Okay, I’ll go first, heedless of the movie producer Sam Goldwyn’s advice: "Never prophesy--especially about the future." (That’s second only to his remark that "An oral contract isn’t worth the paper it’s written on!")
House: I believe the Republicans will pick up a minimum of 2 seats. The tipping factor is today’s NY Times poll showing that a larger portion of the electorate believes that the Democrats (rather than the Republicans) have no plan for governing if they gain a majority.
This will be a heavy blow to the Democrats, and a testimony to their lack of courage in reapportionment. If they had been bold and willing to take a risk in California, they might have netted three to five seats there--if not in this election then the next two. Instead their incumbents who want safe districts rolled over easily for Karl Rove’s plan to have incumbent protection districts and freeze the current split in place--a net plus for Republicans in California at the moment. Now Democrats will have to live with that craven decision for a decade.
My special upset calls in the House are John Kline over Bill Luther in Minnesota, and possibly, just possibly, Beth Rogers over Lois Capps on the California coast. Keep your eye on this one: The GOP quietly targeted this district for their Latino outreach, and Rogers, a sod farmer who speaks fluent spanish, has worked the new Latino areas of the district very hard.
I am not optimistic about the Senate. I predict no change or a Democrat gain of one or two seats, unless two upsets come through. Here is my handicapping: Dems pick up seats in New Hampshire and Arkansas, and hold on to South Dakota. Landreau goes to a runoff in Louisiana, but will survive. Republicans will pick up a seat in Missouri, and hold on to Colorado (though Colorado makes me very nervous--here’s to hoping the studly Gov. Owens can pull Allard across the finish line with him).
This leaves Minnesota and Georgia. In both cases the Democrats should be favored to win, but in both cases a Republican upset is possible. I have a hunch that this will be one of those years where one party will either win both of these or lose both of these, though this may be true across the board for South Dakota and Colorado, too. Remember that in both 1980 and 1986 the six closet Senate races were decided by a cumulative total of less than 50,000 votes. This year will likely be the same. Saxby Chambliss might pull it out in Georgia over Max Cleland, and likewise Coleman coud prevail over Mondale in Minnesota. (Remember that Mondale only won Minnesota in 1984 by about 5,000 votes, and friends in Minnesota tell me those votes were stolen; Reagan really did win there, too. But if they stole those votes once, they can do it again.)
The point is: Republicans will gain one seat only if they pull off upsets in Minnesota and Georgia.
Even if the Democrats do hold the Senate or gain a seat, look what they had to do: dump an incumbent in New Jersey, and reach back to the dark ages with Mondale. (Both states would likely have gone Republican without the strange course of events that took place this fall.) Can they really do this again two years down the road if Barbara Boxer is in trouble in California? And the GOP gains in the House are going to lead to much wailing and gnashing of teeth within the Democratic leadership. This will be fun to watch. They may even tear themselves apart McGovern-style after this election.
A couple of state races to watch: Oregon’s governor’s race, where Kevin Mannix, thought to be a weak GOP nominee, has made a horse race out of it with the better known Ted Kulongoski. This is tied to two things: Oregon, like many states, has a huge budget deficit, which means tax hikes are expected. Which party do you think will do a better job of dealing with these deficits? The GOP may have an edge in several states on these grounds. Second, Oregon has a ballot initiative this year calling for universal heatlh care, to be paid for by an 8 percent payroll tax. Small business people, and even organized labor, are up in arms against this, which may help Republicans.
While Bill Simon probably can’t pull it out in California, watch for Republicans down the ticket in other statewide offices, especially Tom McClintock, the GOP candidate for Controller. I think some voters who hold their nose for Gray Davis may split their ticket for some GOP candidates down the ticket as a crazy way of checking Davis.