Monday, October 30, 2006

Left, Right Agree: OR House On Cusp of Flip

The national electoral mood, if anything, seems to be trending towards a building Democratic wave that threatens to transform all levels of government across the country. Serious, totally mainstream political handicappers like Rothenburg and Cook are saying incredible things like 30 and 45 House seats for the Democrats, plus razor thin control of the Senate as serious possibilities. As many as 60 or more House races are apparently up for grabs--all of them Republican. Either everything we understand about late-stage polling is wrong, or it will be stolen, or this will be a history changing election.

Even Republican projections are giving up the House and at least three or four Senate seats. The suggestion that the Governor's mansions will flip to majority Democratic seems to be so well accepted that it's not even a story, and to suggest that state legislatures will not be carried up in the same wave doesn't really jibe with logic.

So in that context, both sides of the partisan continuum are making early predictions for Oregon's legislature: look for the Senate to hold Democratic--and the House to be an even money bet for flipping. Jon Isaacs, the Exec at Democratic FuturePAC in charge of taking the House, came out confident and asking for help to put Democratic candidates across the state over the top, even in places not generally friendly to Democrats in the past--much in the same way the national geographic borders have been shattered by the wave. Idaho? Nebraska? Wyoming? These should not be Democratic-competitive, but they are. And so goes Oregon:
I'm a professional - and raising expectations goes against every rule of political spin, but we're laying it all on the line. The insiders and lobbyists still scoff, thinking that we're going to hit 29, or maybe 30 seats, but we're becoming more confident every day that a majority of 31 or 32 seats is a real possibility.

But it can only happen if every single BlueOregon reader helps make it happen. This means you. This isn't the usual "come help us" campaign bluster -- I'm deadly serious. There are at least a half dozen seats that may be decided by less than a hundred votes.

The Oregon House Democrats, and our campaign arm Future PAC, are doing everything we can. We're pulling out all the stops. Over the past two weeks we've made significant NEW financial investments in the following races:

- HD 10 Jean Cowan
- HD 14 Chris Edwards
- HD 21 Brian Clem
- HD 24 Sal Peralta
- HD 25 Charles Lee
- HD 30 David Edwards
- HD 49 Rob Brading

Tens of thousands of new dollars have been or will be spent on these seven races during the final eight days - all pick-up opportunities for Democrats. Internal polling shows each of these candidates either leading - or trailing within the margin of error. We only need to win four to take control of the House.

In addition, our key incumbents continue to run strong campaigns to retain their seats. We feel very good about the strength of incumbent Representatives Larry Galizio, Chuck Riley, Arnie Roblan and Betty Komp. Newcomers Tobias Read and Suzanne Bonamici in the Democratic seats in HD 27 and 34 have done a superb job of withstanding Republican challenges in their campaigns.

In addition to the top seven pick-up opportunities listed above, we have several races that have emerged late as a result of great campaigns being run by Democratic candidates and a favorable political environment. With the national mood being decidedly anti-Republican, any of these great candidates could pull off upsets. They've each run a top-notch campaign. Don't be shocked if one or more of these candidates comes out on top:- HD 17 Jim Gilbert
- HD 18 Dan Thackaberry
- HD 19 Brian Grisham
- HD 37 Bev Backa
- HD 39 Mike Caudle
- HD 52 Suzanne Van Orman
- HD 59 Jim Gilbertson

Nice job of laying out the tiers, with some hint of nonspecfic internal polling info. In short, they look for four of seven among the hot races, holding almost all incumbent seats, and even picking off one or two of the races appearing to ride the wave.

Optimistic, eh? If local races have shifted in the same way the national and statewide numbers have moved in the last week to 10 days, then vulnerable Dem incumbents are becoming safer, top tier races are moving towards the Dems, and safe Republicans are becoming less safe. So again, there's a logic to this kind of thinking that is hard to deny.

Other than Karl Rove and Dick Cheney, Republicans are downcast or at least realistic, and in the blogosphere the mood seems similar. Ted Piccolo at NW Republican had this to say over the weekend from his insiders:
There is an amazing chance that the Republicans will lose the Oregon House. Republicans who are in real trouble are: Alan Brown (Newport), Billy Dalto (Salem), Everett Curry (Hillsboro, formerly held by Derrick Kitts), Debi Farr (Eugene) and as of yesterday Donna Nelson (McMinnville). Of course Speaker Minnis is in trouble but that is more due to the Democrats really really trying to make a political point. We'll deal with that race later.

One Republican politico made sure to mention to the Coyote that most all of those Republicans in trouble are squishes. Further pointing out that squishing on Republican principles will get you in more trouble than standing firm. That, as I mentioned in yesterday's post, is what we are seeing nationally as the Democrats run as conservatives.

The problem that I am hearing from the Everett Curry race is that Curry is talking like a liberal Republican in behind closed doors interviews. There are some solid Republicans who are secretly shrugging their shoulders at a potential Curry loss. It reminds me of the Mary Gallego race from a few years ago. It is to bad that Curry does not hit the streets hard as a solid conservative. That seat will vote for a conservative, just look at Derrick Kitts. Kitts, a good conservative Republican, could have held that seat easily and perhaps after term limits passes would be welcomed back to fill it by a vacating Sen. Starr? Hmmm... but I digress.

Finally the Torry seat is really in play as is..... drumb roll please...... the Riley and Monroe race. Look for sparks to fly in Riley v Monroe. The numbers are saying that seat is now in play as is the York v Metsger race.

Minnis' election problem is not that she is to squishy. Despite some of the issues I have with her, she is for the most part, a pretty good conservative vote and voice in the legislature. It is because of her effectiveness that she may lose this race. It is only because the Democrats have decided to have their hissy fit this cycle in Minnis' district. Fortunately they are running a weak candidate against her.
Piccolo appears to acknowledge the possible loss of four or five seats, even among his short list. And he shows a lot more optimism for Republicans in the Senate, but I can't imagine where that momentum would be coming from.

The newest polls from Cook and RT Strategies are showing an astonishing 61-35 edge for Democrats among most likely voters nationally. There's absolutely no reason to do so, but cut that in half for Oregon and you still get about 54-41. How does that not produce Democratic winners all up and down the ticket? How many Rs are they really likely to cherry-pick?

The whole theory of the wave is that when you get this imbalanced an electorate, with a large majority of people showing up to vote voting for one party, it makes wholesale changes in races you wouldn't expect.

The work still has to be done; I can't stress that enough. But let history be your goal as you come to Election Day. See how good it can get, because if everyone works hard it could be really, really good.