MATTERS AT HAND: Democratic wave may have broken too early
Election Day is this week, for which we are all no doubt grateful. The campaign has been pretty interesting, but of course, the most interesting part is still to come, the election itself. Predicting election results is one of the perks of editin...
Election Day is this week, for which we are all no doubt grateful.
The campaign has been pretty interesting, but of course, the most interesting part is still to come, the election itself.
Predicting election results is one of the perks of editing newspapers. I'm going to do it at my peril, of course, because voters have the final say, and they won't say it until Tuesday.
Alas for newspaper deadlines.
There's been lots of talk this year about a potential Democratic tide. Whether it is a rip tide or only a little wave well, that is the question. A week ago, I would have said a rip tide. Today, I'm thinking it's going to be a little way.
I think the Democrats may have peaked too soon.
It's not too great a surprise that the Republicans as the party in power would recover at the last minute. Humans are naturally resistant to change, and this applies to human voters, as well.
The Democrats have committed a couple of gaffes in the closing days of the campaign, as well. In fact, it looks as if their fortunes began to decline with John Kerry's incredibly stupid remark last week.
Still, there will be some movement toward Democrats in this election. Historically, the party of the president suffers reverses in the second term. My guess supported by at least some polls is that the shift will be in the range of 5 percent to 8 percent.
The implications in Minnesota are pretty clear. Although his poll numbers improved late last week, Republican Senate candidate Mark Kennedy appears doomed.
Earlier, it looked as if he might take Gov. Tim Pawlenty down with him, and that Democrat Mike Hatch would win the governorship. It looks as if Pawlenty might benefit from the swing back toward the Republicans, and hang on to his job by a narrow margin.
The swing toward the Democrats plays out differently in North Dakota, which doesn't have a top-of-the-ticket race this year. True, Both. Sen. Kent Conrad and Rep. Earl Pomeroy are on the ballot, but neither faces a real challenge.
Instead, the shift to Democrats if there is one will play out in the lower ticket races. This year, that means such statewide offices as attorney general, agriculture commissioner, tax commissioner, public service commissioner and secretary of state.
Democrat Roger Johnson appears safe in the ag job, although he barely survived the 2004 election. By contrast, Republican incumbents could be in jeopardy in two races, tax commissioner and public service commissioner. Democrats Brent Edison could win tax, and Cheryl Bergian could win public service. Edison's chances seem better than Bergian's.
Republican Al Jaeger seems safe at secretary of state, even though his opponent, Kristen Hedger, has mounted a serious challenge.
Republicans will hold on to comfortable majorities in both houses of the state Legislature; although they may fall below the two-thirds majority they enjoyed last session.
One of the most interesting races is in Grand Forks, where Democrats hope to defeat Ken Svedjan, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee and one of the state's most powerful legislators. Svedjan is unpopular even among his Republican legislative colleagues but my guess is that he's effectively defused criticism of his travel and will win re-election.
The other riveting legislative race is in Bismarck, where Tracy Potter once a Democratic activist in Grand Forks and Margaret Sitte, a cultural conservative, are opponents for a state Senate seat once held by Ed Kringstad (a native of Hoople, N.D.)
It's safe to say that Potter and Sitte represents the fringes of their parties. This gives Bismarck voters a clear choice but offers pundits no real basis for prediction.
Nationally, Democrats will gain seats in both houses of Congress. A Democratic majority is probably beyond reach in the Senate, although a tie is possible (leaving the chamber in control of Republicans, of course, since Vice President Dick Cheney presides and breaks all ties). Democrats probably will gain control of the House, though their majority will be small.
The alternative, renewed Republician majorities in both houses, is too dismal to contemplate (at least for me), but such a result is not out of the question.