Election trends and bellwethers

Republicans look to score a big victory on Election Day in House, Senate, and gubernatorial races across the US.

Republican Senate candidate Sharron Angle speaks at a rally at the Orleans hotel-casino in Las Vegas [REUTERS]  

The American public is angry with incumbent politicians. There’s a real “throw the bums out” mentality, and the Republicans have suffered from it alongside the Democrats.

When the first East Coast polls close at 7 p.m. (2300GMT) on election night, Democrats will almost certainly start out the night on a low note. Republican will likely take the Indiana Senate seat. Then there will be a number of House returns coming in early as well, which will be too close to call in Indiana, Virginia, and South Carolina. 

In Virginia, three first-term Democrats are vulnerable. Tom Perriello is a first-term Congressman who hung onto Barack Obama’s coattails in 2008 to win in a strongly Republican district. The President has campaigned for Perriello, trying to hold the seat. 

Democrat John Spratt has represented South Carolina’s 5th district since 1983. While he’s run tough races before, this one could finish him off. Picking off this seat would be a major coup for the Republicans because of Spratt’s position as Chairman of the Budget Committee. He faces State Senator Mick Mulvaney. 

At 7:30 p.m. (2330 GMT), polls close in West Virginia. Democratic Governor Joe Manchin is running for the open seat against Republican businessman John Raese. West Virginia is a socially conservative and heavily unionized coal-producing state. Manchin is a popular governor, but West Virginians don’t like Obama. And they may not want to give the President another vote in the Senate. 

Polls also close then in the true bellwether, Ohio. The Governor’s office, Senate seat, and 3-4 House seats could go Republican. 

The incumbent Democratic Governor Ted Strickland is in trouble against former Congressman John Kasich. Democrats stand to lose 3-5 House seats here. President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and First Lady Michelle Obama have all campaigned here. Obama’s last official election rally was in Cleveland. 

Gathering momentum

Lots of activity at 8 p.m. (2400 GMT) – polls close in Florida, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Delaware, among other states. Again, the Sunshine State proves it is a powerhouse in American politics. The Senate race is leaning Republican. The Governor’s race is too close to call, with the Democratic candidate slightly ahead. And there are a few House seats Democrats will need to hold on to. 

In Pennsylvania, the Senate seat could flip for the Republicans, but it’s too close to call. And as many as a half a dozen Democratic members of Congress are vulnerable. 

Delaware is one state that will be a relief to the Democratic leadership. They’re likely to hold onto the Senate seat and pick up a House seat. 

But then they could be very disappointed when the polls close in Illinois, President Obama’s home state. The Senate and Governor’s races are tight, as are a handful of House races. 

At 8:30 (0030GMT) will come more disappointment for the Democratic party. Senator Blanche Lincoln is as good as gone in Arkansas. No amount of campaigning, fundraising, or visits by Bill Clinton can save her. It’s a Republican state now, and businessman John Boozman has consistently been up by double digits in the polls. 

A half-hour later, polls close in several states, including New York, Wisconsin, Colorado, and Arizona. 

In Wisconsin, Democrat Russ Feingold faces Republican self-funded businessman Ron Johnson. Feingold, a staunch liberal, was elected in 1992. He’s polling behind and has been branded as too close to Obama, having voted for both healthcare reform and the stimulus.

More money is being spent trying to unseat Colorado Senator Michael Bennet than any other race. Republican Ken Buck is challenging Bennet, who was appointed to the seat. He’s been tainted by his association with Obama – as an incumbent and as a Democrat. It’s been an ugly race full of negative ads, but Buck’s stance on social issues may be his undoing.

The House seat held for nearly a decade by Arizona Democratic Congressman Raul Grijalva is also in jeopardy. He called for a boycott of his state after the enactment of a controversial anti-illegal immigration measure earlier this year.

Republican Ruth McClung is gaining on him in the polls. McClung has received the endorsement of Sarah Palin and has been hammering Grijalva hard for his boycott, which took jobs and income away from the cash-strapped state.

Calling the election

When polls close in Nevada, Harry Reid’s career in public office could be finished. The Senate Majority Leader faces Republican Tea Party darling Sharron Angle. This one could be destined for a recount, as polls show it’s too close to call.

In California, former EBay CEO Meg Whitman is running against former governor Jerry Brown for the state’s top office. Both Republican Whitman and Democrat Brown have muddled through a number of scandals and gaffes during the campaign, each losing the momentum as soon as it seems like they’ve captured it. 

Whitman has spent over $140 million of her own money to win – more than any candidate ever. And Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer is also in a tough fight in California against another millionaire Republican – former Hewlett Packard executive Carly Fiorina. But she may be too conservative for blue California. Democrats at the top of the ticket could help stymie Republican efforts to take too many House seats. But there are endangered Democrats here too. 

And control of the Senate could come down to Washington. Democratic Senator Patty Murray came into office in 1992, the year of the woman in Congress. But Obama’s unpopularity is weighing her down. She faces Republican Dino Rossi. The Republican path to win back the Senate runs through Washington state.

Finally there’s Alaska, with a 3-way Senate race between a write-in candidate who is the popular incumbent Republican Senator, a Tea Party Republican spoiler, and a little-known Democrat.

Senator Lisa Murkowski is still a Republican, but she’s asking voters to write in her name in on November 2nd. But no write-in candidate has won anywhere in the US since 1954. Joe Miller is the official Republican candidate, but he’s running a poor campaign, despite the endorsement of Alaska’s favorite Mama Grizzly, Sarah Palin.

Pundits and pollsters have a wide range of predictions for the outcome on Election night. Most say Republicans will take the House but that Democrats will hold the Senate. This result seems likely. A divided nation will find out soon what message the voters have sent their elected officials and exactly how many seats the Democrats have lost.

Source : Al Jazeera

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