Saturday, October 07, 2006

Signs of a blowout

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Given "the news for the past 10 days or so," Stuart Rothenberg "wonder[s] how Democrats can possibly fail in their efforts to take both the House and the Senate".

Rothenberg doesn't go so far as to offer a firm prediction, but: "The national atmospherics don’t merely favor Democrats; they set the stage for a blowout of cosmic proportions next month." The Republicans "look inept" and are "flirting with disaster". So much so that "[a] true blowout is now possible".

It's the Woodward book, it's the Foley affair, it's Iraq, it's vulnerable GOP incumbents like Santorum in Pennsylvania and Allen in Virginia and weak GOP candidates like Corker in Tennessee. "Republicans still have a month to 'localize' enough races to hold onto one or both chambers of Congress," but the national is overwhelming the local and the Republican strategy may not work.

I think it's far too premature to predict anything resembling a "blowout" (not that Rothenberg does). Winning back the House is a real possibility for the Democrats, but winning back the Senate would mean beating the Republicans in seven of eight close races (Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Virginia) -- for more on this, see Charles Franklin's recent handicapping piece at TNR.

Democrats have momentum, but winning Missouri, Tennessee, and Virginia would be an astonishing accomplishment. Even New Jersey poses a challenge, but wouldn't it be something if the Democrats won the other seven closes races and lost New Jersey?

Again, all this assumes that these state campaigns remain national in scope and that the breaks continue to fall the Democrats' way. But I have learned -- as many have learned, loss after loss -- not to underestimate the Republicans. There are promising signs, but there's also a long road ahead.

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