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Freddoso: My 2012 Election Guide

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Note: This election guide is designed to help you follow the important contests chronologically as the polls close in each state. Although it contains predictions, the main point is to alert you to the important races and give you a baseline for expectations as you watch them. So, for example, if several of the Republicans whom I have winning go off and lose their races, then it's a sign that Democrats are having a better night than I expected.

My predictions include Obama winning the Electoral College (275 to 263), Republicans gaining four seats in the U.S. House, and no change in the U.S. Senate. But in many cases -- including several of the key presidential states -- the polls and other indicators (such as early voting) are so close or contradictory that the predictions are not much better than guesses. I'd also like to emphasize that this is roughly what I think will happen, not necessarily (and not in fact) what I want to see happen.

7 p.m. EST (60 electoral votes)

Georgia (16)
Tonight could mark the end of the white Southern Democrat. Rep. John Barrow (D), one of the last such members of Congress, will probably lose to Republican Lee Anderson thanks to redistricting. Republicans will also gain a newly created House seat.

President: Solid Romney
House: R+2

Indiana (11)
Although most of Indiana closes at 6 p.m., the heavily Democratic northwestern corner falls in the Central Time Zone and won't close until 7 p.m.

Obama won’t win the Hoosier State this time – he may even lose by double digits. Rep. Mike Pence (R) will be the state's next governor.

The Senate race should have been a sure thing for state Treasurer Richard Mourdock (R), until his slightly inarticulate answer to a debate question about abortion in cases of rape. Even then, Mourdock probably would have been fine if not for the extremely ignorant comments of Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.) earlier in the cycle. Mourdock’s opponent, Rep. Joe Donnelly (D), professes to be pro-life as well, and so it's quiet possible that some Mourdock voters will feel more comfortable making the switch than they might with your typical Democrat.

Jackie Walorski (R), who fell short of beating Donnelly in 2010, should easily win his open seat. It was already competitive, but with Democratic Michigan City removed from the district and Republican Elkhart County added, it will have a much more Republican flavor this decade.

President: Solid Romney
Senate: D+1
House: R+1

Kentucky (8)
The only interesting race in the state is the 6th Congressional District, where Andy Barr (R) is repeating his challenge of Rep. Ben Chandler (D), which came very, very close. The argument for Barr is that Obama will be losing Kentucky by an enormous margin. The argument for Chandler is that redistricting has improved his situation from last time.

President: Solid Romney

South Carolina (9)
Republicans should pick up a newly drawn House seat.

President: Solid Romney
House: R+1

Vermont (3)

Gov. Peter Shumlin (D) should win re-election easily.

President: Solid Obama

Virginia (13)
Obama’s win here in 2008 was a sign of the state’s gradual drift to Democrats. In 2009, Republicans showed they can win and win big in Virginia, even performing well among voters in suburban Washington. Which race does this one look like, 2008 or 2009? Early voter turnout has suffered in Obama’s most critical counties, and the Obama campaign’s late social issues push is, frankly, reminiscent of that used by the losing gubernatorial candidate in 2009. The big question mark is whether former Rep. Virgil Goode (R), who is running on a third party line, gets enough to cost Romney the state.

Meanwhile, there are precious few signs that former Sen. George Allen (R) can defeat former Gov. Tim Kaine (D).

President: Slight Romney

 

7:30 p.m. (38 electoral votes)

North Carolina (15)
Obama gave up here for a reason -- Romney should win it going away. If Obama does lose narrowly, his late and half-hearted preoccupation with the state may be cited as a minor factor in his demise.

Republicans, who won the state legislature in 2010 and undid the Democratic gerrymander of the 2000’s, will easily gain the governorship and likely pick off three or even four U.S. House seats. This is where the last Southern White Democrats -- especially Rep. Mike McIntyre (D), who should pull it out -- will take their stand.

President: Lean Romney
House: R+3

Ohio (18)
All things considered, President Obama has to be favored here, though not by much. The auto bailout has kept his poll numbers strong. Romney never gave up hope, but with the airwaves completely saturated and every corner of the state visited, he began looking for another way in with his Pennsylvania gamble.

With early voting way down in Obama’s best counties and up in those he lost in 2008, this one could still go either way.Also prepare for the nightmare scenario: If the margin is close enough, provisional ballots cannot be opened for ten days.

The Senate race looked like it might pick up at one point, but Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) should win convincingly. Rep. Bill Johnson (R) should survive his rematch against former Rep. Charlie Wilson (D). Rep. Jim Renacci (R) should also come out ahead against fellow incumbent Rep. Betty Sutton (D) in what became a really bitter and expensive slug-fest in the Cleveland suburbs.

President: Slight Obama.

West Virginia (5)

President: Solid Romney.

 

8 p.m. (172 electoral votes)

Alabama (9)
President: Solid Romney

Connecticut (7)
Linda McMahon (R) will once again fall short in her effort to win a Senate seat by challenging a Democrat with questionable ethics – this time Rep. Chris Murphy (D). Republicans have a slightly worse-than-even shot at his open House seat.

President: Solid Obama

Delaware (3)
President: Solid Obama

Florida (29)
A lot rides on this one. Romney is counting on the Sunshine State just to stay in the game, and he should win it by a clear margin. The early vote is quite close by party registration (4 point margin), and Romney expects to win on Election Day by double digits.

Sen. Bill Nelson (D) will win re-election by a more convincing margin. Down-ballot, everything has been scrambled by the new redistricting law that passed in a 2010 referendum.Freshman Reps. Steve Southerland (R), Allen West (R), and Daniel Webster (R) are all favored to win, in decreasing order of confidence. In the new 9th District around Orlando, former Rep. Alan Grayson (D) will make a comeback.

In the “new” Democratic 22nd District, Adam Hasner (R) – who dropped out of the Senate race to compete here -- and Lois Frankel (D), who first achieved fame during the 2000 recount, are locked in a very tight race, slight edge to Frankel.

In the Republican 26th District, scandal-plagued Rep. David Rivera (R) will lose to his repeat challenger, Joe Garcia (D).

President: Lean Romney
House: D+3

Illinois (20)
It goes without saying that Obama wins his adopted home state. The real game is down-ballot, where Democrats appear to have overextended themselves in redistricting. In the 8th District, Rep. Joe Walsh (R) will lose to Former Assistant Secretary for Veterans’ Affairs Tammy Duckworth (D).Moderate Rep. Bob Dold (R), however, should survive in his north suburban 10th district.

In the misshapen 11th District, former Rep. Bill Foster (D) should defeat moderate Rep. Judy Biggert (R). Downstate, however, Jason Plummer (R) looks set to pick up the historically Democratic 12th District– a seat left open by the retirement of moderate Rep. Jerry Costello (D) – after the Democrats’ favored candidate dropped out of the race.

In the 13th District, former U.S. House staffer Rodney Davis (R) should top medical doctor David Gill (D). And the pizza man, Rep. Bobby Schilling (R), will deliver in the 17th District, staving off former journalist Cheri Bustos (D).

In short, Democrats’ hopes of picking up four seats may be reduced to a mere gain of one – even in a year when Obama is on the ballot.

President: Solid Obama.
House: D+1

Maine (4)
President Obama will win at least three of the state’s four electoral votes – Romney can snag one if he wins the vote total in the 2nd Congressional District, but there have been no signs of a serious effort.

Former Gov. Angus King (I) will win the open-seat Senate race and caucus with the Democrats.

President: Lean Obama
Senate: D+1

Maryland (10)
Thanks to artful gerrymandering, Democrats will pick up the 6th District House seat of Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R). But voters might also throw out the new congressional map, which conservatives managed to place on the ballot along with other measures the legislature passed last term -- same-sex marriage, in-state tuition for illegal immigrants, and casino gambling.

President: Solid Obama
House: D+1

Massachusetts (11)
Sen. Scott Brown (R) has a good public image and strong approval numbers. And in Massachusetts, that’s just not enough for a Republican to win statewide. Law professor Elizabeth Warren (D) will likely defeat him, thanks to a strong showing by Obama at the top of the ticket.

In the 6th District, Rep. John Tierney (D) has been done in by an illegal gambling and tax scandal involving his brother-in-law. Tierney, whose wife served time in prison for helping her brother, is expected to lose to moderate state Rep. Richard Tisei (R), giving Republicans their first Massachusetts House seat in 16 years.

President: Solid Obama
Senate: D+1
House: R+1

Mississippi (6)
President: Solid Romney

Missouri (10)
If Virginia is turning blue, Missouri is an example of a swing state that has become redder since 2000. Romney will carry it by a wide margin.

Rep. Todd Akin (R) was never the candidate of the Tea Party, but he benefited from a crowded field and squeezed through the primary. He should have been a shoo-in against scandal-plagued Sen. Claire McCaskill (D), but for his ignorant comments about whether women can be impregnated by rape. He resisted calls to drop out of the race, and as a result McCaskill will win narrowly because just enough Republicans will vote third-party. Akin will be gone, but the damage he has done to the pro-life brand and movement will be lasting.

President: Likely Romney

New Hampshire (4)
It’s close enough that Romney could still win here. Rep. Charlie Bass (R) will probably lose to Ann McLane Kuster (D) in the state’s more Democratic western district. Freshman Rep. Frank Guinta (R), on the other hand should survive his rematch against former Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D).

Maggie Hassan (D) is the favorite for governor over Ovide Lamontagne (R).

President: Slight Obama
House: D+1

New Jersey (14)
Late-breaking sex allegations won’t stop Sen. Bob Menendez (D) from winning re-election. The only remotely competitive House race became something of a bad joke when Shelley Adler (D), wife of a former congressman, ran a tasteless radio ad comparing Rep. Jon Runyan (R) to a destructive hurricane right after Hurricane Sandy hit the Jersey Shore. Bright idea, that.

President: Solid Obama

Oklahoma (7)
Romney will romp, and Markwayne Mullin (R) will pick up the “Little Dixie” district left behind by retiring Rep. Dan Boren (D).

President: Solid Romney
House:
R+1

Pennsylvania (20)
It’s the great White Whale for Republican presidential nominees. People forget that George W. Bush nearly won it in 2004, falling just 2.5 percent shy. But he also invested significant time and money in the state.

This time, Pennsylvania became attractive to Romney’s campaign in part because there was so little investment by anyone. With no more airtime to buy in Ohio, they had extra money to burn in a state where voters haven’t seen any ads and haven’t been voting early – Republicans lead in the (small) absentee count – in hopes of catching Team Obama completely off-guard. Romney is going to make it close, but it’s very hard to see him pulling it off.

But still, this significantly complicates the life of Sen. Bob Casey (D), the son of a beloved late governor, who had taken re-election completely for granted and ran almost no campaign. If he is upset by Republican Tom Smith tonight, he has no one but himself to blame.

President: Lean Obama

Rhode Island (4)
Nothing happens in Rhode Island, right? Wrong. Rep. David Cicilline (D), the former mayor of Providence, stands credibly accused of misrepresenting his city’s financial condition when he ran for Congress to replace Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D) in 2010. The facts have since been laid bare, and voters may take revenge by selecting Brendan Doherty (R), a former Rhode Island state police supervisor who enjoys endorsements from several local Democrats. Cicilline is especially doomed if Obama fails to break 60 percent.

President: Solid Obama
House: R+1

Tennessee (11)
Along with Arkansas and Missouri, another state that has moved further into the Republican column in recent years. Freshman Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R), who ran as a pro-life conservative in 2010, will likely survive the revelation that he urged a former mistress to have an abortion. Republicans will want to take out their own trash in the 2014 primaries.

President: Solid Romney

Washington, D.C. (3)
Needless to say, Obama wins, probably with 90 percent of the vote.

President: Solid Obama

8:30 p.m. (6 electoral votes)

Arkansas (6)

The last time Democrats had a legitimate shot at winning a presidential race here was 2000. Still, Arkansas has remained a Democratic state at heart -- until this year. Arkansas has grown redder over the last decade at the federal level, flipping its House delegation and one of its Senate seats from blue to red. The final prize for the GOP is the state legislature, which they may well capture for the first time since reconstruction. It is the last Southern state to realign to the GOP, only a few decades late.

Meanwhile, Tom Cotton (R) will easily take the House seat of retiring Rep. Mike Ross (D), leaving the state with only one Democrat in Washington – Sen. Mark Pryor, D, who faces re-election in 2014 and has every reason to fear.

President: Solid Romney
House: R+1

9 p.m. (156 electoral votes)

Arizona (11)
President Obama’s top advisors teased Arizona as a state where they’d like to challenge Romney, but this was always bluster. Romney will win convincingly. Rep. Jeff Flake, (R), will win the open Senate seat left by retiring Sen. Jon Kyl (R) over former Surgeon General Richard Carmona (D), who had once been courted to run for House as a Republican.

Republicans got killed in the allegedly non-partisan redistricting process, but they may do pretty well in this election anyway. In the newly Democratic-leaning 1st District, former Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D) seems to have done herself in. Her appearance at a newspaper candidates’ forum was described as a “meltdown.” State Sen. Jonathan Paton (R) should narrowly keep the seat in Republican hands, especially now that he’s won the endorsement of the Navajo Nation Council.

In the re-numbered 2nd District, Rep. Ron Barber (D) should hang on to the seat he won in a special election, formerly held by Rep. Gabbie Giffords (D). The Democratic candidate in the newly drawn 9th District, former state Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D, will test how far left this Democratic-leaning district will go – perhaps far enough for her to beat former Paradise Valley Mayor Vernon Parker (R).

President: Likely Romney
House: D+1

Colorado (9)
This has become a tougher and tougher state for Republicans, but Romney should pull it out and reverse Obama’s 2008 victory.

In the House, Rep. Mike Coffman (R), who got the short end of the stick in redistricting, should still be able to hold on against his under-funded challenger. Reps. Scott Tipton (R), Cory Gardner (R), and Ed Perlmutter (D) are also expected to hang on.

President: Slight Romney.

Kansas (6)
Democrats failed to field a candidate in the state’s most competitive House District.

President: Solid Romney

Louisiana (8)
Romney will win easily, and the only serious House contest is between two Republicans who were thrown together by redistricting.

President: Solid Romney

Michigan (17)
Thanks in part to the concentrated benefit of the automotive bailout, Romney’s home state was always a longshot. He might make it very close, but a win is improbable, and would be a warning sign that Obama is toast everywhere. Another reason Romney chose to play in Pennsylvania and not here: A few union-backed ballot propositions that will likely fail but should still drive up union turnout.

Despite having a slightly more favorable district, Upper Peninsula Rep. Dan Benishek (R) may fall to his repeat opponent, former state Rep. Gary McDowell (D). (This keeps the Democratic delegation level, since they lost another seat in redistricting.)

Just west of Detroit, reindeer farmer Kerry Bentivolio (R) should hold the district vacated by the eccentric Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R), who was thrown off the ballot for failure to collect valid petition signatures.

President: Lean Obama

Minnesota (10)
Romney’s late feint here is not to be believed. But if he excited the state’s Republican voters at all, it helps Rep. Michele Bachmann (R), who always manages to make her own re-election unnecessarily difficult. It may not be enough to save Rep. Chip Cravaack (R), who unexpectedly won his very difficult district in 2010 and got no help in the new court-drawn district map.

Also on the ballot: Voter ID (Amendment 2), which is expected to pass.

President: Lean Obama
House: D+1

Nebraska (5)
Romney will win all of the state’s Congressional Districts and all of its electoral votes. Deb Fischer (R) will easily defeat former Sen. Bob Kerrey (D) in the open-seat Senate race to replace Sen. Ben Nelson (D).

President: Solid Romney
Senate: R+1

New Mexico (5)
The presidential race here just never took off, partly because of the presence of former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson on the ballot as a libertarian. New Mexico, the most heavily Hispanic state in America, will vote Republican under the right circumstances, but any Romney effort would have been futile this year. Former Rep. Heather Wilson (R) also gained surprisingly little traction in her bid for the open seat of retiring Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D).

President: Likely Obama

New York (29)

There are some big House races here this year, thanks to redistricting. Among those expected to lose: Reps. Kathy Hochul (D) and Ann Marie Buerkle (R), who nonetheless did surprise with her 2010 grassroots victory. Rep. Louise Slaughter (D) will survive in Rochester against Maggie Brooks (R). Reps. Bill Owens (D), Chris Gibson (R) and Nan Hayworth (R) should hang on as well. Rep. Tim Bishop (D), who was thrown into an extended recount in 2010, should do better with Obama on the ballot.

President: Solid Obama

North Dakota (3)
Republican Jack Dalrymple will retain the governorship and the GOP will keep the state’s at-large House seat with ease. Romney will also win big. In doing so, Republicans hope he can carry the lackluster campaign of Rep. Rick Berg (R) across the finish line in his open-seat Senate race against Heidi Heitkamp (D). The GOP can’t afford to miss this pickup.

President: Solid Romney.
Senate: R+1

South Dakota (3)
President: Solid Romney

Texas (38)
Ted Cruz (R) will win convincingly for Senate. In House races, Democrats benefit from a court-drawn map that could be changed in future cycles – each party will likely pick up two seats of the four given Texas in reapportionment.

In the 23rd District, Quico Canseco (R) is slightly favored in a very tight race against Pete Gallego (D). State Rep. Randy Weber (R) is having more difficulty than expected holding down a modified version of the House seat left by retiring Rep. Ron Paul (R) against former Rep. Nick Lampson (D).

President: Solid Romney
House: D+2, R+2

Wisconsin (10)
If Romney loses narrowly in Ohio, the presidency could hinge on the most over-elected state in America. After bitterly contested judicial elections and two rounds of state recall elections, Republicans have proven their ability to win in what has long been a close but Democrat-leaning state. Yet that doesn’t always translate to a win in a presidential election. George W. Bush fell just short here twice, and Mitt Romney will likely do the same.

Former Gov. Tommy Thompson (R) has proven a huge disappointment as the GOP’s Senate nominee. This is one race where the Tea Party would have definitely helped Republicans pick up a Senate seat, but too many conservatives got into the primary. It isn’t hard to imagine Thompson outperforming Romney and winning, but the polls point to Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D) as the favorite to replace Sen. Herb Kohl (D).

President: Slight Obama

Wyoming (3)
President: Solid Romney

 

10 p.m. EST (21 electoral votes)

Iowa (6)
Iowa this year is a lot like Ohio, but without an auto industry or a significant black voting population. It has a more vibrant white liberal bloc than Ohio, but a strong conservative streak as well.

Having won the endorsement of all four major newspapers, and having kept Democrats’ early absentee voting advantage below 65,000, Romney has a good chance of winning the state, just as George W. Bush did in 2004. It helps even more that judicial elections and a ballot measure will bring out the Evangelical vote.

Republicans should also win both of Iowa’s competitive House races -- Rep. Steve King (R) over former Iowa First Lady Christie Vilsack (D), and Rep. Tom Latham (R) over Rep. Leonard Boswell (D). The latter is a double-incumbent matchup forced by the state’s loss of a House seat in reapportionment, so Republicans don’t actually gain a seat here.

President: Slight Romney

Montana (3)
When an incumbent tries to boost a third-party candidate to siphon votes away from his challenger, it’s usually a sign of big trouble. Here too with Sen. Jon Tester (D), who should narrowly lose to Rep. Dennis Rehberg (R) today. Republicans will have no problem holding Rehberg’s House seat. The governor’s race is close, slight advantage to Rick Hill (R) for the pickup.

President: Solid Romney
Senate: R+1

Nevada (6)
The math does not look good for Romney here. But Sen. Dean Heller (R) should pull off a decisive victory over Rep. Shelley Berkley (D), who has been dogged by an ethics investigation all year. Freshman Rep. Joe Heck (R) should hang on to his swing House district. Danny Tarkanian (R) should win the state’s new and Democratic-leaning district, thanks to a poor choice of candidates by top Nevada Dems.

President: Lean Obama
House: R+1

Utah (6)
It’s always a Republican state, but this is the year we learn the absolute floor for the Democratic vote in Utah. Gov. Gary Herbert (R) can afford to take his election for granted, as can Sen. Orrin Hatch (R).

Republicans will pick up a newly-drawn House seat and also pick off Utah’s only Democratic House member, Rep. Jim Matheson (D). With a dramatically different Congressional District, he may be on his last legs in his race against Saratoga Springs Mayor Mia Love (R), whose appearance at the Republican National Convention in Tampa opened donors’ wallets and helped her cause immensely.

President: Solid Romney
House: R+2

 

11 p.m. (82 electoral votes)

California (55)
No doubts about the presidential or Senate races here – both will go Democratic – but a new non-partisan redistricting system has forced retirements and made several House races competitive. Incumbent Reps. Dan Lungren (R), Lois Capps (D) and Jerry McNerney (D) are in danger of losing. Reps. Mary Bono Mack (R), John Garamendi (D), Jeff Denham (R) and Brian Bilbray (R) are only in slightly better shape. Two Republicans -- David Valadao (R) and John Tavaglione – could both win seats that lean Democratic.

The bottom line: Republicans currently hold 19 of the state’s 53 seats, and in January they will probably hold 18 seats.

President: Strong Obama
House: D+1

Hawaii (4)
Despite having recruited the strongest possible candidate in former Gov. Linda Lingle (R), Republicans will fall well short of picking up the open Senate seat here. This is Obama’s true home state, after all.

President: Solid Obama

Idaho (4)
President: Solid Romney

Oregon (7)
It was once a swing-y state, but it’s gotten bluer. There’s nothing going on at the federal level this year.

President: Likely Obama

Washington (12)
Obama will win easily, as will Sen. Maria Cantwell (D). The governor’s race is too close to call, but slight edge to Rep. Jay Inslee (D). Inslee’s House seat will be interesting – Democrat Suzan DelBene should retain it. Denny Heck (D) should easily pick up the state’s newly drawn 10th District seat around Olympia as well.

President: Solid Obama
House: D+1

1 a.m. (3 electoral votes)

Alaska (3)
President: Solid Romney

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