Week of November 6, 2006

November 6, 2006
Washington, DC
Special Edition

To: Our Readers

Democrats are set to gain 19 House seats, two Senate seats, and five governorships in tomorrow’s elections. It is a sign of Republicans’ sorry state that, at this point, this is actually a very favorable outlook for them.

In the last day of the midterm election campaign, we offer a final run-down of how candidates are doing in each contested district or state. We aim to give a complete forecast on tomorrow’s competitive election contests in this final-hour newsletter, which will be followed up by a post-election analysis on Wednesday.

Expectations Game: At this point, there will be no new polls, no major news events capable of significantly disrupting the election cycle.

We know one thing for sure: Republicans are going to lose ground in both houses of Congress. The White House presents, as its rosiest scenario, a loss of 12 House seats. This is not entirely impossible, but it is too optimistic for the realistic observer.

If Democrats fail, it will set off an even worse intra-party bloodbath than came after the 2000 and 2004 elections.

If Democrats succeed, it will be for two reasons:

  1. The first is an arrogant and politically tin-eared Republican establishment in Washington. In the handling of key issues such as the occupation of Iraq, the response to Hurricane Katrina, and a meaningful follow-through on Social Security reform, the White House displayed incompetence.

    Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, Republicans encouraged practices (such as earmarking in the appropriations process) that let corruption run free. When scandal hit, they handled it badly, particularly in the most recent case of disgraced former Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.). They also went to great lengths to alienate their base on the issue of immigration reform, and they created an issue for Democrats in the form of embryonic stem-cell research. Recall that federal funding for embryonic research received a vote on the House floor only when the House Republican leadership made a deal with moderates in order to pass their budget in 2005.

  2. Last, but not least, comes the brilliant candidate recruiting and fundraising on the part of two men – Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) Chairman Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) Chairman Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). And should it occur, Democratic victory will come in spite of the total incompetence of Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chairman Howard Dean.

But what about the unlikely event that Republicans succeed in keeping both the House and the Senate? Republican pundits deceive when they lower the bar, writing now of a Democratic sweep of the House as something that had always been inevitable. In fact, no one but the biggest Democratic dreamer could have expected a 15-seat gain in the House in 2006 after the historic 2004 election solidified GOP power around the country at the federal and, in most places, the state level. The thought that Democrats might actually take the Senate was not even in the minds of the most partisan Democratic dreamers.

But the reality of expectations has now changed. Republicans would be euphoric to cling to a one-seat advantage in the House and a 50-50 Senate. In fact, it would probably be demonstrative proof that, in the long haul, their grip on the nation is bulletproof. If you can’t lose an election after all that has happened in the last two years, it may not be possible to lose.

If Republicans win, it will be for one reason: a superior turnout operation. The electorate will answer several questions tomorrow, but the most interesting one for Republicans is whether the Karl Rove-Ken Mehlman voter-turnout program is really all that powerful? Can it bring to the polls significant numbers of voters who in the past would have skipped the midterm, voting only in presidential contests? Can it be the Republicans’ deus ex machina in the final act of the 2006 election, pulling the closest races out of the fire, and perhaps even providing some late surprises?

Late GOP Shift: Is there any truth to the late shift toward the Republicans that is being reported in the news and played out in some public polls? There are ways of knowing this.

First, there is a small hint buried in the discrepancies in responses between “registered” and “likely” voters in the public polls. For months, many polls have shown Democrats doing better among the carefully screened sample of “likely” voters than among the great unwashed mass of “registered” voters. Historically, it has been the opposite: Republicans have performed better when the likely non-voters are excluded. Polls are now reflecting a return to that historical normalcy — Republicans perform better among “likely” voters.

This is a small but noteworthy sign that the GOP base is coming home and will vote rather than sit it out. If Republicans were to lose their historic advantage of their registered voters’ turning out more reliably than those of Democrats, they would likely suffer a disastrous loss of more than 30 seats. They seem to have avoided the tsunami that everyone had been talking about.

Also significant is the GOP’s late surge in the national generic ballot. We put almost no faith in the generic ballot’s margin as an indicator of how the election will go. Recall that Republicans actually trailed by five points in the final Washington Post generic ballot in 1994. But trends in the generic ballot usually mean something. After favoring Democrats heavily for months, often by double digits, three generic ballot tests show Republicans closing the gap.

Late Results: Enormous Republican efforts to encourage early and absentee voting could dramatically skew exit polls. Do not be surprised if the apparent results Tuesday night are overturned by Wednesday morning in several close House races. Also, expect a few recounts.

House 2006

Below is a very brief summary of the competitive House races, with our final predictions, listed in the order that each state’s polls close. Democrats +19, Republicans -19.

  • 7 PM EST

Georgia-3: Rep. Mac Collins (R) has finished very strong, running a much more competitive race than anyone had believed possible against moderate Rep. Jim Marshall (D). Marshall leads well within the margin or error — a lead so small that the expected rainstorm tomorrow in central Georgia could throw the race to Collins. Leaning Republican Takeover.

Georgia-12: Former Rep. Max Burns (R) is close enough that we expect him to catch Rep. John Barrow (D) tomorrow. If he fails, it is because he lacked a strong ground game in the rural parts of the district. Leaning Republican Takeover.

Indiana-2: Once given up for dead by the Beltway crowd, Rep. Chris Chocola (R) might actually be saved at the last second by dint of an extremely strong volunteer get-out-the-vote operation. He still trails his 2004 opponent, businessman Joe Donnelly (D) as of the last public polls.

This race is a bellwether. If Chocola somehow wins, it will be a testimony to the success of the RNC 72-hour program and the Rove-Mehlman election model. It will also be a sign that it’s worth staying up to see if Republicans can hold on to the House. Leaning Democratic Takeover.

Indiana-7: This race popped up late on the radar screen, but the polls showing Rep. Julia Carson (D) in serious trouble are not to be believed. She will win handily, turning back former auto dealer Eric Dickerson (R). Likely Democratic Retention.

Indiana-8: Rep. John Hostettler‘s (R) demise has been prematurely reported in the past, but it is hard to see him pulling it out this time. Vandenburgh County Sheriff Brad Ellsworth (D) will put an end to Hostettler’s political career, but it will be closer than the seven-point margin shown in the polls. The only reason for Hostettler’s problems has been his refusal to raise PAC money coupled with his rigid adherence to his grassroots model of campaigning. A staunch conservative, he is one of the few Republicans who voted against the Iraq War, and he has tried to save himself at the last minute by reminding voters of that fact. Likely Democratic Takeover.

Indiana-9: After trailing throughout the summer and fall, Rep. Mike Sodrel (R) has finally surged ahead in the late stages and should win over his two-time rival, Rep. Baron Hill (D) in a best-of-three matchup. We move this race from Leaning Democratic Takeover to Leaning Republican Retention.

Kentucky-2: Rep. Ron Lewis (R) will easily defeat state Rep. Mike Weaver (D) in what had once figured to be a much closer race. Likely Republican Retention.

Kentucky-3: Rep. Anne Northup (R) has faced tougher challengers than newspaper publisher John Yarmuth (D) and turned them back, but Yarmuth has done well in what has been such a Democratic environment this year.

It is hard to give a clear picture of a race when two polls, taken simultaneously, show the incumbent six points ahead and six points behind at the same point in time, respectively. But Northup has done nothing special in the last week to bring defeat upon herself, and she has defied expectations enough in the past that we believe she will narrowly hang on. Leaning Republican Retention.

Kentucky-4: Rep. Geoff Davis (R) has run a strong race, whereas his opponent, former Rep. Ken Lucas (D), has taken an easy-going approach to the campaign. It should be close, but Davis should prevail. Leaning Republican Retention.

South Carolina-5: Rep. John Spratt (D) will crush state Rep. Ralph Norman (R). Likely Democratic Retention.

Vermont-AL: State Sen. Peter Welch (D) will defeat National Guard Adjutant General Martha Rainville (R). Likely Democratic Retention.

Virginia-2: Rep. Thelma Drake (R) should narrowly defeat Virginia Beach Tax Assessor Phil Kellam (D). Leaning Republican Retention.

  • 7:30 PM

North Carolina-11: Ethically challenged Rep. Charles Taylor (R) is a goner this time, to be sacked tomorrow by moderate Heath Shuler (D), the former NFL quarterback. Likely Democratic Takeover.

Ohio-1: Rep. Steve Chabot (R) is fighting for his political life against Cincinnati Councilman Steve Cranley (D). There has been no reliable polling in quite some time, but we believe that Chabot will survive this one, even though the available polls have him trailing by two points. Leaning Republican Retention.

Ohio-2: Rep. Jean Schmidt (R) is not the ideal candidate, but Democrats had a better shot at her in 2005, when she narrowly won the special election to replace Rep. Rob Portman (R). She should be saved once again by the heavy Republican composition of her district and the left-wing politics of her opponent, medical doctor Victoria Wulsin (D). Schmidt has suffered late damage as the footage of her speech about Rep. John Murtha (D) has appeared in one of Wulsin’s commercials. Leaning Republican Retention.

Ohio-6: The race between state Sen. Charlie Wilson (D) and state Rep. Chuck Blasdel (R) never became competitive. Likely Democratic Retention.

Ohio-15: Rep. Deborah Pryce (R), suffering from a sex scandal, her close friendship with former Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.), and the general problems of the Ohio GOP, will lose to attorney Mary Jo Kilroy (D). Leaning Democratic Takeover.

Ohio-18: State Sen. Joy Padgett (R) did not prove to be the candidate Republicans needed to defeat attorney Zack Space (D). Likely Democratic Takeover.

  • 8 PM EST

Connecticut-2: Rep. Rob Simmons (R), holding the most Democratic of Connecticut’s House seats, appears ready to pull it off again over businessman Joe Courtney. We move this race from Leaning Democratic Takeover to Leaning Republican Retention.

Connecticut-4: Former Westport Selectwoman Diane Farrell (D) should end the career of Rep. Chris Shays (R). Leaning Democratic Takeover.

Connecticut-5: Rep. Nancy Johnson (R), once a sure thing, now looks like a loser against state Sen. Chris Murphy (D). Leaning Democratic Takeover.

Florida-13: Banker Christine Jennings (D) is the favorite against auto dealer Vern Buchanan (R) in this very wealthy, Republican district. Leaning Democratic Takeover.

Florida-16: We believe that Republican state Rep. Joe Negron (R) will actually save Mark Foley’s district from the fire, beating businessman Tim Mahoney (D). Leaning Republican Retention.

Florida-22: Despite a few erratic polls near the end showing him losing big, Rep. Clay Shaw (R) appears to be narrowly ahead. He should survive the challenge of state Sen. Ron Klein (D) with heavy early voting and a strong ground game. Leaning Republican Retention.

Illinois-6: In one of the most closely watched and expensive races in the country this year, State Sen. Peter Roskam (R) should prevail over disabled Iraq War veteran Tammy Duckworth (D). Leaning Republican Retention.

Illinois-8: Businessman David McSweeney (R) has made this into a real race, but freshman Rep. Melissa Bean (D) now appears ready to retain control of her seat. Leaning Democratic Retention.

New Hampshire-2: Rep. Charlie Bass (R) was simply caught off guard, expecting an easy race. Now it appears he will lose narrowly to attorney Paul Hodes (D). Leaning Democratic Takeover.

Pennsylvania-4: Rep. Melissa Hart (R) will survive a late scare from health care lobbyist Jason Altmire (D). Likely Republican Retention.

Pennsylvania-6: Rep. Jim Gerlach (R), in a marginal seat, was never given much of a chance of keeping it. We believe he will lose re-election to lawyer Lois Murphy (D), who nearly unseated him in the much better GOP year of 2004. Leaning Democratic Takeover.

Pennsylvania-7: Rep. Curt Weldon (R), smitten by scandal, will lose re-election to Ret. Rear Adm. Joe Sestak (D). Likely Democratic Takeover.

Pennsylvania-8: Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R) should squeak this one out against left-wing activist and Iraq War veteran Patrick Murphy (D). Fitzpatrick has the help of a small volunteer army of Catholic staffers on Capitol Hill. Leaning Republican Retention.

Pennsylvania-10: Rep. Don Sherwood (R) is now paying a $500,000 settlement to his girlfriend, who claimed he tried to choke her. This is the only reason he will lose to Chris Carney (D), a former intelligence analyst. Likely Democratic Takeover.

Pennsylvania-12: Rep. Jack Murtha (D) will easily survive the challenge by Washington County Commissioner Diane Irey (R). Likely Democratic Retention.

  • 9 PM EST

Arizona-1: Scandal charges against Rep. Rick Renzi (R) never really got legs, and that will allow him to survive against attorney Ellen Simon. Likely Republican Retention.

Arizona-5: Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R) should hang on — barely — in his race against state Sen. Harry Mitchell (D). Leaning Republican Retention.

Arizona-8: State Sen. Gabrielle Giffords (D) should defeat Rep. Randy Graf (R). If Graf pulls it off, it will be a sign that immigration is a much better issue than anyone previously thought. Likely Democratic Takeover.

Colorado-4: Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R) will narrowly survive the challenge of college professor Angie Paccione (D). The marriage amendment on the ballot (see below) will help Musgrave, who has championed the issue in Congress. Leaning Republican Retention.

Colorado-5: State Sen. Doug Lamborn (R) will fend off TK Jay Fawcett (D) in a district that is too Red for him to lose. The disgrace of the Rev. Ted Haggard was designed to affect this race, but it will not be enough to put Fawcett over the top. Leaning Republican Retention.

Colorado-7: State Sen. Ed Perlmutter (D) will handily defeat former state education commissioner Rick O’Donnell (R). Likely Democratic Takeover.

Kansas-2: Rep. Jim Ryun (R) found himself in big trouble late against chemist Nancy Boyda (D), his repeat challenger. But he caught a lucky break when her husband remarked that Sen. John Kerry‘s remarks on the military and education were not a big deal. President Bush’s visit also buoyed him, and the district is likely to come home to its strong Republican orientation. Leaning Republican Retention.

Minnesota-1: Rep. Gil Gutknecht (R) will defeat high school teacher Tim Walz (D). Leaning Republican Retention.

Minnesota-6: State Sen. Michele Bachmann (R) has run a terrific campaign and should beat child safety advocate Patty Wetterling (D) by a close margin. Leaning Republican Retention.

Nebraska-3: With late help from President Bush, state Sen. Adrian Smith (R) should narrowly defeat rancher Scott Kleeb (D). Leaning Republican Retention.

New Mexico-1: This time, Rep. Heather Wilson (R) has too strong an opponent in Atty. Gen. Patricia Madrid (D) to make the late surge that has always saved her in the past. She can never be wholly counted out, but we expect her to lose. Leaning Democratic Takeover.

New York-19: Despite a late visit by former Ambassador Joe Wilson, Rep. Sue Kelly (R) should survive her tough race against musician John Hall (D). Likely Republican Retention.

New York-20: Rep. John Sweeney (R) is a goner after an old police report alleging domestic abuse was leaked to the press. Attorney Kirsten Gillibrand (D) is now expected to win. Leaning Democratic Takeover.

New York-24: Oneida County D.A. Mike Arcuri (D) will seize this seat from the GOP, defeating state Sen. Ray Meier (R). Leaning Democratic Takeover.

New York-25: Rep. James Walsh (R) has seen some softening in his numbers over the past week, but his internals still show him in the lead. His race promises to be very close against Dan Maffei (D), a former aide to Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.). Leaning Democratic Takeover.

New York-26: Rep. Tom Reynolds (R) is still in a very close race, but he should edge out industrialist Jack Davis (D). If Reynolds loses, it may be the first time such a thing has happened to a party congressional campaign committee chairman. Leaning Republican Retention.

New York-29: Rep. Randy Kuhl (R) is actually in much better shape than our earlier information suggested. Besides, his opponent, retired Naval officer Eric Massa (D), is now facing his own scandal allegations. Leaning Republican Retention.

Texas-22: Republicans have tried hard to win this seat through an early and absentee voting campaign that allows them to talk more with each voter. Still, the chances for Houston City Councilwoman Shelley Sekula-Gibbs (R) do not look good as a write-in. Her best chance lies in the unpopularity of Democrats in general and Rep. Nick Lampson (D) in particular. Likely Democratic Takeover.

Wisconsin-8: State Rep. John Gard (R) is favored to defeat allergist Steve Kagen (D). Leaning Republican Retention.

Wyoming-AL: Rep. Barbara Cubin (R) has done everything she can to lose, including threatening to slap a cripple. She will nevertheless edge out businessman Gary Trauner (D). Leaning Republican Retention.

  • 10 PM EST

Iowa-1: Attorney Bruce Braley (D) should defeat Restaurateur Mike Whalen (R). Likely Democratic Takeover.

Iowa-3: Rep. Leonard Boswell (D) will overcome a challenge by state Sen. Jeff Lamberti (R). Likely Democratic Retention.

Nevada-2: Secretary of State Dean Heller (R) will hang on to this heavily Republican district and hold off a challenge by State University Regent Jill Derby (D). Leaning Republican Retention.

Nevada-3: After a late scare, Rep. Jon Porter (R) appears to have righted the ship. He should defeat Tessa Hafen (D), press secretary to Sen. Harry Reid (D). Leaning Republican Retention.

  • 11 PM EST

California-4: Rep. John Doolittle (R) will survive the Abramoff-centric campaign being waged against him by Air Force Lt. Col. Charles Brown (D). Likely Republican Retention.

California-11: Rep. Richard Pombo (R) shows all the signs of a drowning man. His is the most vulnerable district in California. The NRCC actually chartered a plane to fly volunteers to him on Saturday. This could be a sign that they are taking no chances, but it corresponds with other information that suggests real problems for Pombo. There has been no reliable polling in this race, but the fact that Pombo has not released any polls is a bad sign for him.

Pombo’s opponent, engineer Jerry McNerney (D), has the backing of the left and scores of volunteers from the San Francisco Bay area. Left-wing groups softened up Pombo by spending the whole year making robo-calls against him. If they succeed in defeating him tomorrow, this strategy will surely be repeated in the future.

Pombo’s saving grace may be the GOP absentee ballot effort here. The results may not be known until midday Wednesday or later. But Republicans are glum about this one. Leaning Democratic Takeover.

Idaho-1: State Rep. Bill Sali (R) should narrowly defeat tech executive Larry Grant (D) in one of the nation’s most Republican districts. Sali has shown weakness, though, and if he loses, it is a sign of a worst-case scenario day for Republicans. Leaning Republican Retention.

Washington-8: Rep. Dave Reichert (R) appears to have survived the onslaught by software executive Darcy Burner (D). Leaning Republican Retention.

Senate 2006

Republicans’ outlook for the Senate continues to deteriorate, but still, none of their close races are hopelessly lost. Democrats +2, Republicans -2.

Arizona: Sen. Jon Kyl (R) will defeat wealthy developer Jim Pedersen (D). Likely Republican Retention.

Maryland: The momentum in this race has all been going one way for weeks now. The problem is that for a Republican in Maryland, there is always such a long way to go. Not only has Lt. Gov. Michael Steele (R) run a near-flawless campaign, he has also benefited from several gaffes by his opponent, Rep. Ben Cardin (D) — particularly one debate performance that can be described only as disastrous for Cardin.

Near the end, the two are tied in the polls. The question here is whether Steele will get the 12 percent of the black vote that those public polls suggest, or the 20-plus percent suggested by his internals.

The Braynard Group did a late poll for us showing Cardin leading, 48-38, and Steele attracting just 12 percent of the black vote. We had to consider this an outlier, particularly when Mason-Dixon, Survey USA, and the Baltimore Sun all showed a much closer race. However, the others may be missing something, and it is interesting how they share the 12 percent number in common.

The problem is that 12 percent would be consistent with a year in which Republicans did not win a single new black vote, and Steele has been collecting key endorsements from Democrats in the black community, and should do much better than the average Republican.

Steele may well outperform Gov. Bob Ehrlich (R) on tomorrow’s ballot, and we believe that both will win. Leaning Republican Takeover.

Michigan: Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) will defeat Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard (R), but watch for a close race, particularly if turnout is low in Detroit. Leaning Democratic Retention.

Missouri: The race between Sen. Jim Talent (R) and state Auditor Claire McCaskill (D) is so tight that both sides are preparing for a recount — the losing candidate is entitled to one if the margin is less than one percent. The horrible cliché that it’s all about turnout comes to mind.

Talent has survived the barrage of Michael J. Fox ads on stem-cell research. His get-out-the-vote operation has been in full swing for more than a week now, whereas McCaskill’s appears to have started later. Talent’s program has exceeded the voter contact targets achieved by the Bush-Cheney campaign in the presidential year, although this is not as impressive as it sounds, since the Democrats gave up on Missouri in the late stages.

Anecdotally, there is evidence that McCaskill’s campaigners focused on the low-turnout urban areas this weekend, neglecting the outlying black areas of St. Louis County, where voter turnout is normally much higher. This may just be incorrect, but it is very puzzling if true.

The x-factor, which we believe will cut decisively in Talent’s favor, is Amendment 2, the cloning and stem-cell amendment on the ballot (see below). Whether it succeeds or fails, the balloting on Amendment 2 will be very close, and its opponents are much more motivated to vote than its supporters. More people may vote for it, but few will go out specifically to vote for it. Its presence on the ballot can only help Talent in a race that promises to come down to a few thousand votes. Leaning Republican Retention.

Minnesota: Despite very high hopes for his political future early last year, Rep. Mark Kennedy (R) let this race get away from him early and he never got back into the hunt. Hennepin County Attorney Amy Klobuchar (D) should win easily. Likely Democratic Retention.

Montana: The late surge by Sen. Conrad Burns (R) was probably too little, too late, especially considering how many Montanans had already voted in early voting. State Sen. Jon Tester (D) will prove a very odd fit for the state if elected. Leaning Democratic Takeover.

Nebraska: Sen. Ben Nelson (D) is just too popular to be beaten this time. As the candidate unofficially endorsed by President Bush, he will soundly defeat Ameritrade executive Pete Ricketts (R). Likely Democratic Retention.

New Jersey: Republicans finally found a candidate who can win in New Jersey, but they probably found him in the wrong year. Despite an investigation into his possibly corrupt practices, and numerous credible allegations, Sen. Bob Menendez (D) will win over state Sen. Tom Kean (R). Leaning Democratic Retention

Ohio: Sen. Mike DeWine (R) has shown some late signs of life, and a late ad attacking Rep. Sherrod Brown (D) may have helped him gain some ground. But it’s too late. Ohio will be a disaster for Republicans this year, littered with GOP corpses. Likely Democratic Takeover

Pennsylvania: State Treasurer Bob Casey (D) will bring an end to the career of Sen. Rick Santorum (R) tomorrow. Likely Democratic Takeover.

Rhode Island: Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R) is making a strong comeback against former state Atty. Gen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D). Whitehouse hit a high-mark about a week too early. Democrats are very nervous about Rhode Island, because private polling shows him surging far ahead. This race might become a comfortable victory by tomorrow for the liberal Chafee. Leaning Republican Retention.

Tennessee: Chattanooga Mayor Bob Corker (R) is running away with this one. Rep. Harold Ford, Jr. (D) probably lost at least 1,000 votes every time he opened his mouth to talk about “the Lord” in the past two weeks. Leaning Republican Takeover.

Vermont: This one just never became a race. Socialist Rep. Bernie Sanders (I) will easily crush businessman Richard Tarrant (R). Likely Democratic Retention.

Virginia: We wrote last week that Sen. George Allen (R) was behind, but as the race has moved back toward positive campaigning in the final days, Allen appears to have successfully weathered any backlash from his slash-and-burn campaign tactics. Allen now appears to have surged, but this one will be very close.

Even if former Navy Secretary Jim Webb (D) does not beat Allen, he ends Allen’s presidential aspirations for 2008. Allen never took his race seriously — that is what will go on his tombstone if he loses. Leaning Republican Retention.

Washington: Sen. Maria Cantwell (D) should handily win re-election over former insurance executive Mike McGavick (R). Likely Democratic Retention.

West Virginia: Sen. Robert Byrd (R) survived until the election, which was all he had to do in order to defeat businessman John Raese (R). Likely Democratic Retention.

Governor 2006

Democrats +5, Republicans -5.

California: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) will easily win a second term over State Treasurer Phil Angelides (D). The only question is whether State Sen. Tom McClintock (R) can defeat Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi (D) for the lieutenant governor position. Likely Republican Retention.

Connecticut: Gov. Jodi Rell (R) will coast to a second term over New Haven Mayor John DeStefano (D). Likely Republican Retention.

Florida: Atty. Gen. Charlie Crist (R) will defeat Rep. Jim Davis (D), despite a late tightening of the race. Likely Republican Retention.

Maryland: Gov. Bob Ehrlich has trailed narrowly in most polls, but he is now tied, and the momentum is clearly running in his favor. His ads at this point, both positive and negative, are hitting Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley (D) hard. He has endlessly flogged his endorsement by the Washington Post and is reaching out to moderate voters in Montgomery County — the same strategy that won the race for him in 2002. Without any serious House campaigns, and with a Senate race that keeps looking worse for the state’s Democrats, the Republican ground game could be the deciding factor that puts him barely over the top. This race is among the most likely to get a recount. Leaning Republican Retention.

Minnesota: Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) has basically done a good job in his first term, and although he trails or is tied in the last round of polls, there is ample reason to believe that he will hang on and win. His opponent, state Atty. Gen. Mike Hatch (D), suffered a major gaffe this week when his running mate admitted ignorance of what E-85 is (an ethanol-blended fuel), and he called a reporter “a Republican whore.”

The Republican National Committee is investing a lot of resources here and flying in volunteers from Washington, despite the uncompetitive Senate race, because it does not want to hold its 2008 convention in a state where it just got swept in the midterm election. Leaning Republican Retention.

Nevada: The position of Rep. Jim Gibbons (R) is now completely unclear after accusations that he sexually assaulted a cocktail waitress in a parking garage. Surveillance tapes from a parking garage show that he did not do it where she said he did it, so apparently he has been exonerated. But the smell of a late scandal like this can often doom a candidate regardless of the truth of the accusation.

Gibbons has a long record in Nevada, and so it is reasonable to assume that the scandal will not destroy him, but the race was already close enough that the constant coverage has to be damaging. Gibbons’ opponent, State Sen. Dina Titus (D), is unimpressive and unlikeable as a public speaker. This race is now a wild card. Leaning Republican Retention.

Ballot Propositions 2006

We look at a handful of ballot measures that go before voters tomorrow.

California-Prop 85: This measure would require parental notification for minor girls seeking abortions. The polls put it at 46 percent (to 43 percent against). It is below 50 percent, which means it will probably fail, according to the rule of thumb for ballot propositions. But the expected depressed turnout among Democrats in California could still put it over the top. Leaning Fail.

California-Prop 87: A proposed tax on oil removal from the ground in California will fail. Likely Fail.

Michigan-Proposal 2: This initiative, which would ban race-based preferences from state programs, will fail by a large margin. If voter turnout in Detroit is seriously depressed, it could narrowly fail. Likely Fail.

Missouri-Amdt 2: This confusingly worded amendment, which styles itself as a cloning ban, would actually enshrine in the state constitution the right to clone human embryos for scientific experiments. Public polling puts it barely at the threshold for passage as of last weekend, between 45 and 51 percent. From what we hear in Missouri, the push against it has been positively ferocious in the final days.

We anticipate that strong voter turnout on the Right will make passage extremely narrow. The deciding factor, though, may be the confusing ballot language. A court allowed the amendment to be placed on the ballot as if it were a cloning ban, and many voters who enter the booth may support it just based on the ballot language, which is deceptive.

Whether it passes or not — and there is very real doubt that it will — the margin will be so slim as to call into question whether embryonic stem-cell research is such a great issue for Democrats — and that goes double if Steele scores an upset in Maryland and Talent pulls out the victory in Missouri, despite the Michael J. Fox ads against those candidates on the stem-cell issue. Leaning Pass.

South Dakota: Voters will narrowly fail to adopt an abortion ban enacted by the state legislature last year. Their biggest complaint is that the ban does not include exceptions for rape and incest. It is a disheartening defeat for pro-lifers in a very pro-life state. Leaning Fail.

Marriage Amendments: In Virginia, Tennessee, Idaho, South Carolina, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Arizona, and Colorado, voters will ban state recognition of same-sex relationships as marriages. All Strong or Likely Pass

Robert D. Novak