss-upAngie Paccione (D) will unseat Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R). Musgrave has never performed as well as a Republican should in this district, and her staunch conservatism is probably the reason. Paccione has held her own in debates against Musgrave, berating her opponent’s focus on a federal marriage amendment, and if there’s any district the news of Pastor Haggard’s hypocrisy could affect, it’s this one. In this toxic year for Colorado Republicans, we think Paccione may well have the last-minute momentum to carry her across the finish line for the upset. But our sources tell us it’s tight as a tick, and we could easily be proven wrong. >>> Read more
  • GA-12Toss-upRep. John Barrow (D) will win reelection over Max Burns (R). If the Crystal Ball had to pick one race in the country to be a GOP pickup on Election Night, this would be it. Burns has run a highly aggressive and effective campaign against the man who unseated him two years ago in a slightly more Democratic district, Georgia looks to be an exception to the national Democratic wave, and even independent observers acknowledge that a recent Bush rally here turned the tide in his favor. Democrats here express genuine concern about Barrow’s ability to draw black voters to the polls in a non-presidential election year and worry that the substitution of rural counties for Barrow’s liberal base of Athens in re-redistricting will work to his detriment. We cannot bring ourselves to bet against a Democratic incumbent who has fought back ably as Barrow has, but we would not be at all surprised to see Burns reclaim his seat tomorrow. >>> Read more
  • ID-01Toss-upLarry Grant (D) will defeat Bill Sali (R). We recognize we are going severely against the grain in our prediction here, but we sense that the time is right for Idaho to finally elect a Democrat to, well, something. The mild-mannered Grant has used words from Sali’s enemies within the GOP to great effect in television advertisements, and the polls continue to show many voters undecided. To win, Grant would have to run up the score in northern Idaho and Boise to offset 80 percent-performing GOP areas around Boise, but if there’s any year this would happen, it would be 2006. Sali’s Club for Growth conservatism has turned off many in his party, and we could easily be proven wrong if the GOP base comes home on Election Day, but what the heck, we’ll pick the major upset anyway. What’s life without a few major risks? >>> Read more
  • IN-07Likely DemRep. Julia Carson (D) will win reelection over Eric Dickerson (R). We didn’t add this district to our list in response to any polls that emerged recently showing the race to be close; we added it because national Democrats’ anxieties in response led them to mount an attack mail piece against Dickerson that some speculators in the district found to contain over-the-top allegations against his personal history. Carson has consistently underperformed in this reliably Democratic district, and if Indiana voters are in a “throw the bums out” mood tomorrow, her margin of victory could drop to the high single digits. >>> Read more
  • KS-02Toss-upRep. Jim Ryun (R) will win reelection over Nancy Boyda (D). Boyda was smart to seek a rematch against Ryun in a more favorable year, and several internal polls taken by both parties show her in poll position to erase her 12-point deficit from 2004. It is true that Democrat Kathleen Sebelius will likely win this district handily in her gubernatorial reelection bid. Still, we are doubtful that Ryun will go down; this is a reliably GOP district at the congressional level and Ryun does not appear to have made any glaring errors. >>> Read more
  • MN-01Toss-upRep. Gil Gutknecht (R) will win reelection over Tim Walz (D). A favorite of DFL party activists, the veteran Walz has stirred up the liberal base in southern Minnesota enough to put this race on everyone’s map. Republicans are headed for a potentially very bad year in Minnesota, and though we believe Gutknecht has compiled a record sufficiently moderate for political survival, Gutknecht could find himself swept away if the national Democratic wave hits high enough to put Democratic gains above 30 seats. >>> Read more
  • MN-06Toss-upMichele Bachmann (R) will defeat Patty Wetterling (D). Polls show greatly differing results in this largely exurban district, and few races in the country have featured candidates with more disparate views or nastier ads. We believe that the result here will be very close, but that this district fundamentally wants to vote for a conservative. Even in the post-Foley scandal era, we give the social conservative Bachmann a tiny edge over the child protection advocate Wetterling. >>> Read more
  • NE-03Toss-upAdrian Smith (R) will defeat Scott Kleeb (D). Wow, we’re talking about a competitive House seat in western Nebraska, one of the four or five most Republican districts in the country? It’s hard to believe, but the telegenic Ivy League-educated rancher Kleeb (pronounced KLEB) has run as good a campaign as any Democrat could possibly run here and the stars are as aligned as they ever will be for him in 2006. His opponent, the very conservative legislator Smith, had been considered a shoo-in after winning the primary here, but to his credit, Kleeb has worked the district extremely hard and has funded a strong broadcast offensive. There is some precedent for a close open seat race here: in 1990, Republican Bill Barrett captured the district by only 4,000 votes over Democrat Sandra Scofield; we’ll bet on the safe side that we see a similar result sixteen years later, especially after an energetic weekend presidential campaign visit. Interestingly, these two young candidates may have the lowest combined age of any set of congressional opponents in the country. >>> Read more
  • NV-03Toss-upRep. Jon Porter (R) will win reelection over Tessa Hafen (D). Republicans concede that Hafen has run a stronger than expected race in this politically dead-even Clark County district, and most polls show Porter’s lead in the mid-single digits. But Porter has not made any major mistakes, and we give him a slight edge in light of his strong recent electoral performances. It is not impossible we could see the young former Reid staffer Hafen prevail in the case of a bad GOP year in Nevada. >>> Read more
  • NH-02Toss-upPaul Hodes (D) will unseat Rep. Charlie Bass (R). State and national Democrats say that this race’s movement is the big surprise of the final week of the campaign. We would tend to agree that Hodes’ campaign has come together well thanks to the fundraising help of several 2008 Democratic contenders and a strong wind at Democrats’ backs in New England. Bass has made a political career out of stressing his independence, but his party affiliation may well sink him in the more Democratic of the Granite State’s two districts. >>> Read more
  • NY-19Toss-upRep. Sue Kelly (R) will win reelection over John Hall (D). This Westchester-based district is only marginally Republican at the national level, and the songwriter Hall is hoping to capitalize on campaign help from music business friends and the Clintons. In a year when Democrats will be racking up big statewide victories, Hall could give Kelly headaches tomorrow. We predict Kelly will win by a narrower count than initially expected, but it’s possible we could see a surprise upset. >>> Read more
  • NY-20Toss-upKirsten Gillibrand (D) will unseat Rep. John Sweeney (R).We still believe that this district is the second-likeliest of all upstate GOP-held districts to elect a Democrat in 2006, but we cannot help but wonder if Sweeney is this year’s cat with nine lives. Gillibrand’s strong fundraising and energetic presence on the campaign trail have helped to compensate for the strong Republican tendencies of the district, but Sweeney’s most glaring vulnerabilities have been self-inflicted; reports of improper appearances at ski resorts with lobbyists and at fraternity parties with inebriated college students have dogged him. We wonder if the most recent published allegations of spousal abuse will be the last straw. It’s just a hunch, and we would not at all be surprised to see Sweeney survive, but we think Gillibrand just might sneak by. >>> Read more
  • NY-25Toss-upRep. Jim Walsh (R) will win reelection over Dan Maffei (D). There’s no denying Maffei has closed the gap considerably in this moderate-to-liberal Syracuse area district, and national Democrats are optimistic about the upstart’s chances against veteran moderate incumbent Walsh. We think at least one of these Democratic “reach” districts in upstate New York will fall to the Democrats, but reliable data is not in abundance in these races and we have no idea which ones are moving more quickly away from Republicans than others. As a result, we just have to bet on the incumbent. >>> Read more
  • NY-26Toss-upRep. Tom Reynolds (R) will win reelection over Jack Davis (D).When parties lose big in congressional elections, there tend to be a few losses that tower over others in symbolic importance. A defeat of Reynolds, the chair of Republican campaign efforts in the House, would fit that bill. And when he was first implicated in the Foley cover-up, that precise scenario seemed almost inevitable. But beyond a reasonable doubt, Reynolds has improbably come back from the dead. Why? Our guess is that voters finally had a reason to take a good look at the eccentric septuagenarian Davis and didn’t entirely like what they saw. Davis self-funds his campaigns and arrived at a not-too-shabby 44 percent of the vote in 2004, but his attacks on Reynolds may be so blust
    ery as to diminish their credibility. We have switched our rating of this race, and now give the edge to Reynolds hanging on by a fingernail in this Buffalo-based seat. >>> Read more
  • PA-04Toss-upRep. Melissa Hart (R) will win reelection over Jason Altmire (D). As GOP Sen. Rick Santorum’s reelection numbers fell in western Pennsylvania this year, Democrats acquired some hope that they could mount a credible race in at least one area district, and it turns out that this is it. Although Hart remains personally popular in this ancestrally Democratic district, she is swimming upstream this year as Democrats are headed for landslides in the Keystone State. National Democrats have come to Altmire’s aid; though we think it may be enough to get him to 47 to 49 percent of the vote, we give a narrow edge to Hart to retain this seat. >>> Read more
  • WA-05Leans GOPRep. Cathy McMorris (R) will win reelection over Peter Goldmark (D). Sensing opportunity, Democrats have made a late play for this district, which incidentally was the site of one of the biggest upsets of 1994: Republican George Nethercutt’s upset of Democratic House Speaker Tom Foley. We cannot entirely rule out an upset in this “late breaker,” but we’ll put strong odds on McMorris returning to Congress for a second term in reliably Republican eastern Washington. >>> Read more
  • WI-08Toss-upJohn Gard (R) will defeat Steve Kagen (D). The Crystal Ball receives all sorts of conflicting evidence about this district, but in the final analysis, we have a hunch this district will return to its Republican roots. Kagen has spent freely of his own coffers to go on the attack, but count on GOP gubernatorial hopeful Mark Green to carry his current district handily and help Gard emerge from tomorrow with a narrow win. >>> Read more
  • WY-ALToss-upRep. Barbara Cubin (R) will win reelection over Gary Trauner (D). If it were not for the fact her opponent can be easily mocked as a transplanted New Yorker, Cubin would likely be staring down tougher odds of winning another term in Congress. As it is, a recent episode in which she threatened to slap a disabled third party candidate after a debate reinforced many voters’ concerns that she’s not the most respectful person the state could possibly send to Congress. She has had bigger problems shoring up her base every year, and her latest antics will likely cost her a few precious votes she badly needs. That Vice President Cheney stumped for Cubin in his old House seat this weekend speaks to the seat’s evident toss-up status, but this is Wyoming after all, and we’ll predict Cubin will barely eke out a win. >>> Read more
  • Final House Predictions: The Rest

  • AZ-05Toss-upHarry Mitchell (D) will unseat Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R). Democrats are betting heavily that a late push in Arizona can put many of their candidates over the top. Mitchell has received some high-profile Republican endorsements, and seems to have the momentum in what has become a very ugly race. We’ll pick Mitchell to pull the upset by a hair. >>> Read more
  • AZ-08Likely DemGabrielle Giffords (D) will defeat Randy Graf (R). Despite late talk of a Graf comeback, it’s obvious that both national parties gave up on this race long ago, thanks to Graf’s very hard-right views and Giffords’s personal appeal. Democrats can count on this seat as one of their three likeliest pickups in the country. >>> Read more
  • CA-04Leans GOPRep. John Doolittle (R) will win reelection over Charlie Brown (D). Doolittle’s ethical troubles have been the linchpin of Brown’s campaign in this very reliably Republican northern California district, but we don’t think the damage to Doolittle have been severe enough to cost him his seat this year. >>> Read more
  • CA-50Leans GOPRep. Brian Bilbray (R) will win reelection over Francine Busby (D). Is it possible that Busby could win this match-up against Bilbray the one time out of three she wasn’t really even trying? We doubt it, but the year is bad enough for the GOP to continue to keep an eye on the results here. >>> Read more
  • CO-05Leans GOPDoug Lamborn (R) will defeat Jay Fawcett (D). Could the Haggard scandal depress fundamentalist evangelical turnout in its home base? It’s possible, but we believe Fawcett’s insurgency scared the GOP here into action in time for Election Day, and we would be very surprised to see this 66 percent GOP seat fall the way of the Democrats, though we know retiring Rep. Joel Hefley would not be all too disappointed to see it happen. >>> Read more
  • CO-06Likely GOPRep. Tom Tancredo (R) will win reelection over Bill Winter (D). The rest of the nation has trouble understanding why this exurban Colorado district sends hardcore anti-immigration leader Tancredo to Washington every two years, but he remains popular at home. It’s a rough year for Colorado Republicans, and the Haggard scandal may depress GOP turnout slightly, so we wouldn’t be surprised to see Tancredo’s percentage fall to the mid-50′s. >>> Read more
  • >CO-07Likely DemEd Perlmutter (D) will defeat Rick O’Donnell (R). Democrats did a very good job at putting this district away early by painting O’Donnell as a far-out ideologue who once proposed doing away with Social Security. It’s likely that Perlmutter will prevail by more than a few points in what was originally supposed to be a tooth and nail fight to the finish. >>> Read more
  • CT-02Toss-upJoe Courtney (D) will unseat Rep. Rob Simmons (R). Remember where the closest House race was located in the 1994 GOP wave election? If you guessed eastern Connecticut, you’re a winner: Sam Gejdenson (D) “secured” a 21-vote victory over Ed Muenster that year. It’s entirely possible that a similar scenario will unfold yet again this year, and if we had to pick one Republican to survive in Connecticut, it would be Simmons. We’re going to go with Courtney, but it’s a pure guess. >>> Read more
  • CT-04Toss-upDiane Farrell (D) will unseat Rep. Christopher Shays (R). This race may win the award for becoming the nation’s media darling for purposes of gauging voter attitudes about Iraq, but we believe Shays’ change of stance on the issue probably came too late to save his career as the top maverick of the GOP House conference. >>> Read more
  • CT-05Toss-upChris Murphy (D) will unseat Rep. Nancy Johnson (R). Johnson recognized this challenge soon, and reacted toughly from the start. She has spent more money to defend this seat than nearly all incumbents, but her problem might be that she attacked Murphy too harshly in a recent ad; her caricature of Murphy going door-to-door sympathizing with drug dealers may have backfired, and we would be surprised to see her prevail against the former campaign manager of the woman who nearly beat her ten years ago. >>> Read more
  • FL-08Likely GOPRep. Ric Keller (R) will win reelection over Charlie Stuart (D). Sure, Stuart received endorsements from several GOP officials and the Orlando-based district’s demographics are shifting in the Democrats’ favor, but Keller has won convincingly since his open seat victory six years ago, and does not look particularly vulnerable to a wave this year. >>> Read more
  • FL-09Likely GOPGus Bilirakis (R) will defeat Phyllis Busansky (D). Busansky turned out to be one of the Democrats’ better open seat fundraisers of 2006, but this race never really materialized as a takeover opportunity akin to the one we now see in the 13th District to the South. Thanks to solid name recognition and a solid GOP bent, this seat looks likely to stay in the Bilirakis family. >>> Read more
  • FL-13Leans DemChristine Jennings (D) will defeat Vern Buchanan (R). Attacks on Buchanan’s business dealings have likely taken too great a toll on the self-funding Republican, as most surveys show Jennings with a clear lead heading into the homestretch. Jennings has run a solid campaign, while Buchanan never seemed to recover from the tough GOP primary. >>> Read more
  • FL-16Toss-upTim Mahoney (D) will defeat Joe Negron (R). A recent trip to Florida convinced us: if either one of the “post-scandal special ballot circumstances” districts (this one and Tom DeLay’s TX-22) sees a surprise GOP upset, the Crystal Ball bets Negron will prevail. Still, even though we give Negron’s campaign the award for best slogan of the 2006 campaign–”Punch Foley for Joe”–we’ll bet the stigma of Foley’s name on the ballot will leave Negron just short of an upset victory in 2006. If that happens, we’ll be looking forward to the Mahoney-Negron rematch in 2008. >>> Read more
  • FL-22Toss-upRon Klein (D) will unseat Rep. Clay Shaw (R). This race will go down as one of the most expensive of 2006, and both men have run impressive and vigorous campaigns. We’ll bet Klein prevails in this Democratic year and sends Shaw into retirement two years early. >>> Read more
  • GA-08Leans DemRep. Jim Marshall (D) will win reelection over Mac Collins (R). Despite the new district’s shape, Collins has not succeeded in moving the race in his favor. Both candidates are established figures in the region, but Marshall’s moderate reputation and incumbency favor his reelection. The real comeback race seems to be to the East, in the 12th District. >>> Read more
  • IA-01Leans DemBruce Braley (D) will defeat Mike Whalen (R). Both men have impressed us in debates and frankly, for unelected officials, both strike us as some of the better candidates running for Congress this year. That said, this district is fundamentally Democratic, and we would be surprised to see Whalen hold it for his party tomorrow. >>> Read more
  • IA-02Leans GOPRep. Jim Leach (R) will win reelection over Dave Loebsack (D). Leach’s problem isn’t a strong challenger; it’s the fact that he is a perennially uninterested fundraiser in one of the most Democratic districts in the country still held by a Republican. College professor Loebsack has received some considerable grassroots support, but we pick the moderate Leach to win yet another term by at least several points. >>> Read more
  • IA-03Leans Dem
    - Rep. Leonard Boswell (D) will win reelection over Jeff Lamberti (R). The greatest obstacle to reelection for Boswell over the course of this cycle has been his health, but he has run an energetic campaign this fall and we simply doubt Lamberti will be able to topple him in a Democratic year. >>> Read more
  • IL-06Toss-upTammy Duckworth (D) will defeat Peter Roskam (R). The late trend-line in this long-deadlocked race is slightly in Duckworth’s favor, and it’s clear her personal story and credibility on Iraq has offset the district’s fundamental Republican lean. Roskam could still pull it out, but we’ll say it’s Duckworth by a smidgen. >>> Read more
  • IL-08Leans DemRep. Melissa Bean (D) will win reelection over David McSweeney (R). Republicans complain that the survey data in this race has left out anti-war Independent Bill Scheurer, but Bean’s lead on the average has been large enough that we don’t think Scheurer’s impact will be enough to matter. She has made all the right moves in this moderate-to-conservative district, and we believe she will win a second term by several points. >>> Read more
  • IL-10Leans GOPRep. Mark Kirk (R) will win reelection over Dan Seals (D). If there’s a moderate GOP incumbent in the Land of Lincoln that knows how to win in a tough year, it is Kirk, but even Republicans admit Seals’ challenge has been stronger than expected. We still pick Kirk to win, but he will likely see his margin cut to the smallest it has been since his first victory in 2000 over Lauren Beth Gash. >>> Read more
  • IN-02Leans DemJoe Donnelly (D) will unseat Rep. Chris Chocola (R). If there’s one candidate in the country who could still win after never having led in a single poll all election cycle, it’s Chris Chocola. We hear his get-out-the-vote operation is strong, but in the end, we believe that the double whammy of severe state AND federal GOP unpopularity-not to mention local controversies over time zones and toll roads-will be too much for Chocola to overcome. We believe Donnelly will prevail in a closer-than-expected race. >>> Read more
  • IN-03Likely GOPRep. Mark Souder (R) will win reelection over Tom Hayhurst (D). This Fort Wayne-based district emerged on Democrats’ radar screen very late in the cycle, but the toxic political environment for Indiana Republicans led more than a few strategists to wonder if more GOP targets in the Hoosier State couldn’t be identified. Souder has won with solid margins in this solidly GOP district, but his win percentage could be cut substantially in this year’s race against the veteran and local official Hayhurst. >>> Read more
  • IN-08Likely DemBrad Ellsworth (D) will unseat Rep. John Hostettler (R). A non-traditional campaigner who has always squeaked by through word of mouth and on a shoestring budget, Hostettler has finally met his match in Ellsworth. The national GOP’s abandonment of Hostettler may be intended to make a national example out of Ellsworth; the message is: if you do not fundraise for yourself, do not expect us to come in and save you. >>> Read more
  • IN-09Toss-upBaron Hill (D) will unseat Rep. Mike Sodrel (R). Who will win this best of three series? We’ll put a thumb on the scale for Hill, who has worked hard and run a determined campaign to reclaim his seat after taking his 2004 loss to Sodrel personally. Of the three Indiana Republicans, Sodrel is most likely to narrowly escape defeat, but that’s about the most we can say in his favor. >>> Read more
  • KY-02Leans GOPRep. Ron Lewis (R) will win reelection over Mike Weaver (D). Democrats contend that Weaver has pulled within striking distance of Lewis, but if voters in red territory are coming home to the GOP late, we bet Lewis will be one of the primary beneficiaries; this district’s deep conservatism will likely prove too much for Weaver. >>> Read more
  • KY-03Toss-upRep. Anne Northup (R) will win reelection over John Yarmuth (D).We are genuinely torn on this race. There are signs Northup is very worried about her reelection prospects; exhibit A is her recent call for Defense Secretary Rumsfeld’s resignation in this Kerry-carried Louisville district. But Yarmuth isn’t a much stronger candidate than the one Democrats fielded in 2004, when she won convincingly with over 60% of the vote. Polls show Yarmuth taking a narrow lead, but Northup is one of the savviest GOP campaigners in the House, and we’ll bet she still finds a way to win. >>> Read more
  • KY-04Toss-upKen Lucas (D) will unseat Rep. Geoff Davis (R). Of all the Kentucky districts, the Crystal Ball still foresees that Democrats’ best pickup opportunity lies in deeply red northern Kentucky. Lucas hasn’t shown the fire in the belly many in his party would have liked, and his fundraising has been dismal. But the former Blue Dog representative remains well-liked among older voters, and both state and national Republicans are in a slump. We’ll say Lucas wins a nail-biter, but we would not be shocked to see Davis win a second term. >>> Read more
  • LA-03Likely DemRep. Charlie Melancon (D) will win reelection over Craig Romero (R). The race in the Bayou of southeastern Louisiana has been remarkably quiet, which is excellent news for the incumbent, Melancon. Sources tell us he continues to b
    enefit from a post-Katrina “halo effect,” and we expect him to prevail on Election Day without the need for a December runoff. >>> Read more
  • MI-07Likely GOPTim Walberg (R) will defeat Sharon Renier (D). Is it possible Walberg alienated enough Republicans in his successful primary defeat of incumbent GOP moderate Joe Schwarz that he could face trouble in a general election? We doubt it, but allegations of sexual misconduct against a Walberg staffer certainly don’t’ help his chances against an unknown and under-funded Democrat whose only hope of winning lies in claiming a substantial share of disgruntled GOP votes. >>> Read more
  • MN-02Likely GOPRep. John Kline (R) will win reelection over Coleen Rowley (D). This race dropped off nearly everyone’s radar screen early on in the cycle, but Rowley’s name recognition as a 9/11 FBI whistleblower might yet hold Kline to a single-digit win. >>> Read more
  • NV-02Leans GOPDean Heller (R) will defeat Jill Derby (D). Of the two competitive Nevada districts, this non-Las Vegas district is the safer bet for a GOP hold. Even though some residual ill will remains from the tight GOP primary, Heller has run a solid general election race in the past few weeks, and Derby is more likely than not to fall a few points short of victory in our estimation. >>> Read more
  • NH-01Likely GOPRep. Jeb Bradley (R) will win reelection over Carol Porter-Shea (D). Some of our New Hampshire sources tell us that this race has tightened considerably in the past few weeks, and Porter-Shea’s strong anti-Iraq War views may actually be in line with a strong majority of the district’s voters. But Bradley is the more liberal of the two Granite State Republicans, and national Democrats stopped paying attention to this district when their favored candidate lost the primary. We expect Bradley to survive the Democratic wave in the Northeast. >>> Read more
  • NJ-07Leans GOPRep. Mike Ferguson (R) will win reelection over Linda Stender (D). A recent trip to this district convinced the Crystal Ball that Ferguson is taking Stender’s challenge more seriously than he has taken others in the past. Green “Stender is a Spender” signs adorn the district, and slogan may help carry the day for Ferguson in a district narrowly won by Bush in 2004. Stender’s position on the war clearly helps her, and we won’t completely rule out an upset, but we predict she will fall short of knocking off Ferguson in this expensive district. >>> Read more
  • NM-01Toss-upPatricia Madrid (D) will unseat Heather Wilson (R). Several weeks ago, this might not have been such a close call for the Crystal Ball, but even Democrats have acknowledged that Madrid has stumbled in the final stages of the campaign. A powerful Wilson television ad highlights Madrid’s painful-to-watch speechlessness as she attempts to answer a simple question on taxes during a recent debate. Wilson is clearly the stronger and more comfortable campaigner, but she makes her career in a district decreasingly hospitable to her party. We’re sticking with Madrid to ride Gov. Bill Richardson’s coattails to victory, but really, take your pick. Early voting statistics project a photo finish. >>> Read more
  • NY-03Likely GOPRep. Peter King (R) will win reelection over Dave Mejias (D). King is the last Republican left representing Long Island, and Democrats are hoping that if there’s any year they can finish him off, it’s this one. Nassau County legislator Mejias has run a creditable campaign, and King has spent more heavily from his coffers this time around than he has in more typical election cycles. Still, a truly huge wave would have to hit the South Shore to dethrone this long-serving incumbent. >>> Read more
  • NY-24Leans DemMike Arcuri (D) will defeat Ray Meier (R). National Republicans most likely shot themselves in the foot in this district by airing an ad accusing Arcuri of calling a fantasy sex phone line on taxpayer dollars; the call log clearly showed the call was misdialed, editorialists denounced the ad, and it was quickly taken off the air. But we might have picked Arcuri to win anyway: he has run the more able campaign in a district where sentiment for change is strong. Look for Meier to fall a few points shy tomorrow. >>> Read more
  • NY-29Leans GOPRep. Randy Kuhl (R) will win reelection over Eric Massa (D). The lack of a major third party presence on the ballot this year-as opposed to past years-may work to Massa’s advantage ever-so-slightly, but Kuhl has compiled a moderate record that fits the district well in his first term. On the other hand, Massa is a veteran who has raised and spent a respectable amount of money in a district that is trending away from the national GOP. We cannot entirely rule out an upset, and we do believe at least one of these upstate New York districts will flip, but we can’t bring ourselves to wager against Kuhl. >>> Read more
  • NC-08Leans GOPRep. Robin Hayes (R) will win reelection over Larry Kissell (D). Whether the national campaign committees believe us or not, we’re convinced that a close congressional race has taken place in this district. The late-to-start Kissell is working hard to remind voters in textile country of Hayes’ vote in favor of CAFTA, and the district’s urban and suburban Charlotte portions are trending towards Democrats nationally. If there is one race that has not received national attention that could surprise on Election Night, it may well be this one. Still, Hayes knows never to take his reelection campaigns for granted, and we see him winning a narrower-than-anticipated victory. >>> Read more
  • NC-11Leans DemHeath Shuler (D) will unseat Rep. Charles Taylor (R). We continue to believe that this district represents the best pickup opportunity for Democrats in the South. Over the past year, lingering questions about Shuler’s ability to adapt to political campaigning have largely been put to rest, and Taylor has not closed as strongly as he has in past cycles more hospitable to the GOP. Republicans still love to remind voters what happened last time ex-Redskins Quarterback Shuler was employed in Washington, but we bet that after November, it will be Taylor’s turn to seek out a new line of work. >>> Read more
  • OH-01Toss-upRep. Steve Chabot (R) will win reelection over John Cranley (D). In this disastrous year for Ohio Republicans, it’s easy to see why Republicans are nervous about Chabot’s prospects in this marginal district. City Councilman Cranley won 45% against Chabot six years ago and has improved considerably as a candidate in the years since. Chabot’s advantage is that the district was expanded into very heavily GOP territory in 2002 and he has won with more comfortable margins both elections since. We bet Cranley would win a rematch under the old district lines; under this decade’s lines, we give the tiniest possible advantage to Chabot, and we could easily be proven wrong tomorrow night. >>> Read more
  • OH-02Toss-upVictoria Wulsin (D) will unseat Rep. Jean Schmidt (R). Is there a congresswoman in the country more polarizing within her own district than “Mean Jean” Schmidt? We highly doubt it, and although we thought we had seen the last of this district’s competitiveness in August 2005 when Schmidt won this open seat in an unexpectedly close special election, Schmidt’s congressional tenure in the months since has been marked with controversies. Her tactless jab at Democratic Rep. John Murtha on the floor of the House last year drew loud boos and is now the subject of a Wulsin spot that makes the incumbent look foolish. Schmidt has clearly run an inept campaign, and critics have pointed out her plagiarism of a local newspaper opinion piece on Medicare. One thing is clear: if Democrat Paul Hackett were running again, he would win easily. Instead, Wulsin is an even bet to win a district she should have no business running in as a liberal doctor. The district’s extremely strong GOP underpinnings may ultimately save Schmidt once again, but we’ll call the upset for Wulsin anyway. >>> Read more
  • OH-06Likely DemCharlie Wilson (D) will defeat Chuck Blasdel (R). It is hard to believe that this swing district was originally supposed to be the ultimate toss-up open seat of 2006, but thanks to the impending Strickland landslide in Ohio’s gubernatorial contest, Blasdel can’t even hope to come close anymore. >>> Read more
  • OH-12Likely GOPRep. Pat Tiberi (R) will win reelection over Bob Shamansky (D). We are told that parts of Columbus will be voting so heavily Democratic this year that even typically safe Tiberi could be endangered, but we are disinclined to believe it. He will likely have his closest race since he first won the seat six years ago, but a Shamansky win here would represent a truly unmitigated disaster for Ohio’s GOP. We don’t think it will happen. >>> Read more
  • OH-15Toss-upMary Jo Kilroy (D) will unseat Rep. Deborah Pryce (R). That may be the moral of the story in this, the other Columbus-area district, where we believe Pryce is now the underdog to win reelection in spite of her prominent role in the GOP leadership. The role may actually be her downfall against county commissioner Kilroy, whose supporters are better organized and poised to take advantage of the pro-Democratic political atmosphere. Pryce has been very aggressive, but in many respects her rustiness as a campaigner has been visible. We predict a Democratic gain here with low-to-moderate confidence. >>> Read more
  • OH-18Leans DemZack Space (D) will defeat Joy Padgett (R). Republicans have only themselves to blame for frittering away this district to a candidate who would never be competitive under ordinary circumstances. Democrats have a simple message here: Heard of Bob Ney? Meet his ethically-challenged handpicked replacement, Joy Padgett! Enough said, except, of course, the rejoinder: Democrats, meet your new probable one-term wonder, Zack Space. >>> Read more
  • PA-06Leans DemLois Murphy (D) will unseat Rep. Jim Gerlach (R). Let’s do the math: Gerlach won by merely 2 percent in both 2002 and 2004, years when parties were at about even strength in Pennsylvania. Is this year at least two percent less Republican? You bet. Of course, many in the district argue that Gerlach has run a more disciplined and aggressive effort against Murphy this time around and that midterm election voters are more likely to be the constituents who know him and like him best. But Murphy has out-raised him consistently and has learned from her mistakes two years ago as well. We would be fairly surprised to see Gerlach hold on tomorrow. >>> Read more
  • PA-07Leans DemJoe Sestak (D) will unseat Rep. Curt Weldon (R). Weldon’s reelection prospects were 50/50 at best even before FBI agents raided his daughter’s home to seal evidence that she was improperly lobbying for a foreign client with ties to Slobodan Milosevic and possible government business for Weldon’s consideration. Now, it is very difficult to see how Sestak could lose this race, which seemed so far out of reach for Democrats only one year ago. >>> Read more
  • PA-08Toss-upRep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R) will win reelection over Patrick Murphy (D). Of all the eastern Pennsy
    lvania GOP incumbents, the Crystal Ball believes Fitzpatrick is in the best shape. A conservative who doesn’t rock the boat, Fitzpatrick has ably criticized Murphy’s lack of details in explaining his position on Iraq, and scored a few points with a commercial featuring an embarrassing clip of Iraq veteran Murphy’s appearance on MSNBC’s Hardball. National Democrats insist Murphy still stands an excellent chance to win, and this race could still go either way. But Fitzpatrick’s road to 50 percent plus one is much easier than that of others in his delegation, and we’re putting our thumb on the scale for him. >>> Read more
  • PA-10Leans DemChris Carney (D) will unseat Rep. Don Sherwood (R). Two words: mistress and choking. Sherwood’s substantial settlement agreement and too-late mea culpa lead us to continue to believe he is in serious hot water tomorrow. Carney’s devastating ads have featured Republicans repudiating Sherwood’s behavior, and this may prove to be the one district where the Foley scandal caused an unmistakable and long-term refocusing of a race on personal behavior and moral values. >>> Read more
  • TX-17Likely DemRep. Chet Edwards (D) will win reelection over Van Taylor (R). Sure, the president will be voting for Taylor, but in this case his opinion will be worth just as much as everyone else’s. Taylor is a young veteran and an attractive candidate, but it’s likely that Edwards’s incumbency and considerable political skills will pull him through yet another election in this severely red district. >>> Read more
  • TX-22Toss-upNick Lampson (D) will defeat Shelley Sekula-Gibbs (R). We really do wonder about this district. Republicans chose to gamble on expensive voter education campaigns here and in Florida to salvage scandal-tarred seats. Late word on the street is that party efforts are finally paying off in both places, at least in part because awareness of the special situations seems to be high among the midterm electorate, which skews affluent and well-educated. Still, we believe a write-in vote for “Sekula-Gibbs” is a lot to ask of most voters, and we tend to think Lampson still has a very thin advantage–for the full term, that is–going into Election Day. >>> Read more
  • TX-23Leans GOPRep. Henry Bonilla (R) will win reelection over Ciro Rodriguez (D). The fact that this race has been practically inaudible on the national stage since the district’s creation this summer is very good news for Bonilla, who will be dominating the field in the open primary tomorrow. The question, of course, is whether he will reach 50 percent in this race, which might as well be held in Louisiana. If he is held under 50 percent, we believe it will be Rodriguez who advances to the runoff, although businessman Lukin Gilliland has an outside shot. This newly configured district is expansive as ever and poses numerous message communication difficulties, meaning that Bonilla’s insurmountable cash edge may enable him to run circles around the competition even if Democrats are the district’s political majority. >>> Read more
  • VT-ALLikely DemPeter Welch (D) will defeat Martha Rainville (R). It’s conceivable Rainville could make this race close in another year, but the Crystal Ball foresees a relatively easy Welch win in 2006. Why Republicans have continued to target Vermont so late in the season-as though they think they can creep up “syrup-titiously” in late October-is beyond us (sorry, it’s the end of the campaign, and sometimes we can’t help but get carried away!). >>> Read more
  • VA-02Toss-upRep. Thelma Drake (R) will win reelection over Phil Kellam (D). If we could allow ourselves NOT to call any race, it would be this one. After all, we in the Old Dominion have to live with the result! Nonetheless, we believe it’s possible that Kellam will closely track Democratic Senate candidate Jim Webb’s numbers in this district and lose narrowly. Our sources tell us that Drake has run a smarter voter outreach program and that the candidates’ joint appearances have given voters the impression that Kellam is under-prepared for Washington. The Kellam name is gold in Virginia Beach, but we’re not convinced the challenger has done enough to put the race away, and Norfolk’s newspaper endorsed Webb and Drake. This race is tight as a tick, but put a gun to our head and we’ll say Drake. >>> Read more
  • VA-10Leans GOPRep. Frank Wolf (R) will win reelection over Judy Feder (D). Feder should not be competitive in this district, but her fundraising has dazzled and Wolf has been late out of the starting gate in the fall campaign. This district will be closely contested between the Senate candidates, and we will bet some Webb voters break for Wolf, who has earned a strong reputation for constituent service over his decades in Congress. In the end, the Crystal Ball forecasts Wolf will win by an unimpressive margin compared to his past performances. >>> Read more
  • WA-08Toss-upRep. Dave Reichert (R)will win reelection overDarcy Burner (D). As a freshman, Reichert has had a big red target on his back all throughout this cycle, but his moves to moderate positions on issues such as stem cell research have met with applause in this suburban Seattle district. Republicans are now optimistic about holding this seat, and though we believe it will go down to the wire, we think Burner will fall just short of knocking off this GOP incumbent. >>> Read more
  • WV-01Likely DemRep. Alan Mollohan (D) will win reelection over Chris Wakim (R). As the hubbub over Mollohan’s earmarking faded, so did Wakim’s chances of turning this northern West Virginia race into a barnburner. We believe Mollohan could actually prevail with a handsome majority tomorrow. >>> Read more
  • WV-02Likely GOPRep. Shelley Moore Capito (R) will win reelection over Mike Callaghan (D). Something tells us that if the Democratic wave could spill over the mountains and splash West Virginia, it would. We’re doubtful Callaghan will be able to ride Sen. Byrd’s coattails all the way to victory this year, but Moore Capito could win her closest race since 2000. >>> Read more
  • Final 2006 House Crystal Ball HotRaceTM Readings

    Republican Held Seats in Play: 70 (162 Safe/Solid R)

    Likely R (10) Leans R (13) R Toss-up (17) D Toss-up (18) Leans D (9) Likely D (3)
    CO-06 (Tancredo) CA-04 (Doolittle) AZ-01 (Renzi) AZ-05 (Hayworth) FL-13 (OPEN) AZ-08 (OPEN)
    FL-08 (Keller) CA-50 (Bilbray) KS-02 (Ryun) CA-11 (Pombo) IN-02 (Chocola) CO-07 (OPEN)
    FL-09 (OPEN) CO-05 (OPEN) KY-03 (Northup) CO-04 (Musgrave) IA-01 (OPEN) IN-08 (Hostettler)
    IN-03 (Souder) IL-10 (Kirk) MN-01 (Gutknecht) CT-02 (Simmons) NY-24 (OPEN)
    MI-07 (OPEN) IA-02 (Leach) MN-06 (OPEN) CT-04 (Shays) NC-11 (Taylor)
    MN-02 (Kline) KY-02 (Lewis) NE-03 (OPEN) CT-05 (Johnson) OH-18 (OPEN)
    NH-01 (Bradley) NV-02 (OPEN) NV-03 (Porter) FL-16 (OPEN) PA-06 (Gerlach)
    NY-03 (King) NJ-07 (Ferguson) NY-19 (Kelly) FL-22 (Shaw) PA-07 (Weldon)
    OH-12 (Tiberi) NY-29 (Kuhl) NY-25 (Walsh) ID-01 (OPEN) PA-10 (Sherwood)
    WV-02 (Capito) NC-08 (Hayes) NY-26 (Reynolds) IL-06 (OPEN)
    VA-10 (Wolf) OH-01 (Chabot) IN-09 (Sodrel)
    TX-23 (Bonilla) PA-04 (Hart) KY-04 (Davis)
    WA-05 (McMorris) PA-08 (Fitzpatrick) NH-02 (Bass)
    VA-02 (Drake) NM-01 (Wilson)
    WA-08 (Reichert) NY-20 (Sweeney)
    WI-08 (OPEN) OH-02 (Schmidt)
    WY-AL (Cubin) OH-15 (Pryce)
    TX-22 (OPEN)
    WV-01 (Mollohan)
    VT-AL (OPEN)
    TX-17 (Edwards)
    IA-03 (Boswell) OH-06 (OPEN)
    IL-08 (Bean) LA-03 (Melancon)
    GA-12 (Barrow) GA-08 (Marshall) IN-07 (Carson)
    Likely R (0) Leans R (0) R Toss-up (0) D Toss-up (1) Leans D (3) Likely D (6)

    class="highlight">Democratic Held Seats in Play: 10 (193 Safe/Solid D)

    The Brutal B – November 6, 2006: +25 to +33 D

    Click here for individual House race analysis.

    THE GOVERNORSHIPS: +7 Dems = 29D, 21R

    The Crystal Ball continues that Democrats will easily claim a majority of the statehouses after the votes are counted, moving from 22 today to 28-30. Although we could be surprised elsewhere, the gubernatorial race that we are most torn about is Minnesota’s, where we are calling it for the Democrat simply because of the state’s strong Democratic tide.

    Note that the endangered Democratic incumbent governors may all win–not because they are strong, but because the GOP is so weak this year (think Michigan, Oregon, Maine, Wisconsin, and Illinois). Also keep in mind that even strong GOP governors may lose simply because of the R next to their name (think Maryland and Minnesota). Here are our final picks:

    Final Governor Predictions

  • AlaskaLeans GOPSarah Palin (R) will defeat Tony Knowles (D). Our sources continue to tell us that Knowles is running hard as ever for his old job and may be closing the gap, but that Alaskans are ready for a fresh face. >>>Read More
  • ArkansasLikely DemMike Beebe (D) will defeat Asa Hutchinson (R). Hutchinson chose the wrong year to migrate from Washington back to state politics, and Beebe might as well start practicing the oath of office. >>>Read More
  • CaliforniaLikely GOPGov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) will win reelection over Phil Angelides (D). The Governator continues to dominate his perfect foil Angelides, whose most substantial pre-election press coverage involved looking on as John Kerry badly “botched” a joke. >>>Read More
  • ColoradoLikely DemBill Ritter (D) will defeat Bob Beauprez (R). It is a shame that the race between two of the most competent candidates for governor anywhere isn’t closer, but 2006 is a mile-high year for Colorado Democrats and it’s Ritter’s turn to lead. >>>Read More
  • FloridaLeans GOPCharlie Crist (R) will defeat Jim Davis (D). Davis may end up making this race closer than expected, but we expect “Chain Gang Charlie” to carry the day for Florida’s GOP. >>>Read More
  • GeorgiaLikely GOPGov. Sonny Perdue (R) will win reelection over Mark Taylor (D). Yes, we remember what happened last time around when everyone thought the incumbent governor was a shoo-in, but this year we bestow upon Mark Taylor the award for winning the nation’s pettiest pointless primary. >>>Read More
  • IowaLeans DemChet Culver (D) will defeat Jim Nussle (R). The Hawkeye State’s candidates are at about even strength, so the lay of the land leads us to tilt the race to Culver. >>>Read More
  • IdahoToss-upButch Otter (R) will defeat Jerry Brady (D). You know things are getting bad for Republicans when their most popular politician in Idaho is hanging on for dear life, but we’ll still bet Otter turns back Brady, who hopes his second time running is the charm. >>>Read More
  • IllinoisLeans DemGov. Rod Blagojevich (D) will win reelection over Judy Baar Topinka (R). Blagojevich continues to underwhelm, but it may take several more election cycles for Illinois Republicans to finally get their act together. >>>Read More
  • KansasLikely DemGov. Kathleen Sebelius (D) will win reelection over Jim Barnett (R). Sebelius will prevail with serious crossover Republican support, enough that the congressional GOP worries she could help topple Second District Rep. Jim Ryun (R) in the process. >>>Read More
  • MassachusettsLikely DemDeval Patrick (D) will defeat Kerry Healey (R). Healey simply is not as skilled a candidate as her GOP predecessors, and Patrick will end his party’s 16 year exodus from the Bay State’s governorship. >>>Read More
  • MarylandLeans DemMartin O’Malley (D) will unseat Gov. Bob Ehrlich (R). Ehrlich is a tough campaigner who has taken to urging his supporters to vote absentee to avoid election administration problems, but we’re inclined to believe O’Malley will narrowly prevail, no matter how the vote is sliced. >>>Read More
  • MaineLeans DemGov. John Baldacci (D) will win reelection over Chandler Woodcock (R). In any other year, Baldacci could easily find himself in deep trouble, but we think Woodcock will fall just short even as Sen. Olympia Snowe (R) cruises to victory. >>>Read More
  • MichiganLeans DemGov. Jennifer Granholm (D) will win reelection over Dick DeVos (R). Michigan seems to have moved back to its Democratic roots slightly in the final month of the campaign, and Granholm will edge DeVos as she points a finger at Washington for her state’s economic woes. >>>Read More
  • MinnesotaToss-upMike Hatch (D) will unseat Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R). Though Hatch is a dreadfully unexciting career pol and Pawlenty has been a moderately popular govenor, the anti-GOP storm in Minnesota may well put a second term for Pawlenty out of reach; we’re not at all sure about this one. One might figure Hatch’s comments calling a reporter a “Republican whore” would blow up in his face, but Pawlenty remains well below the 50 percent mark. >>>Read More
  • NevadaLeans GOPJim Gibbons (R) will defeat Dina Titus (D). Many observers are mildly surprised that allegations of a drunken sexual advance in a parking garage haven’t marred Gibbons’ poll numbers more, but Gibbons appears to have recovered his footing for now. Titus’s stridency regarding the allegations may not be playing to her advantage. >>>Read More
  • New YorkSolid DemEliot Spitzer (D) will defeat John Faso (R). This lopsided victory has been years in the making. Fuggitaboutit!!! >>>Read More
  • OhioLikely DemTed Strickland (D) will defeat Ken Blackwell (R). In the wake of the Taft scandals, Republicans don’t stand a chance of holding the governorship here – bad news for party efforts in 2008. >>>Read More
  • OregonToss-upGov. Ted Kulongoski (D) will win reelection over Ron Saxton (R). We doubt the very weak Kulongoski could win reelection in any other year, but at the moment we’ll bet he just sneaks by Saxton in this heated battle. >>>Read More
  • PennsylvaniaLikely DemGov. Ed Rendell (D) will win reelection over Lynn Swann (R). “Fast Eddie” has thoroughly intercepted Swann’s much-hyped challenge, and the only remaining question is whether he can take some down-ballot Democrats to the governor. >>>Read More
  • Rhode IslandLeans GOPGov. Don Carcieri (R) will win reelection over Charlie Fogarty (D). The Crystal Ball has a hunch Rhode Island voters will split their ticket by voting for Carcieri rather than Chafee; after all, Carcieri doesn’t have to vote on which party gets to control Congress. >>>Read More
  • WisconsinLeans DemGov. Jim Doyle (D) will win reelection over Mark Green (R). Doyle’s first term met with lukewarm public approval, but in the climate of 2006, the biggest consequence of this race could be that Democrats will capture Green’s House seat. >>>Read More
  • Final 2006 Governor Crystal Ball HotRaceTM Readings

    Republican Held Seats up for Election in 2006: 22 (out of 28 held)

    Solid R (6) Likely R (4) Leans R (4) R Toss-up (2) D Toss-up (0) Leans D (1) Likely D (4) Solid D (1)
    CT (Rell) AL (Riley) AK (OPEN) MN (Pawlenty) MD (Ehrlich) AR (OPEN) NY (OPEN)
    HI (Lingle) CA (Schwarzenegger) FL (OPEN) ID (OPEN) CO (OPEN)
    NE (Heineman) GA (Perdue) >NV (OPEN) MA (OPEN)
    SD (Rounds) SC (Sanford) RI (Carcieri) OH (OPEN)
    VT (Douglas)
    TX (Perry)
    WY (Freudenthal)
    TN (Bredesen)
    WI (Doyle) PA (Rendell)
    MI (Granholm) OK (Henry)
    ME (Baldacci) NM (Richardson)
    IA (OPEN) NH (Lynch)
    OR (Kulongoski) IL (Blagojevich) KS (Sebelius) AZ (Napolitano)
    Solid R (0) Likely R (0) Leans R (0) R Toss-up (0) D Toss-up (1) Leans D (5) Likely D (1) Solid D (7)

    Democratic Held Seats up for Election: 14 (out of 22 held)

    The Brutal B – November 6, 2006: +6 to +8 D

    Click here for individual Governor race analysis.