By Nathan L. Gonzales
Even for the diehard political junkie, following ninety races for the House, Senate, and governor on Election Night would be quite a feat. So, here is a simple game plan for tackling November 7, to give you a good idea as to what's happening nationwide.
7pm (EST) - The House
Kentucky 4 – Rep. Geoff Davis (R) is running for a second term in a heavily Republican district that voted 63% for President Bush. Combined GOP spending has overwhelmed former Rep. Ken Lucas (D) and the Democrats in the final weeks. If Davis loses, even with the nature of the district and an overwhelming financial edge, the GOP majority is in serious jeopardy.
Kentucky 3 - Rep. Anne Northup (R) is facing yet another challenge in her Louisville-based district. Northup's district is certainly more Democratic than the 4th District (John Kerry took 51%), but it looks like she'll go into Election Night with a narrow lead, but under 50%. If she loses, that means undecided voters are breaking heavily and convincingly for the Democrats and other battle-tested incumbents like Clay Shaw (Florida 22) and Heather Wilson (New Mexico 1) are in a lot of trouble.
Kentucky 2 – If state Rep. Mike Weaver (D) defeats Rep. Ron Lewis (R), Democrats are in for a huge night. The 2nd District voted overwhelmingly (65%) for President Bush in 2004 and it would bring a whole series of heavily Republican districts into play. A loss would be particularly troubling since Lewis doesn't have the burden of personal or ethical baggage, just the weight of President Bush.
Republicans are likely to come out of the hour, including Ohio and North Carolina at 7:30pm, down by at least seven or eight seats (half-way to a Democratic majority). If a Democratic tsunami is hitting, Republicans could realistically lose the majority before the polls close in the 8pm states (IN 2, IN 8, IN 9, OH 1, OH 2, OH 12, OH 15, OH 18, NC 8, NC 11, KY 2, KY 3, KY 4, VA 2, VA 10). But if Republicans can escape these early states down by only three or four seats, it should be a considered a moral victory.
8pm (EST) – The Senate
Missouri Senate– Sen. Jim Talent (R) is in a neck-and-neck contest with state Auditor Claire McCaskill (D). Missouri is a competitive, but GOP-leaning state, featuring a Republican incumbent who has run a great campaign. If Talent loses, the GOP majority is in serious jeopardy, and its gone completely if Sen. George Allen (R) loses earlier at 7pm in Virginia.
New Jersey Senate– This is the single best Republican opportunity in the Senate, as state Sen. Tom Kean Jr. (R) attempts to unseat appointed-Sen. Bob Menendez (D). Kean has run effectively on "change" in the face of a Democratic wave in a Democratic state. A GOP victory in the Garden State would likely signal a very narrow Republican Senate majority next year.
Control of the Senate will likely be decided by the time the votes are tallied in the 8pm states. Mike DeWine (R) will already be gone (7:30pm poll closing in Ohio), followed by Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pennsylvania). Assuming Democrats prevail later in the night in Rhode Island (9pm) and Montana (10pm), as expected, Democrats would need to hold New Jersey and Maryland and win both Missouri and Tennessee to take the majority. But if Sen. George Allen (R-Virginia) loses at 7pm in Virginia, Democrats would only need to win one of the Missouri-Tennessee contests.
9pm (EST) – Governors
Minnesota Governor– Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) appears to be falling victim to the national environment. He remains fairly popular, yet he's locked in a tight battle with state Attorney General Mike Hatch (DFL). The third party candidate's campaign has stalled, and that is making it difficult for Pawlenty to win. The governor won his first term with only 44%.
Rhode Island Governor– Gov. Don Carcieri (R) is also popular and goes into Election Night with a significant lead. But the state is hostile toward Republicans and is likely to throw out their Republican U.S. Senator.
Democrats are almost certain to gain at least five governorships (Arkansas, Ohio, Massachusetts, Colorado, and New York) by the time the 9pm states are finished counting. If Pawlenty loses in Minnesota, Gov. Jim Doyle (D) has probably held on in Wisconsin, and Democrats are closer to a seven-seat gain in governorships. And if Carcieri falls, Democrats could net up to ten governorships by the time the night is over. (Remember that Democrats lost ten governorships in 1994.)
*Senate Wave Watch – If Democrats successfully knock off Jon Kyl (R) in Arizona, they have likely won control, even if all the votes haven't been tallied in the earlier states.
11pm (EST) – Hip-Waders or Life Rafts?
Idaho Governor – All eyes should be on Idaho for the size of the Republican wave. Rep. Butch Otter (R) is facing an unexpectedly close and competitive race against 2002 nominee Jerry Brady (D). Otter has some Washington baggage because he is a member of Congress, but he doesn't produce the hate from within his own party that 1st District nominee Bill Sali (R) gets. A Sali loss could be passed off, in part, as a local problem, but an Otter loss would represent something much, much bigger.