Prediction: Obama Wins; Dems Gain In Congress

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Nothing has been conventional about this race from the outset. When it all began some 20 months ago, few expected Barack Obama or John McCain to be the last candidates standing. But here they are, with one of them assured to become the 44th president of the United States. There's one day to go.

As recently as seven weeks ago, the battle for president was a true tossup. The selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as McCain's running mate had energized the Republican base and put the GOP ticket on the map — an amazing comeback, given the public's desire for change and its view of President Bush, the war in Iraq and rising prices of gasoline and food.

But if 20 months ago seems like a long time ago, so does early September. Once concerns about the economy took over, with the fall of the Dow, the collapse of lending institutions and the decline of everyone's 401(k) plans, everything else became secondary. There are, of course, imponderables here, everything from Obama's race, experience and ideology to McCain's age, record and ideology. There are whispers of vote suppression from one side and fraudulent voter registration from the other. Both sides condemn the rash of negative ads. With all the problems that the next president faces, it's hard to imagine the word "honeymoon" entering the lexicon, no matter who wins.

But it's also hard to imagine a scenario in which Obama doesn't win. By our count, every state that John Kerry carried four years ago is in the Obama column today — including Pennsylvania and New Hampshire, where the McCain campaign nonetheless is sending signals that an upset is possible. That gives Obama 252 electoral votes. Throw in other Bush states where the Democrat is ahead — Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Iowa, even Virginia — and you see how achieving the magic number of 270 is not a stretch.

Full disclosure: You should know that in this column four years ago, I predicted Kerry would win — thinking he would carry Ohio. And eight years ago, when this column ran on The Washington Post's Web site, I predicted Al Gore would win — figuring he would carry Florida. So my track record on calling the presidential race is less than stellar. Which, looking at it another way, is good news for McCain.

Here's my state-by-state look at the race for the White House:

Obama (291): California (55), Colorado (9), Connecticut (7), Delaware (3), District of Columbia (3), Hawaii (4), Illinois (21), Iowa (7), Maine (4), Maryland (10), Massachusetts (12), Michigan (17), Minnesota (10), Nevada (5), New Hampshire (4), New Jersey (15), New Mexico (5), New York (31), Oregon (7), Pennsylvania (21), Rhode Island (4), Vermont (3), Virginia (13), Washington (11), Wisconsin (10)

McCain (247): Alabama (9), Alaska (3), Arizona (10), Arkansas (6), Florida (27), Georgia (15), Idaho (4), Indiana (11), Kansas (6), Kentucky (8), Louisiana (9), Mississippi (6), Missouri (11), Montana (3), Nebraska (5), North Carolina (15), North Dakota (3), Ohio (20), Oklahoma (7), South Carolina (8), South Dakota (3), Tennessee (11), Texas (34), Utah (5), West Virginia (5), Wyoming (3)

STATES THAT WILL SWITCH FROM 2004
From Democrat to Republican — None
From Republican to Democrat — Colorado, Iowa, Nevada, New Mexico, Virginia


THE SENATE: There are 35 seats at stake, with Republicans defending 23 and Democrats 12. The numbers alone seem to indicate a good night for the Democrats. And it will be. But their total won't reach the magic number of 60, which would make it a filibuster-proof Senate.

Democratic retention (12): Arkansas (Mark Pryor), Delaware (Joe Biden), Illinois (Dick Durbin), Iowa (Tom Harkin), Louisiana (Mary Landrieu), Massachusetts (John Kerry), Michigan (Carl Levin), Montana (Max Baucus), New Jersey (Frank Lautenberg), Rhode Island (Jack Reed), South Dakota (Tim Johnson), West Virginia (Jay Rockefeller)

Republican retention (16): Alabama (Jeff Sessions), Georgia (Saxby Chambliss), open Idaho (Jim Risch), Kansas (Pat Roberts), Kentucky (Mitch McConnell), Maine (Susan Collins), Minnesota (Norm Coleman), Mississippi (Thad Cochran), Mississippi special (Roger Wicker), open Nebraska (Mike Johanns), Oklahoma (Jim Inhofe), South Carolina (Lindsey Graham), Tennessee (Lamar Alexander), Texas (John Cornyn), Wyoming (Mike Enzi), Wyoming special (John Barrasso)

PREDICTED TURNOVERS (7 — all Republican to Democrat)
ALASKA: Mark Begich defeats Sen. Ted Stevens
COLORADO: Mark Udall wins seat of retiring Wayne Allard
NEW HAMPSHIRE: Jeanne Shaheen defeats Sen. John Sununu
NEW MEXICO: Tom Udall wins seat of retiring Pete Domenici
OREGON: Jeff Merkley defeats Sen. Gordon Smith
NORTH CAROLINA: Kay Hagan defeats Sen. Elizabeth Dole
VIRGINIA: Mark Warner wins seat of retiring John Warner

2006 Senate calls: Correct on 31 out of 33 (missed Missouri and Virginia)
2004 Senate calls: Correct on 31 out of 33 (missed Alaska and South Dakota)


THE HOUSE: Democrats hold a 236-199 majority, including Ohio's 11th Congressional District seat, left vacant when Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D) died earlier this year. They seem all but assured of adding to that majority. These are the seats we think will switch parties on Tuesday:

REPUBLICAN TO DEMOCRAT (23)
AK At Large — Ethan Berkowitz over Rep. Don Young
AZ 01 — Ann Kirkpatrick wins seat of retiring Rick Renzi
CO 04 — Betsy Markey over Rep. Marilyn Musgrave
CT 04 — Jim Himes over Rep. Christopher Shays
FL 08 — Alan Grayson over Rep. Ric Keller
FL 24 — Suzanne Kosmas over Rep. Tom Feeney
ID 01 — Walt Minnick over Rep. Bill Sali
IL 11 — Debbie Halvorson wins seat of retiring Jerry Weller
MI 07 — Mark Schauer over Rep. Tim Walberg
MI 09 — Gary Peters over Rep. Joe Knollenberg
MN 06 — Elwyn Tinklenberg over Rep. Michele Bachmann
NV 03 — Dina Titus over Rep. Jon Porter
NJ 03 — John Adler wins seat of retiring Jim Saxton
NJ 07 — Linda Stender wins seat of retiring Mike Ferguson
NM 01 — Marty Heinrich wins seat of unsuccessful Senate hopeful Heather Wilson
NY 13 — Mike McMahon wins seat of retiring Vito Fossella
NY 25 — Dan Maffei wins seat of retiring Jim Walsh
NY 29 — Eric Massa over Rep. Randy Kuhl
NC 08 — Larry Kissell over Rep. Robin Hayes
OH 01 — Steve Driehaus over Rep. Steve Chabot
VA 02 — Glenn Nye over Rep. Thelma Drake
VA 11 — Gerald Connolly wins seat of retiring Tom Davis
WA 08 — Darcy Burner over Rep. Dave Reichert

DEMOCRAT TO REPUBLICAN (6)
AL 05 — Wayne Parker wins seat of retiring Bud Cramer
FL 16 — Tom Rooney over Rep. Tim Mahoney
KS 02 — Lynn Jenkins over Rep. Nancy Boyda
LA 06 — Bill Cassidy over Rep. Don Cazayoux
PA 10 — Chris Hackett over Rep. Chris Carney
TX 22 — Pete Olson over Rep. Nick Lampson

NET CHANGE: Democrats +17

If these projections hold up, Democrats will win a net gain of House seats in the double digits for the second cycle in a row — something that hasn't happened since the 1930s.

2006 House calls: Missed 23 (yikes!) out of 435 (too many to list here, sadly)
2004 House calls: Missed just four out of 435 (IL 08, IN 09, NY 27 and SD At Large)


GOVERNORS

Democratic retention (4): Open Delaware (Jack Markell), Montana (Brian Schweitzer), New Hampshire (John Lynch), West Virginia (Joe Manchin)

Republican retention (4): Indiana (Mitch Daniels), North Dakota (John Hoeven), Utah (Jon Huntsman Jr.), Vermont (Jim Douglas)

PREDICTED PICKUPS
For the Democrats (1):
MISSOURI — Jay Nixon replaces retiring Gov. Matt Blunt

For the Republicans (2):
NORTH CAROLINA — Pat McCrory replaces term-limited Gov. Mike Easley
WASHINGTON — Dino Rossi over Gov. Christine Gregoire


PRE-ELECTION SPECIAL MONDAY NIGHT: Neal Conan and I recap the latest news from 10 p.m. to midnight EST Monday on most NPR stations. Also, hear election results as they come in Tuesday night on the NPR election night special from 7 p.m. to 3 a.m. And then check back on Wednesday for a post-election Talk of the Nation with Neal and me at 2 p.m.

IT'S ALL POLITICS: There's still time to hear our pre-election madhouse podcast, which can be found here. New podcast every Thursday.

******* Don't Forget: If you are sending in a question to be used in this column, please don't forget to include your city and state. *********

This day in campaign history: Bill Clinton, the governor of Arkansas, was elected president, defeating President George H.W. Bush and ending 12 years of Republican rule. Also, Carol Moseley Braun, an Illinois Democrat, became the first black woman in history to win a Senate seat (Nov. 3, 1992).

Got a question? Ask Ken Rudin: politicaljunkie@npr.org

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