Friday, October 31, 2008

The 'Godless' Campaign

Kay Hagan, the Democrat who is challenging Sen. Elizabeth Dole in North Carolina, announced she would file suit against Dole yesterday, claiming that she has been libeled by Dole's TV commercial that says Hagan is "godless."

It wouldn't surprise me if there's something to be said for Hagan's case. But it's a time-honored tradition for politicians who are losing to question their opponents' moral character. It's how politics is played.

Besides, the visage of God has been strangely absent from the proceedings this year. Sarah Palin's faith hasn't been mentioned frequently. Nor has Barack Obama's — once Jeremiah Wright departed the scene. But Dole's ad is proof that religion remains a potent issue for a politician to exploit, especially in a place like North Carolina, where many conservative Christians live.

Dole probably feels like she's under siege these days. Lately, she has been one of several Republicans in close Senate races who have been targeted by labor unions, according to a report in USA Today.

But does that justify labeling your opponent as "godless?"

Even if Hagan takes the matter to court, she won't receive a judicial ruling until after the voters have handed down their ruling.

And few, if any, voters will be able to dismiss the memory of the Dole campaign's assertion.

It reminds me of a scene in "Anatomy of a Murder," in which the defense attorney, James Stewart, is told that a question he has asked of a witness is improper.

Stewart's character, of course, didn't ask the question because he wanted to get the witness' answer. He asked it because it was a way of introducing something into the record that he had been restricted from mentioning.

He apologizes and withdraws the question, after which the judge instructs the jury that it is to "disregard" both the question and the answer.

When Stewart returns to the defense counsel's table, the defendant leans over and whispers, "How can a jury disregard what it's already heard?"

"They can't," Stewart replies. "They can't."

North Carolina's voters will go to the polls next Tuesday with Dole's "godless" allegation thundering in their ears.

The last time he assessed it, Larry Sabato, the director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, judged the North Carolina Senate race to be a "toss-up." That was nearly four weeks ago, on Oct. 4. I wonder what his opinion is, now that the Republicans have made a blatant effort to engage conservative Christians in the last-minute debate.

The Final Weekend

There are a few things worth contemplating as we begin the final weekend of the 2008 presidential campaign.
  • For openers, it was on the Friday before the election in 2004 that a taped message from Osama bin Laden was played on Al-Jazeera.

    In that message, bin Laden acknowledged his culpability in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks for the first time.

    Many political observers sensed a shift in voter attitudes that weekend, culminating in George W. Bush's re-election the next week.

    Some speculated that bin Laden timed the release of the tape in an attempt to influence the outcome of the election.

    Is bin Laden planning something similar this weekend?

  • Eric Zorn of the Chicago Tribune has been writing this week about his "08 reasons" why, first, John McCain would win and then, yesterday, why Barack Obama would win.

    His final reason why Obama will win — Obama’s been lucky — ties in with what I just mentioned.

    It's true that Obama has been lucky in this campaign, as Zorn writes.

    "Things have been relatively quiet all year on the terror and national security fronts — McCain’s strengths. And the major crisis of the campaign season — the economic meltdown — not only played into one of Obama’s perceived strong suits, it also caused McCain to appear impulsive and indecisive in the face of a sudden challenge."

    Eric Zorn
    Chicago Tribune

    Zorn says he thinks Obama's luck will hold through the election.

    I hope he's right — for all our sakes.

    But, even though he's been mostly quiet the last couple of years, I expect bin Laden to make some noise after the next president takes office.

    Whether he will choose to remain quiet through the election remains a mystery to be resolved.

  • At this point, it appears virtually certain that Obama will receive more newspaper endorsements than McCain.

    In most previous elections, Republicans have received more endorsements than Democrats — in spite of their protestations of a "liberal bias."

    But, in some exceptional elections, when the "Republican brand" has taken a beating, the Democrat wins more newspaper endorsements than the Republican.

    That appears to be the case in 2008. Editor & Publisher reports that, as of Thursday, Obama held more than a 2-to-1 advantage over McCain in endorsements.

    And many of Obama's endorsements have come from large metropolitan newspapers while the majority of McCain's endorsements have come from small-town newspapers.

    That means, as E&P observes, that Obama's endorsements represent a circulation of more than 21 million while McCain's endorsements represent a circulation of about 7 million — roughly a 3-to-1 advantage.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Taking a Principled Stand

We are a few days away from the finish line of what has been the longest, most engrossing national campaign in America's history.

As such, we have been witnessing a flurry of last-minute editorial activity as newspapers take sides, endorsing either Barack Obama or John McCain.

A few days ago, I wrote about the need for college newspapers to get involved and to encourage political participation by the young. I was gratified to see a number of endorsement editorials popping up on college newspaper web sites in recent days, and I hope that inspires young people to vote.

But, occasionally, I run across a college newspaper like the Loyola Phoenix of Loyola University in Chicago.

The editors of the Phoenix apparently gave the matter a great deal of thought, then decided not to endorse anyone because to do so would suggest an absence of objectivity. And that would damage their ability to report the news.

I commend the editors for taking a principled stand.

I might have been inclined to dismiss it as a cop-out if not for the final sentence in the editorial:

"The only thing we endorse is voting."

You Say You Want a Revolution?

"It could be that college students will do like they do everything else: cramming for a test, or whatever, and procrastinate."

Susan MacManus
Political scientist
University of South Florida

In spite of a number of efforts to mobilize young voters, an article in the Orlando Sentinel hints that electoral participation by people under the age of 35 may not be as great as change-minded activists supporting Barack Obama have been hoping it will be.

Aaron Deslatte and Vicki McClure report in the Sentinel that the early voting period in Florida has drawn large numbers of blacks, older voters and Democrats.

"But voters younger than 35 — especially the college-age group that has drawn so much attention from Democrat Barack Obama's campaign — are doing what they have largely done in elections past: staying home."

The Sentinel says that, of the nearly 1.5 million people who voted in the first nine days of early voting in Florida,
  • nearly one-quarter were black,

  • more than half were over 55

  • and more than half were Democrats.
"Young people are turning out in disproportionately low numbers," the Sentinel reports. "Though major registration efforts this year boosted their totals to nearly 25% of the total electorate, voters younger than 35 represent only 15% of early voters, making them the worst-performing demographic group in the analysis."

Political observers were encouraged earlier this year by the turnout among young voters in the primaries and caucuses that propelled Obama to his nomination. Under-performing during the casual early voting period — in which roughly one-fifth of Florida's voters have already voted, ostensibly to avoid even longer lines on Election Day — does not logically imply greater participation by young voters in this election.

Democrats have been expecting increases in participation by blacks and Democrats.

Considering the financial crisis, older voters may be up for grabs in this election, although they have tended to vote conservatively in past elections. Thus, it is harder to draw conclusions about the early turnout among those over 55.

More than 30 states allow early voting. Unlike elections past, few — if any — require voters to justify their decision to cast what once was called an "absentee" ballot.

As a result, reports Jennifer Steinhauer of the New York Times, voters who have made up their minds have been descending upon polling places in record numbers.

If the Sentinel's figures are representative of the rest of the nation, blacks have been energized by the presence of a black candidate on the ballot, and Democrats have been energized by conditions that favor their candidates.

Older voters may be motivated, as one voter told the New York Times, by the prospect of voting quickly.

Arthur Schuetz, 62, voted in Nevada earlier this week and told the Times, "In New Hampshire where we came from, it is not socially acceptable to do anything but go to the polls on Election Day and stand in the snow talking with all your neighbors. But here you can vote in five minutes and go home. It’s super."

But Obama and the Democrats have been depending upon increased participation among young voters to close the deal.

What will happen if young voters don't participate?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Choosing Up Sides

I posted my prediction for the presidential election a couple of days ago. Included in my post were dozens of links to newspaper endorsements of either Barack Obama or John McCain.

Endorsements continue to come in, and, although most of the news has been good for the Obama campaign, McCain has been receiving more endorsements in the South lately — dampening earlier enthusiasm that suggested Obama would be in position to win Southern states that haven't voted for a Democrat in more than a generation.

For example, McCain has been endorsed lately by:Outside the South, McCain has picked up a few endorsements, here and there:But the editorial momentum has been with Obama in this election campaign:And I'm particularly glad to be seeing editorial activity from the college newspapers:Elections are about everyone's needs. Young people need to be involved, and their school newspapers can play a valuable role in motivating them to participate.

"Without a journal, you cannot unite a community," Gandhi said, and I've always believed he was right.

But I also believe Michael Graham when he writes, in the Boston Herald, that objective journalism has been the loser in this year's election.

On both sides of the political spectrum.

And, as a lifelong advocate of a free press, I am saddened by that development.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Ego Has Landed

Following his conviction in his corruption trial on Monday, Sen. Ted Stevens is due to resume his campaign for re-election in Alaska on Wednesday, reports the Anchorage Daily News.

Even though both of the candidates on the national Republican ticket, John McCain and Sarah Palin, called on Stevens to resign Tuesday.

"Stevens, 84, faces a challenge of historic proportions with just one week before the election," write Sean Cockerham and Don Hunter in the Daily News. "He'd be the first convicted U.S. senator ever elected, on appeal or not."

Due to the rather unorthodox nature of Stevens' race against Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, voters can't be blamed for being unsure about a few things.

Tom Kizzia of the Daily News tried to anticipate and answer all of the readers' questions.

For example ...
  1. Can Stevens run for re-election, even though he's been convicted of a crime? Yes.

  2. If Stevens is re-elected, can he keep his Senate seat if he loses his appeal? That depends on his colleagues in the Senate.

  3. If it is necessary to replace Stevens, how would his successor be chosen? That's uncertain because the law was changed twice in 2004 and, while the two laws agree to a point, there is some uncertainty about an interim appointment.
Stevens isn't due to be sentenced until January 26.

In his initial statements following his conviction, Stevens sounded like a man who believes the jury was a voting group that didn't get the message and he was trying, once again, to win the jurors over. He was angry, defiant, as he proclaimed, "I am innocent!"

"Uncle Ted" hasn't lost many votes over the years.

If Stevens believes he can pull it off on appeal by being the political infighter he's always been, who can blame him?

He has carefully cultivated an image of bringing home the bacon for his constituents, an image that may still play well in Alaska, with a weak economy and oil prices dropping dramatically in recent weeks.

Voters may conclude his seniority means economic clout for the state — and that may be especially true of Alaska natives, who represent about one-sixth of the state's population and depend on many of the projects Stevens has supported over the years.

Common sense would suggest that the voters would not send an 84-year-old man back to Washington for six years, especially since it's not even clear he would be allowed to remain in office a week after the next president is sworn in.

But stranger things have happened in American politics.

Monday, October 27, 2008

My Prediction in the Presidential Race

"[T]he balance of opinion could change, as it has several times in this campaign, and as it has in the past.

  "Harry Truman was trailing Thomas E. Dewey by 5% in the last Gallup poll in 1948, conducted between Oct. 15 and 25 — the same margin by which Mr. Obama seems to be leading now.

  "But on Nov. 2, 18 days after Gallup's first interviews and eight days after its last, Truman ended up winning 50% to 45%. Gallup may well have gotten it right when in the field; opinion could just have changed."

Michael Barone

I'm 48 years old (49 in about a month), and I've been interested in and observing presidential elections for the last 40 years.

In four decades, I don't think I've ever seen a presidential election campaign that was as capricious as this one.

About a month ago, Barack Obama began to build a lead in the race that, according to some polls, went beyond double digits. That led to some astonishing things.

I heard polls that suggested tight races in states like North Dakota and Montana.

I even heard it suggested that Alaska, the home of the Republican running mate and a GOP stalwart in the half-century of its existence as a state, might vote Democratic if Ted Stevens was convicted in his corruption trial.

Today, a guilty verdict was handed down in Stevens' case, but I don't think it will necessarily cost John McCain the state.

I do, however, think it will make the outcome closer than it would have been.

Less than a week ago, the Associated Press reported that McCain narrowed the gap to a single point in the days following the third debate.

And talk of another cliffhanger was in the air.

Who knows where things will stand a week from today, when the votes are counted?

In the closing days of the campaign, the Philadelphia Inquirer has written about the effort both Obama and McCain have made to win the so-called "red states."

Larry Eichel reports in the Inquirer that McCain has been forced to play defense in the Republican strongholds, but he and his campaign staff continue to believe that one "blue state" could flip sides on Election Day — Pennsylvania.

Eichel writes that Republican strategists conceded awhile ago that the Obama campaign would make gains in some places that traditionally vote for the GOP and that they believed Michigan and Pennsylvania, "with their older populations and socially conservative Democrats," were the best targets to make up for those losses.

But, as Eichel observes, the Republicans have given up on Michigan, leaving only Pennsylvania as a legitimate opportunity.

It may look like a longshot. Pennsylvania hasn't voted for a Republican in 20 years. Yet Eichel suggests that, if McCain can, somehow, capture Pennsylvania, he can still win the election even if he loses Colorado, Iowa and New Mexico (which I now think he will) and Virginia (which I still think he won't).

In making the following predictions, I have reviewed past vote totals, considered newspaper endorsements (the links to many are included in this post) and consulted — to a lesser degree — recent poll results.

But I want to make it clear that I haven't just reviewed the latest polls to see who is leading where and by how much.

I've also checked to see what the approval ratings are.

And I've tried to balance them against voting results in the past and a general assessment of current moods.

A political scientist whose opinions I respect, Michael Barone, wrote a timely article about polling for the Wall Street Journal. When he says that reading polls correctly is "more art than science," he's absolutely right.

Of course, I've tried to keep an eye on the economic indicators and various important local races that could play key roles in the outcome of the presidential race.

They're all pieces of the same jigsaw puzzle.

Much has been said in recent weeks about Obama's inability to "close the deal." Given the poor economy and the unpopular war, Obama should have a double-digit lead over McCain, I've been told.

Have some voters been resisting the Obama candidacy? Is it racial?

I don't know if part of it is racial. Maybe it is.

In my opinion, several factors are at work here:
  • At least part of it may have something to do with the fact that the "surge" in Iraq appears to have worked well enough that the Bush administration is reportedly expanding its plans for withdrawing the troops.

    A year ago, the war was expected to be the most contentious issue in the campaign.

  • Another part may have to do with the fact that, while the economy continues to struggle, Americans have seen a sharp decline in gas prices recently. And the leading indicators were up in September.

    The stock market still resembles a runaway roller coaster, and some votes may depend on whether it enjoys a triple-digit gain or suffers a triple-digit loss the day before the election.

  • And I think part of it is uncertainty about the participation level of the young.

    Jurek Martin writes about that in the Financial Times, saying, "Peak turnout among the under-30s was 55% in 1972, the first election after the voting age was lowered from 21 to 18. That had slipped to about 40% by 2000, but its rise four years ago reflected the intensity of a campaign, held as the war in Iraq became bogged down, that produced a record overall participation."

    It can be more problematic for pollsters to attempt to measure the voting attitudes of people under 30 than any other age group. As Martin points out, many people who are under 30 use only mobile phones these days, and there is no public directory for those numbers.

    And some of the questions that pollsters use to differentiate between an ordinary respondent and a "likely voter" tend to disqualify young voters who will be voting for the first time — because they have no prior history of participation.

    Sort of a Catch-22, isn't it? Can't vote if you're not old enough, but pollsters only give respondents the heft of the "likely voter" designation if they've voted before.

    It's kind of tough for 18- or 19-year-olds to meet that standard.

    Voters under 30 supported Kerry in 2004, but they represented only 17% of the total vote. Voters over 30 supported Bush.

    Will young voters feel more inclined to participate in 2008? And if they do, how will the pollsters be able to tell ahead of time?
It's hard to measure those elements in the equation — just as it's hard to measure how many votes will be influenced by race.

But if race plays a significant role in the final outcome, that will have to be something that historians and political scientists will determine after studying the results at length and in depth.

Circumstances may make it a topic of conversation on Election Night, but anything more than speculation will require extensive post-election inquiry and the gathering of evidence to support the findings.

In other words, if race is a factor in the outcome, I don't think we'll know until it's much too late to do anything about it.
I predict that McCain will win these states:
  1. Alabama (9): McCain 59%, Obama 41% — Obama has the support of the Tuscaloosa News and the Montgomery Advertiser, but I don't think it will help him. Jimmy Carter, in 1976, was the last Democrat to receive a majority of the vote in Alabama.

    The state's largest newspaper, the Birmingham News, endorsed McCain. No surprise — it endorsed Bush four years ago.

  2. Alaska (3): McCain 57%, Obama 43% — The GOP should hold Sarah Palin’s home state — in spite of Ted Stevens' conviction and the fact that the Anchorage Daily News endorsed Obama. (For the record, the Daily News also endorsed Kerry in 2004.)

  3. Arizona (10): McCain 57%, Obama 43% — McCain should win his home state, but there are many retirees in Arizona who are nervous about the financial crisis.

    Still, it should surprise no one that the Arizona Republic endorsed McCain.

  4. Arkansas (6): McCain 55%, Obama 45% — Obama was endorsed by the liberal alternative newspaper in Little Rock, the Arkansas Times, but Arkansas hasn't voted for a non-native Democrat since supporting Jimmy Carter in 1976.

  5. Florida (27): McCain 49%, Obama 47% — Florida is a hotly contested (as usual) "swing" state that McCain absolutely must have to win in the Electoral College.

    McCain might not win the presidency even if he carries Florida, but he is virtually certain to lose if he does not.

    He has been endorsed by the Tampa Tribune and the Bradenton Herald.

    The Herald supported Kerry against Bush in 2004.

    Obama has been endorsed by the Miami Herald, the Orlando Sentinel, the St. Petersburg Times, the West Palm Beach Post, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, the Daytona Beach News-Journal, Melbourne's Florida Today, the Lakeland Ledger and the Naples Daily News. The Lakeland and Naples papers endorsed Bush four years ago.

  6. Georgia (15): McCain 53%, Obama 43% — McCain's campaign has been endorsed by the Savannah Morning News. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution supports Obama.

    Neither is a surprise. Nor should the outcome be one, either — although Obama has not been without his victories in the South. Case in point would be Sunday's endorsement from the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, which endorsed Bush four years ago.

  7. Idaho (4): McCain 64%, Obama 35% — Does it surprise you that the Idaho Statesman endorsed Obama? It shouldn't. The Statesman endorsed Kerry in 2004. Kerry still lost Idaho, 69% to 30%.

  8. Indiana (11): McCain 53%, Obama 47% — The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette endorsed Obama. Its endorsement of Kerry in 2004 didn't help him in Indiana; the Democrat lost there, 60% to 39%.

    Obama also has been endorsed by the Richmond Palladium-Item, which endorsed Bush in 2004, and the Muncie Star Press, which endorsed no one.

    The Indianapolis Star reported Sunday that its editorial board "remains evenly divided" and won't endorse anyone. The paper supported Bush four years ago.

  9. Kansas (6): McCain 56%, Obama 44% — In the last 40 years, no Democrat has received 45% or more of the vote in Kansas.

    McCain has been endorsed by the Lawrence Journal-World. The Journal-World endorsed no one in 2004.

  10. Kentucky (8): McCain 53%, Obama 46% — When Bill Clinton carried Kentucky in 1992 and 1996, he did so both times with less than 50% of the vote. Of course, Ross Perot was on the ballot as an independent both times.

    Most Democrats have struggled in Kentucky in recent decades. Since Adlai Stevenson narrowly defeated Dwight Eisenhower there in 1952, Democrats have lost Kentucky in nine out of 13 presidential elections.

    The Lexington Herald-Leader and the Louisville Courier-Journal have endorsed Obama. In 2004, they both endorsed Kerry, who lost Kentucky by 60% to 40%.

  11. Louisiana (9): McCain 58%, Obama 41% — Louisiana's black vote (and probably, with it, any hope Obama may have had of winning there) was decimated by Hurricane Katrina.

    Louisiana was one of a few Southern states that supported Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996, but it was close enough that one suspects he might not have succeeded without the help of the black voters in the state.

    And, when one goes farther back into Louisiana's political history, you find that the state supported George Wallace in 1968, Barry Goldwater in 1964 and Strom Thurmond in 1948. Voters there have never hesitated to support someone just because he wasn't likely to win.

    The New Orleans Times-Picayune, which endorsed no one in 2004, supports Obama. He's also been endorsed by the Shreveport Times, which supported Kerry. Will that make a difference?

  12. Mississippi (6): McCain 57%, Obama 42% — Democrats who have run without the benefit of incumbency have received about 40% of the vote, if that, in Mississippi since Jimmy Carter was elected in 1976.

  13. Montana (3): McCain 53%, Obama 46% — Voting patterns suggest that Montana will be in the Republican column, even though the Billings Gazette endorsed the Democrats. The Gazette endorsed no one in 2004.

  14. Nebraska (5): McCain 60%, Obama 39% — Running as an incumbent in 1996, Bill Clinton received 35% of the vote in Nebraska. Since 1968, only two Democrats (Jimmy Carter in 1976 and Michael Dukakis in 1988) have done better — and no Democrat has received more than 40% of the vote in Nebraska since Lyndon Johnson won the state in 1964.

    The Lincoln Journal Star has endorsed McCain. It sided with Bush four years ago.

  15. Nevada (5): McCain 49%, Obama 48% — It looks like a close race in Nevada so I'm sure that, if given a choice, the McCain camp is pleased to have the endorsement of the 199,602-circulation Las Vegas Review-Journal instead of the 174,341-circulation Las Vegas Sun, which endorsed Obama.

    Neither endorsement was a surprise. In 2004, the Review-Journal endorsed Bush, the Sun endorsed Kerry.

    The Reno Gazette-Journal endorsed Obama's candidacy this weekend. It supported Kerry in 2004.

  16. North Carolina (15): McCain 50%, Obama 48% — North Carolina may be a political enigma until the votes are counted.

    In one of the races on the ballot, Sen. Elizabeth Dole has been fighting for a second term, in spite of the fact that she has high favorability ratings and a significant campaign war chest.

    Her success may depend on how the GOP presidential ticket fares in North Carolina. Historically, that wouldn't be a problem because the Tar Heel State has backed every Republican nominee but one (Gerald Ford in 1976) since 1968.

    Polls have indicated a tight race in North Carolina, though, and some pundits have predicted that Obama will win there. If Obama wins, will he have coattails long enough to win the Senate seat for the Democrats, who crave a 60-seat filibuster-proof majority?

    Even though he has received some endorsements in North Carolina, three of them (the Raleigh News & Observer, the Asheville Citizen-Times and the Wilmington Star-News) endorsed Kerry four years ago, and the others endorsed no one.

    As Steve Harrison and Ted Mellnik have written in the News & Observer, the outcome may depend on whether 2008 is the year that persistent efforts to register young voters pay off in actual participation.

    That brings me to another point.

    Although much has been said about the youth vote this year — how it was, in part, responsible for launching Obama's candidacy in the Iowa caucuses and how it has given him "rock star" receptions across the country — I have heard of only one college newspaper (the Duke Chronicle) that has endorsed him against McCain — but I can't verify that information because the Chronicle does not seem to have posted the editorial on its web site at the time of this writing.

    Perhaps other college newspapers will recommend him — or anyone — to their readers in the coming week.

    But, to date, the Chronicle is the only college newspaper that I've been told has encouraged its readers to vote for someone in the presidential election.

  17. North Dakota (3): McCain 55%, Obama 44% — Last week, Larry Sabato shifted North Dakota to "toss-up" status in his presidential election projection.

    "This may be a temporary change of color," Sabato writes, "but we have seen too many polls that are tied in North Dakota to ignore."

    How can that be? North Dakota has voted for every Republican presidential nominee but one since 1940.

    When it comes to North Dakota voting for a Democrat, let's just say I'm from Missouri.

    You know what that means, don't you?

    It means you're going to have to show me.

  18. Ohio (20): McCain 49%, Obama 47% — McCain has been endorsed by the Columbus Dispatch (which is not much of an accomplishment since the conservative Dispatch hasn't endorsed a Democrat since Woodrow Wilson in 1916).

    He also has the backing of the Cincinnati Enquirer, another Bush supporter from last time.

    Obama has been endorsed by several small Ohio newspapers, including three (the Canton Repository, the Hamilton Journal News and the New Philadelphia Times Reporter) that supported Bush four years ago.

    Obama also has been endorsed by the considerably larger Cleveland Plain Dealer, Dayton Daily News, Akron Beacon Journal and Toledo Blade.

  19. Oklahoma (7): McCain 61%, Obama 39% — I lived in Oklahoma for four years. And I have a really hard time imagining that it will vote for any Democrat for president.

    I lived there during an election (1992) that has to be regarded as the Republicans' low-water mark in the last 30 years — and, even with an independent on the ballot who captured nearly one-quarter of the vote, the Republicans beat the Democrats by more than 8 percentage points.

    In this election, The Oklahoman in Oklahoma City has endorsed McCain. It supported Bush in 2004 — and, based on my observations in the four years I lived in the state, I assume it has been endorsing Republican nominees for a long time.

  20. South Carolina (8): McCain 59%, Obama 41% — South Carolina has supported the Republican nominee in 10 of the last 11 elections. The sole exception was 1976, when Jimmy Carter carried the state.

    The State of Columbia endorsed McCain, just as it endorsed Bush in 2004.

  21. South Dakota (3): McCain 59%, Obama 40% — South Dakota has supported the Republican nominee in 10 consecutive elections.

    In fact, the only non-incumbent Democrats who have been even remotely competitive there were Dukakis (1988) and Carter (1976).

    I suppose there's a marginal case to be made for George McGovern, the state's senator when he ran against Richard Nixon in 1972. McGovern lost by less than 10 percentage points to Nixon in South Dakota. In most states that year, McGovern was losing by 20-30 percentage points.

    I know the polls have shown a tight race in South Dakota, but the last non-incumbent Democrat to carry the state was Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932.

    McCain has the support of the Sioux Falls Argus Leader — it endorsed Bush in 2004.

  22. Tennessee (11): McCain 56%, Obama 43% — Like Kerry four years ago, Obama has the support of the Nashville Tennessean and the Memphis Commercial Appeal.

    Tennessee has voted for the Democrat more frequently than most Southern states, supporting the Democrats when Al Gore was Bill Clinton's running mate in 1992 and 1996, when Jimmy Carter was the nominee in 1976 and when Lyndon Johnson ran against Barry Goldwater in 1964.

    But it was one of only three Southern states that voted for Nixon over John F. Kennedy in 1960, and it rejected Gore, its former senator, when he was the presidential nominee in 2000.

  23. Texas (34): McCain 60%, Obama 40% — McCain has been endorsed by quite a few Texas newspapers, including the Dallas Morning News, the San Antonio Express News and the Amarillo Globe-News — all of which endorsed Bush in 2004.

    McCain has also received the support of some newspapers that endorsed no one in 2004 — the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, the Beaumont Enterprise, the Tyler Morning Telegraph and the Times Record News of Wichita Falls.

    I don't know if the New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung endorsed anyone in 2004. But, in its endorsement on Sunday, the paper asserted, "Our support of McCain is tepid but it is representative of the more centrist position that probably aligns with the majority of our readers."

    And McCain was endorsed by one newspaper, the Corpus Christi Caller-Times, that endorsed Kerry in 2004.

    Obama, too, has received some endorsements in Texas. Noteworthy are the endorsements he received from the Houston Chronicle, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and the Austin American-Statesman, all of which supported Bush four years ago.

    Obama also has been endorsed by the tiny Lufkin Daily News (circulation 12,225), which supported Kerry in 2004, and the slightly larger Bryan/College Station Eagle, which endorsed no one in 2004. (It's worth noting that the Eagle also recommended, at about the same time, that voters re-elect a Republican senator and a conservative Democratic representative next week.)

    And, in the interest of fairness, I want to point out that the Waco Tribune-Herald, which endorsed Kerry in 2004, chose "after long, even painful, deliberation ... to side with neither Barack Obama nor John McCain."

    But the paper told its readers, "We recommend believing that our democratic process — however turbulent, however flawed — will reflect a collective wisdom of the electorate. The notion we seek to inject into the community discussion is this: Whoever wins, our country must unite behind the next leader because our challenges are too great for the rancor that now paralyzes us."

    Well said.

  24. Utah (5): McCain 69%, Obama 29% — Does this percentage for McCain seem wildly improbable to you? Utah gave 71% of its vote to Bush last time and it gave 67% of its vote to Bush in 2000.

    In fact, no Democrat in the last 40 years has received more than 37% of Utah's vote — most Democrats have received less than 30%.

    The Salt Lake Tribune, however, endorsed Obama. Four years ago, it endorsed the re-election of George W. Bush.

    Does that mean Utah will shift gears when the voters go to the polls and support a Democrat for the first time since 1964?

    Hmmmm ... Nope.

  25. Virginia (13): McCain 51%, Obama 48% — The current of clairvoyance has been tugging observers toward the conclusion that Obama will be the second Democrat to win Virginia since Truman carried the state in 1948.

    I've been resisting the undertow. But Virginia is one of the more fascinating stories that will unfold next Tuesday.

    I wrote about all this last week so I won't repeat most of it here.

    I think Virginia is experiencing a transformation, but I am not yet convinced that it is as sweeping as many people think.

    It certainly doesn't seem to be sweeping the state's newspapers.

    The Richmond Times-Dispatch and the Lynchburg News & Advance endorsed McCain's candidacy. Both supported Bush four years ago. And the Daily Press of Newport News and the weekly Rappahannock News Times both supported Kerry in 2004, but switched to McCain this time.

    The state will be under a microscope on Election Night. Yes, it will be close — but, as I pointed out last week, it's been close in Virginia before. And, since the days of Dwight Eisenhower, every Republican except Barry Goldwater has carried Virginia.

    I expect the streak to continue.

    By the way, if you live in Virginia, be aware that state officials anticipate a record voter turnout on Election Day. Considering that more than 70% of Virginia's voters participated in 2004, that suggests some pretty long lines. Plan your trip to the polls accordingly.

  26. West Virginia (5): McCain 54%, Obama 46% — Time was, non-incumbent Republicans didn't win West Virginia. For 70 years (from 1932 to 2000), the only Republicans to win West Virginia were incumbents seeking re-election.

    But the state seems to be undergoing a transformation.

    Actually, it may be a mistake to make it sound like an "in progress" phenomenon. George W. Bush wasn't an incumbent when he defeated Al Gore in West Virginia in 2000 — and, if the state had rejected Bush as it did 11 other non-incumbent Republicans since 1932, Gore would have become president. Even without the support of Florida.

    Democrats still win statewide offices in West Virginia, but the state hasn't shown much more inclination to embrace Obama than it showed for John Kerry or Al Gore. The state held its primary late in the spring, when Obama had all but wrapped up the nomination, yet West Virginia voted heavily for Hillary Clinton.

    Public opinion polls suggest the state could still wind up in the Democratic column, but McCain continues to lead in the surveys. It may take a more severe economic jolt in the final week of the campaign to flip West Virginia to the Democrats.

  27. Wyoming (3): McCain 65%, Obama 35% — Bush received 69% of Wyoming's vote both times.

I predict that Obama will win these states:
  1. California (55): Obama 54%, McCain 46% — A few large papers (the San Diego Union-Tribune, the Riverside Press-Enterprise and the San Francisco Examiner) along with some smaller papers (the Palm Springs Desert Sun, the North County Times and the Bakersfield Californian) have endorsed McCain, and he's also been recommended by the Napa Valley Register, which has a circulation of about 17,000. But Obama should win the state decisively.

    Given the state's voting pattern of the last 20 years, I would expect Obama to carry California, even without the endorsements of the Los Angeles Times, the Los Angeles Daily News, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Sacramento Bee, the Fresno Bee, the Contra Costa Times and the San Jose Mercury News.

    And Obama has also gained the endorsements of some smaller California papers that supported Bush in 2004 — for example, the Stockton Record and the Long Beach Press-Telegram. More than half a dozen California newspapers that endorsed Bush in 2004 have endorsed Obama.

  2. Colorado (9): Obama 50%, McCain 49% — Colorado may be a good test case for the question of how much influence is wielded by an endorsement.

    The Denver Post, which endorsed Bush in 2004, endorsed Obama in 2008. Will that help flip Colorado, which has voted Republican in nine of the last 10 presidential elections, from red to blue?

    Obama also has the support of the Aurora Sentinel, the Boulder Daily Camera, the Aspen Daily News and the Vail Daily. They all supported Kerry in 2004.

  3. Connecticut (7): Obama 52%, McCain 47% — Both the Hartford Courant and the New Haven Register supported Bush in 2004. They endorsed Obama in 2008.

  4. Delaware (3): Obama 54%, McCain 45% — Thanks to a clause in Delaware's election laws, Joe Biden — like Lyndon Johnson (in 1960), Lloyd Bentsen (in 1988) and Joe Lieberman (in 2000) — is simultaneously running for vice president and re-election to the Senate.

    Only Johnson won both races — but, at the very least, Biden does not appear likely to be the first to be denied re-election to the Senate.

    As a vote of confidence, Wilmington's News Journal gave its endorsement to Obama.

  5. D.C. (3): Obama 91%, McCain 9% — The Washington Examiner, a free daily tabloid, and the Washington Times endorsed McCain, but the heavyweight, the Washington Post, endorsed Obama.

    Blacks are in the majority in D.C., which has voted heavily for the Democrat in every election since first being allowed to vote for president in 1964.

  6. Hawaii (4): Obama 63%, McCain 37% — Having been born in Hawaii and having enjoyed a resounding victory over Hillary Clinton there in the state's caucuses, Obama appears to be positioned to carry Hawaii by perhaps the widest margin in its history on Election Day.

    The Honolulu Star-Bulletin endorsed Obama.

  7. Illinois (21): Obama 57%, McCain 43% — As an adult, Obama was sent to the Senate in 2004 by the voters of Illinois. About 70% of them voted for him over Alan Keyes, a long-time resident of Maryland who agreed to run against Obama. McCain will run stronger than Keyes did, but I've never given him much of a chance to win Illinois.

    Obama seems sure to be helped, in some quarters, by the endorsement of the Chicago Tribune, which gave its blessing to a Democratic presidential candidate for the first time in its 161-year history.

    It is also the largest newspaper in Chicago, triple the size of the more liberal Chicago Sun-Times, which also endorsed Obama.

  8. Iowa (7): Obama 51%, McCain 49% — Much has been made of the fact that the Iowa caucuses in January served as the launching pad for Obama's presidential ambitions. Due to the peculiarities of the rules governing caucus participation, not everyone who took part in the Iowa caucuses lived in Iowa.

    The involvement of young voters was deemed critical for Obama's success in Iowa. But you could participate in the caucuses if you were currently enrolled at a school in Iowa — even if you lived in a different state.

    So it's hard to tell how many of those voters will be voting in Iowa in November. Of course, it would be hard to predict how many of the younger voters will participate, anyway, since young people have historically been the least politically active demographic age group.

    The Des Moines Register endorsed Obama on Sunday. That came as no surprise, since the paper supported Kerry four years ago.

    And do you remember the character of "Radar" on "M*A*S*H"? Do you remember that Radar's hometown was Ottumwa, Iowa? Well, the newspaper in that town, the Ottumwa Courier, has endorsed Obama.

  9. Maine (4): Obama 54%, McCain 46% — Once a reliably Republican New England state, Maine has shifted to the Democrats as the Republicans have taken on more of a southwestern flavor in recent decades.

    The Lewiston Sun Journal supports McCain. It endorsed Bush in 2004. The Bangor Daily News has endorsed Obama. Kerry received its backing last time.

  10. Maryland (10): Obama 53%, McCain 47% — The only endorsement for McCain in Maryland thus far is from the Baltimore Examiner, a free tabloid with a daily circulation of 236,000. Its endorsement is the same as the one from the Washington Examiner, which isn't surprising since both are owned by the same company.

    The Baltimore Sun supports Obama. It supported Kerry in 2004.

  11. Massachusetts (12): Obama 55%, McCain 44% — I know anything can happen in an election, but does anyone seriously doubt that the only state that resisted Richard Nixon's bid for a second term in 1972 — and produced three Democratic presidential nominees in the last half century (as well as two more high-profile candidates who were not nominated) — will be in the Democratic column in November?

    Boston's largest newspaper, the Globe, endorsed Obama. But he shouldn't need the newspaper's assistance.

  12. Michigan (17): Obama 52%, McCain 47% — Not only does Obama have the support of the Detroit Free Press, but McCain has virtually conceded the state, withdrawing campaign funds to use them elsewhere.

    McCain does have the endorsement of the Detroit News. No Democrat has won the News' endorsement since it was founded in 1873 — but Republicans don't always win its support, either, as Bush discovered when it declined to recommend his re-election.

    McCain is also supported by the Grand Rapids Press, which endorsed Bush last time.

  13. Minnesota (10): Obama 51%, McCain 49% — Times are changing in the home state of Walter Mondale and Hubert Humphrey. Minnesota isn't as liberal as it once was, but it's not as conservative as the modern Republican Party would like it to be.

    No Republican has carried the state in the last 36 years. And Obama has received the endorsement of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

  14. Missouri (11): Obama 50%, McCain 49% — The two heavyweight newspapers in Missouri, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the Kansas City Star, have endorsed Obama. They both endorsed Kerry in 2004, but the state voted for Bush, 53% to 46%.

    Obama also received the endorsement of the Columbia Daily Tribune, which endorsed Kerry last time.

  15. New Hampshire (4): Obama 51%, McCain 48% — The state is more competitive than you might expect. It was the only state that voted for Bush in 2000 that rejected his bid for re-election in 2004.

    Earlier polls showed McCain in front. Recent polls suggested a double-digit lead for Obama, but the margin has dropped into single digits in recent polls.

    I have resisted until only recently counting it as an Obama victory.

    McCain has received the endorsement of the Union Leader of Manchester, and Obama has been endorsed by the Nashua Telegraph and the Concord Monitor.

    None of those endorsements represent a shift in allegiance from the last presidential election.

    New Hampshire Republicans voted for McCain over George W. Bush in 2000, and their support in this year's primary gave McCain the boost he needed to revive his campaign for the GOP nomination. And Hillary Clinton revived her presidential campaign by beating Obama.

    But I'm going to predict that Obama will receive just enough votes to win New Hampshire and therefore sweep New England.

  16. New Jersey (15): Obama 53%, McCain 47% — The Asbury Park Press, the Bergen County Record and the Newark Star-Ledger all endorsed Obama, although he shouldn't need their help winning New Jersey.

  17. New Mexico (5): Obama 50%, McCain 49% — New Mexico is a small state, but it's a bellwether that both sides would like to win. McCain has been endorsed by the Roswell Daily Record (circulation 11,700). Obama has been endorsed by the Las Cruces Sun-News (circulation 24,735), which endorsed Bush in 2004.

    I'm inclined to think that the race to fill Pete Domenici's Senate seat is a better barometer. The Democrat, Tom Udall, has been leading in the polls by consistently wide margins, and I think that will help other Democrats on the ballot.

  18. New York (31): Obama 54%, McCain 45% — The New York Post endorsed McCain more than a month ago. The Jewish Press, a weekly in New York, supports McCain as well.

    The Jewish Press and the New York Post also endorsed Bush in 2004, as did the New York Daily News.

    But the Daily News has endorsed Obama this time.

    A few days ago, the New York Times added its name to the list of papers recommending Obama. No surprise there.

    Obama also has the support of the Buffalo News, which endorsed Kerry in 2004, and the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle and the Albany Times Union, neither of which endorsed anyone last time.

    And, while it represents a national readership in spite of its name (which, rightfully, implies an emphasis on culture in New York City), The New Yorker also has endorsed Obama. Although politically liberal, The New Yorker broke its eight-decade tradition of not endorsing presidential candidates in 2004 when it supported Kerry.

    I don't think endorsements will affect the outcome in New York. In recent (and even not-so-recent) memory, the state has seldom voted for the Republican ticket.

  19. Oregon (7): Obama 52%, McCain 47% — The Portland Oregonian has endorsed Obama.

    Only the presence on the ballot of a centrist Republican senator seeking re-election will keep Obama's share of the vote down in Oregon.

  20. Pennsylvania (21): Obama 51%, McCain 47% — Obama has the support of the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Philadelphia Daily News and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, all of which endorsed Kerry in 2004.

    But Obama also has been endorsed by the York Daily Record, the Erie Times-News and the 44,561-circulation Express-Times of Easton, Pa., all of which endorsed Bush four years ago.

    The Harrisburg Patriot-News endorsed no one last time, but it recommends Obama in 2008.

    It hasn't been completely one-sided in Pennsylvania, where McCain has made such an effort in recent weeks. The 100,000-circulation Philadelphia Bulletin has endorsed his candidacy. The Bulletin endorsed no one in 2004.

  21. Rhode Island (4): Obama 59%, McCain 41% — Rhode Island has supported the Republican nominee only twice in the last 12 presidential elections. In both cases, a Republican incumbent (Nixon in 1972, Reagan in 1984) was seeking re-election and wound up winning in a 49-state landslide.

    Nothing like that is going to happen this year.

    The Providence Journal has endorsed Obama. It supported Bush in 2004.

  22. Vermont (3): Obama 61%, McCain 39% — In previous generations, Vermont was a reliably Republican state. But it has voted Democratic in the last four presidential elections and should do so again.

    The Burlington Free Press has endorsed Obama; it endorsed Kerry four years ago.

  23. Washington (11): Obama 55%, McCain 45% — Many of the newspapers in Washington state — including both of Seattle's papers, the Seattle Times and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer — have endorsed Obama.

    The Democratic nominee also has been endorsed by the Tacoma News Tribune, the Tri-City Herald, The Olympian and the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin — all relatively small newspapers that endorsed Kerry in 2004.

    But Obama also has received the blessing of the Vancouver Columbian, which endorsed Bush last time.

  24. Wisconsin (10): Obama 49%, McCain 46% — The Wisconsin State Journal (circulation 138,276) endorsed Bush in 2004, but it supports Obama in 2008.

    Will that endorsement help Obama's cause? He also was endorsed by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, a Kerry supporter last time.

    Wisconsin has voted for Democrats in the last five elections, but Gore and Kerry won narrowly there. In fact, the final outcome has frequently been close in Wisconsin.

When all the votes have been counted and all the winners and losers are known, it is my belief that America will still be a divided nation.

I think that what will change will be the nature of the identity of the most prominent division.

All the old divisions still exist, to a certain degree, and they will continue to exist after the election.

Some people will vote for or against Obama because of the color of his skin.

And some people will vote for or against McCain because of his age.

But I think that what will be clear from the results in the presidential election will be that voters in small, rural states tend to support Republicans and voters in large, metropolitan states tend to support Democrats.

It's been one of those rare elections when the Democrat has received more newspaper endorsements than the Republican — so far. We still have a week to go, and it's possible that the endorsements that will be published in the next seven days will overwhelmingly support McCain's candidacy.

But even if that is not the case (and I'm inclined to think that it won't be), it's clear that most of the metro newspapers support Obama. He also has received the endorsements of many small newspapers, but small newspapers clearly make up the bulk of McCain's constituency in the Fourth Estate.

Clearly, the only endorsements that matter are the ones expressed by every American voter in the polling places across the nation.

In my projection, McCain wins more states than Obama, 27-23. But two-thirds of McCain's states have less than 10 electoral votes apiece while half of Obama's states have at least 10 electoral votes — and many of them, like California, New York and Pennsylvania, have considerably more than 10.

Future campaigns may well be waged over the needs of small-town America vs. big-city America, perhaps leading to general public acceptance of modern versions of stereotypes that go beyond the basic elements of race, gender, age, religion or economic status.

If that's what awaits us in the future, the battle lines have been drawn in 2008.

And the bottom line in 2008 is ...

Obama — 284 electoral votes
McCain — 254 electoral votes

What's your prediction?

Polls and Prayers and Promises

"[T]alk of poems and prayers and promises
And things that we believe in
How sweet it is to love someone
How right it is to care
How long it's been since yesterday
And what about tomorrow
And what about our dreams
And all the memories we share."

John Denver

With about a week left in the presidential race and polls showing Barack Obama on his way to victory, John McCain wants the voting public to know what he thinks of polls.

"Those polls have consistently shown me much farther behind than we actually are," McCain said on "Meet the Press" Sunday. "You’re going to be up very, very late on Election Night."

The Financial Times, the British-based competitor to the Wall Street Journal, says McCain would "pull off the biggest electoral upset since 1948" if he wins.

"There are enough stray signs of hope," writes James Carney in TIME, "to keep the candidate and the campaign going."

Andy Barr and Harry Siegel report, in, that oddsmakers have made McCain a substantial longshot for victory next week.

I've seen candidates who resigned themselves to defeat days, if not weeks, before an election and simply went through the motions. For example, in the final week of the 1980 campaign, following his unimpressive debate performance against Ronald Reagan, President Carter was clearly going through the motions.

He was so eager to get the campaign over with that he made his concession speech to Reagan relatively early on Election Night — a few hours before the polls had closed in many states in the western half of the country.

That's a traditionally Republican part of the United States, anyway, but political scientists have long speculated that, by giving up as early as he did, Carter discouraged many Democratic voters from stopping at the polls on their way home from work, possibly depriving several incumbent Democrats of votes that might have kept them in office.

A noteworthy example was Sen. Frank Church of Idaho, who lost his seat by less than 4,400 votes — although I have always been skeptical about the Democrats' prospects for retaining even a slender majority in the Senate following that election.

Other high-profile Democratic senators, like George McGovern of South Dakota and Warren Magnuson of Washington, lost by such wide margins that Carter's early concession speech couldn't possibly have altered those outcomes.

Then again, if Carter hadn't chosen to phone it in during the last week of the campaign, who knows what kind of influence that might have had on the other races?

Anyway, what could have been a more limited victory for the Republicans in 1980 became a GOP takeover of the Senate and a narrowing of the Democratic majority in the House — not just the loss of the White House.

When the candidate at the top of the ballot goes on a mental vacation before the votes have been counted, he does his party no favors — whether he checks out early on Election Night or bails a week before.

Even if you're the captain of the Titanic and the iceberg is in your path, you owe it to those who are counting on you to give it your best effort — even if that means ultimately going down with the ship.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Senate Won't Be 'Filibuster-Proof'

The Republicans in the Senate are reaping the harvest of their success six years ago.

In 2002, not far removed from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and with Republicans pushing to give the president the authority to invade Iraq before it could use all those weapons of mass destruction, Americans gave Republicans a rare triumph in mid-term elections for the party in power.

House members are voted on every two years. As the public has soured on Iraq, many of the House members who favored invading Iraq already have been voted out of office.

This year is the public's opportunity to render a verdict on the senators who won their seats in 2002.

About two-thirds of them are Republicans.

The popularity of the "Republican brand" has declined dramatically in recent years, making this election a decidedly bitter harvest for the Class of '02, with the financial crisis, rising unemployment, rising food and energy prices, as well as an unpopular war, all blamed on the party that controlled both the White House and the Congress for most of the last eight years.

The outlook is dire. While that is seldom given as a reason for not seeking re-election, the truth is that nearly half a dozen duly elected Republican senators are not running for another term. And Democrats appear to be running strong campaigns in all of those states — as well as states where the incumbents are seeking re-election.

All the Democrats who were elected to the Senate in 2002 are running again, and with a little more than a week remaining in the campaign, it looks like all of them — even Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, who was believed to be in trouble several months ago — will be returned to office.

(The House is rarely mentioned in political conversations these days. The Democrats control the House, and the assumption is they will build on their advantage. In the 2006 elections, the party went from being in the minority — 232-202 with one independent — to being in the majority — 233-202.

(This year, the Democrats have been taking aim at seats they figured they should have captured last time but didn't — for whatever reason. I'm inclined to believe they'll gain about 12 seats, improving their total to 245 while the Republican total slides below 200 to about 190.)

Aside from the presidential race, I expect most attention to be on the Senate. The 2006 elections actually produced a tie in party affiliation, 49-49, with two independents who caucus with the Democrats.

In 2008, I have heard no one suggest that the Democrats will not win enough seats to claim a true majority — even though one of the independents, Joe Lieberman, was a Democrat who had to run in the 2006 general election as an independent because he lost the state's Democratic primary.

The questions revolve around whether the Democrats can win enough seats to claim a "filibuster-proof" majority of 60.

(Lisa Mascaro writes, in the Las Vegas Sun, about the public's intense interest in the "supermajority" that comes with having 60 votes to bust filibusters.

(Mascaro observes, "In many ways, today’s narrowly divided Senate is not a working majority for Democrats, said Donald A. Ritchie, the associate Senate historian. At 51 seats to 49, the Senate in essence has two minority parties, and no majority.")

Since it's not likely that either of the independents in the Senate will suddenly start caucusing with the Republicans, that means the Democrats probably need to win nine seats to reach 60.

To reach the point where it doesn't matter whether the independents caucus with the Democrats, the party needs to win 11 Senate seats from the Republicans.

Either one is a tall order. Can they do it?

(Republicans can probably count on holding the following seats without too much trouble — Alabama, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Thad Cochran's seat in Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and the two seats in Wyoming.)

Here are the seats that are currently held by Republicans that are worth watching on Election Day:
  1. Alaska — Not too long ago, I would have thought that unseating Ted Stevens in Alaska would be almost impossible.

    Now, I think his chances of being re-elected depend on the verdict in his corruption trial.

    Polls show a tight race between Stevens and Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich.

    I think what happens in Stevens' trial — assuming a verdict is reached before Election Day — will determine who wins the election.

    If he's acquitted, I think Stevens will be re-elected — barely. If he's convicted, I think Stevens will lose.

  2. Colorado — If 2008 is truly a transformational election, I believe Colorado will play a key role. The state has voted for every Republican nominee but one in the last 10 elections, but it has been a little more receptive to Democratic candidates for statewide office.

    Republican incumbent Wayne Allard is retiring this year, and Democrat Rep. Mark Udall appears to be building a fairly solid lead in the race to replace him.

    I predict Udall and the Democrats will win the seat.

  3. Georgia — Polls suggest that Saxby Chambliss is clinging to a narrow lead over challenger Jim Martin.

    However, there's a fly in the ointment. A third-party candidate on the ballot appears to be drawing some support — not much, but enough to make things interesting.

    My understanding is that Georgia law requires a candidate in a statewide race to receive 50% of the vote "plus one." If no one reaches that level of support, a runoff will be held between the top two vote-getters in December.

    (To my readers in Georgia: If I'm wrong about that point of your state's election law, please let me know!)

    Wouldn't it be ironic if Chambliss — who won his seat by smearing the Democratic incumbent, triple amputee Vietnam veteran Max Cleland, six years ago — was forced into a one-month runoff campaign and had to face the nominee of the recently electorally empowered Democratic Party as his party's last line of defense against a "filibuster-proof" majority?

    Actually, if Chambliss is in trouble on Election Night, I think it will be indicative of more severe problems the Republicans are having elsewhere. My guess is, if Chambliss is forced into a runoff, the Democrats will already hold the "filibuster-proof" majority and will be looking to add to their gains.

    I predict a narrow win for the Republicans.

  4. Kentucky — As is the case in the Georgia race, if the incumbent (in this instance, Mitch McConnell) is in trouble on Election Night, the Republicans are having bigger problems elsewhere.

    But if the election turns out to be a tsunami for Democrats, McConnell belongs on the endangered list.

    Kentucky is a conservative state, though, and I think it will vote for the McCain-Palin ticket as well as re-elect McConnell.

  5. Minnesota — I've been hesitant to call this one for the Democrats, but lately I feel the momentum is in favor of comedian Al Franken.

    Minnesota still leans Democratic. I think the election of Norm Coleman six years ago was a fluke. And I think Franken has tapped into the liberalism of Minnesota (which, by the way, hasn't voted for a Republican for president since Richard Nixon ran for re-election in 1972 — the longest pro-Democratic streak in national politics).

    I think Franken re-claims the seat for the Democrats in November.

  6. Mississippi — I've truly been baffled by this race. Trent Lott suddenly vacated the seat last year. The governor appointed a Republican to temporarily replace him, with a special election scheduled for this fall. The replacement, Roger Wicker, is seeking the voters' approval to finish the rest of Lott's term.

    Wicker's main problem, in the eyes of observers, is that he's never won a statewide office. His Democratic opponent, former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove, has won statewide office.

    But Wicker seems like a good fit for Lott's old seat. He began his political career as Lott's counsel.

    I predict Wicker will keep the seat in Republican hands.

  7. New Hampshire — In 2002, against the backdrop of the Republican drumbeat for war against Iraq, New Hampshire chose Rep. John Sununu, a Republican, over Gov. Jeanne Shaheen.

    Six years later, Shaheen is challenging Sununu in his bid for re-election. Polls have suggested the former governor has a sizable lead.

    I've been expecting Sununu to have trouble ever since Election Night in 2006, when Democrats won the governor's office and both seats in the House and took control of the state legislature. It was clear to me, on that night, that things were changing in the formerly rock-ribbed Republican Granite State.

    We had hints that such a shift was coming in 2004, when New Hampshire was the only state that supported Bush in 2000 and rejected his bid for a second term.

    Now the transformation is in full bloom.

    Shaheen will win the seat for the Democrats.

  8. New Mexico — Pete Domenici is retiring because of his health. The New Mexico Republican Party doesn't seem to be in very good shape right now, either.

    The Democrat, Rep. Tom Udall, appears to have a wide lead over Republican Rep. Steve Pearce.

    Looks like a pick-up for the Democrats.

  9. North Carolina — Republican Sen. Elizabeth Dole is seeking a second term against state senator Kay Hagan. The polls suggest a close race.

    Dole has high favorable ratings. If a political tsunami sweeps across the country on Nov. 4, some Republicans in the South may be in trouble.

    But I get the feeling that, if Dole is in trouble on Election Night, the GOP has some real problems to address in the rest of the country.

    I predict she keeps her seat — barely.

  10. Oregon — Sen. Gordon Smith is a moderate Republican in a state that is increasingly Democratic. Polls indicate that he is having trouble in his campaign against Democrat Jeff Merkley.

    Democrats have been emphasizing a desire to win the seat in Oregon, and I think the chances are good they'll pull it off.

  11. Texas — No, I don't think Republican Sen. John Cornyn is in any kind of electoral trouble.

    But recent polls have suggested that he's in a tight race against Rick Noriega. I live in Texas so I'll keep an eye on the results.

    But I expect the Republicans to keep the seat.

  12. Virginia — Former Democratic Gov. Mark Warner is running against former Republican Gov. Jim Gilmore for the seat being vacated by Republican Sen. John Warner.

    I don't believe Virginia will be in the Democratic column in the presidential race, but I do believe Mark Warner will win the Senate seat for the Democrats.

    Warner has been in control of the race all along. I expect him to win with about as much ease as a Democrat can muster in Virginia.
So, out of a dozen Senate races to watch on Election Night, I see Democrats winning six from the Republicans — seven if Stevens' corruption trial ends in a conviction.

It's not quite the "filibuster-proof" 60 — but, if they already have 57 or 58 votes, Democrats probably can cobble 60 together if they need to.