ENPR Special Election Preview


  1. On the eve of the election, we continue to predict a narrow win for Sen. Barack Obama, certainly in the popular vote (about 52%), and likely in the Electoral College. With one change from last week–shifting Nevada from Republican column to the Democratic column–we predict an Obama win of 291 Electoral Votes to Sen. John McCain‘s 247.
  2. McCain’s last-ditch effort to move the polls in Pennsylvania appears to have fallen short. Even if the candidates are nearly even in the popular vote, it is hard to imagine an Electoral College scenario in which McCain wins.
  3. The House and Senate pictures still are very ugly for Republicans, but the odds are still against Democrats reaching 60 seats in the upper chamber.
  4. Expect a handful of House and Senate races to be too close to call at the end of the night.


  1. While the media continue to overstate Obama’s dominance–his popular vote count will be in the low 50% range, at best–all the paths to a Republican victory look like nearly impossible climbs.
  2. Obama is currently leading comfortably in every state that John Kerry won four years ago, plus Colorado, Iowa, and New Mexico. Also, we favor Obama in Virginia, and he is threatening in North Carolina, Missouri, North Dakota, Montana, and others. Even if McCain were to hang onto all of those competitive states including Virginia, he would have to pull off a serious upset somewhere else–and none of the Obama-leaning states (besides Virginia) appear to be within reach, hence the Pennsylvania half-court heave.
  3. If Pennsylvania is close–or if McCain pulls off an improbable upset there–the reason is Sarah Palin, who has stormed the rural parts of that state.
  4. An Obama Electoral College blowout is possible because of how many McCain-leaning states–including Florida with 27 Electoral Votes–are hanging by a thread, but we predict that McCain will hang on to most of them.
  5. We adjust our Electoral College projection from last week by moving Nevada into the Democratic column after polls show Obama consistently above 50% in that state. Obama 291, McCain 247.


  1. A Democratic pickup of 8 seats is the most likely result, yielding 58 total Senate seats if you count liberal Independent Bernie Sanders (Vt.) as a Democrat, but exclude McCain-backing Joe Lieberman (I-Ct.).
  2. The closest races are: Minnesota’s three-way contest among Sen. Norm Coleman (R), liberal comedian Al Franken (D), and Jesse Ventura ally Dean Barkley (I) (leaning Democratic takeover); Mississippi’s special election between appointive Sen. Roger Wicker (R) and former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove (D); and Georgia’s bailout-centered contest between Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R) and former state Rep. Jim Martin (D).
  3. Democrats can reach 60 seats if they win all three of those contests, or if they can knock off Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Democrats +8, 57-41-2, effectively 58-42.
Likely Democratic Leaning Democratic Leaning Republican Likely Republican
New Mexico (open) North Carolina (Dole) Kentucky (McConnell) Maine (Collins)
Virginia (open) Minnesota (Coleman) Georgia (Chambliss)  
Louisiana (Landrieu) New Hampshire (Sununu) Mississippi (Wicker)  
Alaska (Stevens) Oregon (Smith)    
Colorado (open)      


  1. Democratic gains will be in the range of 14 to 28 seats, providing a robust majority to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
  2. The chart below shows our expected outcomes, and reflects a broader battleground (mostly including more vulnerable Republicans) than appeared to be the case earlier. Democrats + 18, 254-181.
Vulnerable Incumbents (Dems +9)
Leaning Democratic Leaning Republican
Bachmann (MN-6) Brown (SC-1)
M. Diaz-Balart (FL-25) Chabot (OH-1)
Feeney (FL-24) L. Diaz-Balart (FL-21)
Hayes (NC-8) Drake (VA-2)
Kirk (IL-10) English (PA-3)
Knollenberg (MI-9) Garrett (NJ-5)
Kuhl (NY-29) Graves (MO-6)
Porter (NV-3) Goode (VA-5)
Shays (CT-4) Keller (FL-08)
Young (AK-AL) McCaul (TX-10)
  Musgrave (CO-4)
  Reichert (WA-08)
  Roskam (IL-6)
  Sali (ID-1)
  Schmidt (OH-2)
  Shadegg (AZ-3)
  Souder (IN-3)
Competitive Open Seats (Dems +13)
Leaning Democratic Leaning Republican
Arizona-1 (Renzi) Alabama-2 (Everett)
Illinois-11 (Weller) California-4 (Doolittle)
Minnesota-3 (Ramstad) Illinois-18 (LaHood)
New Jersey-3 (Saxton) Kentucky-2 (Lewis)
New Jersey-7 (Ferguson) Louisiana-4 (McCrery)
New Mexico-1 (Wilson) Maryland-1 (Gilcrest)
New Mexico-2 (Pearce) Missouri-9 (Hulshof)
New York-13 (Fossella) Ohio-7 (Hobson)
New York-25 (Walsh) Wyoming-AL (Cubin)
New York-26 (Reynolds)  
Ohio-15 (Pryce)  
Ohio-16 (Regula)  
Virginia-11 (Davis)  
Vulnerable Incumbents (GOP + 4)
Leaning Democratic Leaning Republican
Altmire (PA-4) Kanjorski (PA-11)
Boyda (KS-2) Lampson (TX-22)
Gillibrand (NY-20) Mahoney (FL-16)
Carney (PA-10) Murtha (PA-12)
Cazayoux (LA-06)  
Childers (M S-1)  
Foster (IL-14)  
Kagen (WI-08)  
Marshall (GA-8)  
McNerney (CA-11)  
Shea-Porter (NH-1)  
Competitive Open Seats (GOP + 1)
Leaning Democratic Leaning Republican
Oregon-5 (Hooley) Alabama-5 (Cramer)