November 2010 Election Predictions

kamala harris

Kamala Harris (Photo: Edward Headington)

I wrote on June 7 that Jerry Brown was a “shoo-in” to be California’s next Governor, and on March 4 advised bettors to put a lot of cash on Barbara Boxer winning re-election in November. Unfortunately, the “enthusiasm gap” and standard midterm election turnout decline makes predicting other state, local, and national races far murkier. In 2008, my optimistic predictions of an Electoral College landslide for Barack Obama assumed a record turnout; today, progressives are far less energized, and the electorate is driven by anger and fear rather than hope. It’s always more fun when your projected winners are the causes and candidates you support, but 2010 will be more like the disappointing 2004 national elections than the 2006 and 2008 versions. Here are my picks.

National Races

Feingold Loses in Wisconsin

The good news is that Democrats retain the U.S. Senate, and that only one progressive Senator – Russ Feingold – is likely to lose their seat. I see Feingold losing for three reasons.

First, he has always run as an outsider and not conveyed the sense of loyalty that California Democratic leaders still feel toward Barbara Boxer after all these years.

Second, having served three terms, some independent voters want a new face – even if Republican Ron Johnson is as extreme as Christine O’Donnell without the witch connections.

Third, bad economic times in Wisconsin and the enthusiasm gap makes this a bad time for Feingold to be running.

For all those who believe climate change denier Johnson is “too extreme” to win, that’s what I thought about current Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn after he claimed during his 2004 campaign against a popular Democratic Governor that lesbianism is “so rampant in some of the schools in southeast Oklahoma that they’ll only let one girl go to the bathroom.” I learned from that experience that nobody is “too extreme” to win election to the Senate.

Rand Paul Wins in Kentucky

Staying on the topic of candidates whose bizarreness will not prevent victory, I see Rand Paul winning in Kentucky. And yes, I saw the head stomping video multiple times, and know about Paul’s opposition to federal civil rights laws and other widely supported measures.

Paul is running for the seat long held by one of the worst Senators in modern history, Jim Bunning. I was staying in Kentucky while working in Cincinnati during the 2004 election, and read stories about Bunning’s nuttiness on a daily basis. Despite appearing to suffer a mental breakdown during the campaign, Kentucky voters returned him to office.

Democrat Jack Conway is a far stronger candidate than Bunning faced in 2004, but this is not the election cycle for Kentucky to go Democratic in the Senate race.

Joe Sestak Wins in Pennsylvania.

I know this goes against all polls, but Joe Sestak has finished stronger than expected in every race he has run. I think a Sestak defeat would be the biggest Senate disappointment of the night, both due to his upside and his opponent’s opposition to spending federal money on anything that helps people.

Harry Reid Wins in Nevada.

This also goes against polls, as well as my argument for Ron Johnson in Wisconsin about some voters wanting a fresh face, regardless of how extreme. But I see Harry Reid pulling through for two reasons.

First, his vaunted get-out-the-vote operation could spur unexpectedly large Latino voting in Las Vegas. Second, and this may be wishful thinking, but I cannot believe the Nevada business community wants to replace the Senate Majority Leader with a woman who will do nothing for Nevada business interests, and who will have no power before being defeated for re-election in 2016.

A Reid loss would not be a surprise, as his lack of personal charisma may finally do him in.

Joe Miller Loses in Alaska.

Not certain whether write-in Independent Senator Lisa Murkowski or Democrat Scott McAdams wins, but I’m confident that Republican Joe Miller loses. Given the difficulties of write-in candidacies, I’ll go with McAdams.

Few would have thought that a Sarah Palin-created Tea Party candidate would prove too extreme for her home state, and that Alaska would ever again have two Democratic Senators.

Netroots Called it in Arkansas and Florida.

Remember when Markos Moulitsas of Daily Kos blogged at least 50 times that Arkansas Senator Blanche Lincoln had no political future if she defeated challenger Bill Halter in their June Democratic primary? He was right. Yet the Obama Administration rallied behind Lincoln, ensuring a Republican landslide in a race that Halter could have at least made competitive.

The netroots also predicted that Republican Marco Rubio would win in Florida if Governor Charlie Crist and Democrat Kendrick Meek both stayed in the race. I understand Meek’s feeling that he won the Democratic nomination and deserves to run, but he’s running a poor third and his continuing the race will bring the right-wing Rubio to the Senate.

If Toomey beats Sestak in Pennsylvania, one of the main election night story lines is likely to be how right-wing Republicans succeeded in driving moderate Republicans out of office in PA and FLA (Spector and Christ) and replacing them with people of their choosing. This will ensure that the few remaining
Republican Senate “moderates” toe the Tea Party line, making “cooperation” with Democrats impossible.

Democrats will retain the Senate – even if Reid, Feingold and Lincoln all lose.

The House of Representatives

Hard to avoid the conclusion that Democrats lose the House. But this does mean that Nancy Pelosi loses her Democratic leadership, as the vast majority of Democrats who will lose on November 2 are Blue Dogs – leaving Pelosi’s support stronger than ever.

I see Pelosi staying in power and plotting a retaking of the House in the expected big turnout election of 2012.

California Races

Jerry Brown did not break a sweat in defeating Meg Whitman, dispelling all of the fears on the blogosphere around Labor Day that his campaign was too slow in attacking his opponent. As I said long ago, Brown knows more about winning campaigns than any of us who write about politics, which is why I never doubted he would easily defeat Meg Whitman.

Democrats will win all major statewide offices with the likely exception of Attorney General, which goes to Steve Cooley.

Polls find this race very close, but I’m going with Cooley because he got the endorsement of every major newspaper in the state other than the San Francisco Chronicle and La Opinion. Many of these same papers are endorsing Jerry Brown, and the Los Angeles Times went with all Democrats for top state offices except for Harris.

Harris knew going in that some voters might be reluctant to elect a top statewide law enforcement official who is a woman of color. This was widely discussed when African-American Yvonne Brathwaite Burke lost to George Deukmejian in 1978, and every single Attorney General in modern California history – along with every Governor – has been a white male.

But Harris added two obstacles to her task.

First, she opposes the death penalty. Cooley has flooded the airwaves with commercials featuring the wife of Isaac Espinoza, the San Francisco police officer killed in the line of duty in April 2005. His killer did not face death because Harris did not seek the death penalty.

Second, Harris’s District Attorney office engaged in multiple misteps that Cooley has seized upon. Given the gender and racial barriers Harris faced in the best of situations – and she is a charismatic politician who is great on the campaign trail – these problems will likely tip the scales to Cooley.

State Initiatives

I see the crucial Proposition 25, which ends the two-thirds requirement to pass a budget, winning. But Proposition 26, which places the state and localities in a further fiscal straitjacket, could also win, and would create a new set of problems.

Based on Jerry Brown’s coattails, I see Prop 26 narrowly losing, and the destructive Proposition 23 also losing. Chevron and other big Prop 23 backers began shifting money to “Yes on 26” last week, as they knew the effort to repeal anti-global warming legislation will fail in California.

I see Proposition 19 losing narrowly, no thanks to the Obama Administration who felt compelled to weigh in against the measure. But many are saying that poll respondents are not admitting support for Prop 19, so it has a chance.

San Francisco Supervisor Races

Scott Weiner will win in District 8, a race that I once thought would go to Rebecca Prozan, who failed to maintain her early momentum. Weiner is believed to have knocked on virtually every door in the district, and his ideology is similar to that of popular incumbent Bevan Dufty. He would become the third Harvard Law grad on the Board of Supervisors

I never understood why Rafael Mandelman’s campaign thought it could run a District 6 or District 5 campaign in neighborhoods nowhere near as progressive. Mandelman will secure the district’s progressive base, but that’s not enough votes to win in District 8.

I see District 10 as a showdown between Steven Moss and Malia Cohen. Cohen’s victory depends on higher than usual African-American turnout in the ten historically lowest performing precincts. Moss has already banked a sizable number of absentee votes, and absent sufficient Bayview-Hunters Point turnout for Cohen, will win in a district that myself and others thought would not elect a white candidate.

Janet Reilly wins easily in District 2.

I am not making a prediction for District 6, but will have plenty to say about this race in our election recap edition on Wednesday.

San Francisco Initiatives

The 800-pound gorilla on the ballot is Proposition B, which changes pension and health care benefits for city employees.

When I first wrote about the measure on July 7, I noted that a victory would have very negative state and national implications. I still believe that its promotion of the pension provisions while concealing of the greater health care impact rendersProp B a fraud, and strongly oppose its passage.

The question now is whether Prop B will pass.

I’ve solicited more opinions about this than any other candidate or ballot measure. The question is whether elected officials’ unanimous opposition and a huge “No on B” mail campaign can offset the broader news cycle where obscene city employee salaries in Bell, California boost anti-public employee attitudes in San Francisco and across the nation.

The other problem is that in an election where people want change, Prop B appears to offers a break from the status quo.

I see Prop B winning, and hope San Francisco voters prove me wrong by a large margin.

Let’s hope our Giants give us reason for happiness on what could otherwise be a tough night for progressives across the nation.

Randy Shaw

Republished with permission from Beyond Chron

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