Here’s the early-in-the-night portion of Frank Luntz’s voter guide:
6:00PM: Indiana and Kentucky
Indiana and Kentucky are the Republicans’ canary in the coalmine. In 1994, the GOP knew even before cocktail hour that they were in for a good night when a number of seats switched hands in both states (it happened so early in the evening that many election night observers had not even tuned in yet). Democrats are hopeful the same thing happens this year in their favor. The Republican Governor of Indiana is as smart as Einstein and as popular as typhoid, so there is a local anti-Republican current that is dragging down the rest of the ticket. Kentucky Republicans are suffering the same fate. There are five possible switches in this time zone – one more than in 1994. If three or more go early, you know the Democrats are taking control of the House.
John Hostettler (R-INC) v. Brad Ellsworth (Indiana 08): Hostettler, a class of 1994 Republican, is in deep, deep, deep trouble in a district that gave Bush more than 60% of the vote in 2004. The question here is not whether he loses but by how much and he won’t be able to blame his campaign manager without upsetting the family Thanksgiving dinner. His sister runs the homespun campaign.
Mike Sodrel (R-INC) v. Baron Hill (D) (Indiana 09): Sodrel upset Democrat incumbent Baron Hill in 2004 by less than 1%, and Hill is back for a rematch. Polls had consistently showed Sodrel losing by as much as 11%, but tracking in the past week narrowed the gap. If he wins, the GOP really did close the gap in the last 96 hours. If he loses, the Dems are on the way to a majority. Clearly an important bellwether district.
Chocola (R-INC) v. Donnelly (D) (Indiana 02): Chris Chocola is what I call a Majority Maker. It’s a Democrat seat but Chocola is a very strong campaigner. He would probably keep the seat in any other year but 2006. Should he survive, it’s a clear indication that good Republican candidates can withstand a bad Republican year. If he loses early and badly, it’s going to be a lonely night for other House Republicans.
Northrup (R-INC) v. Yarmuth (D) (KY 03): Anne Northrup has held one of the GOP’s most marginal seats (both Gore and Kerry carried the district) for a decade. Considered one of the hardest working incumbents, she has survived strong Democrat efforts in every election cycle since 1996. You can tell it’s a bad year for Republicans when there are a dozen more vulnerable incumbents. If Northrup loses this time, expect Republicans to drop 25+ House seats.
Davis (R-INC) v. Lucas (D) (KY 04): In 2004, the then-70-year-old Democrat Lucas retired from Congress after serving in this district for three terms and was succeeded by Davis, a staunch conservative. This is a very Republican district, but Lucas has been tarred by his associations with Tom DeLay and Duke Cunningham. DCCC chairman, Rahm Emanuel talked Lucas into un-retiring and giving it another go.. This one’s a real tossup.
Lewis (R-INC) v. Weaver (D) (KY-02): This one has snuck up on people but the DCCC is touting the candidacy of Col. Mike Weaver, a conservative opposed to abortion, gun control and gay marriage. He is running against Ron Lewis, the man who first won in 1993 in a district that hadn’t elected a Republican since Reconstruction. Should Weaver pull the upset it will be a disastrous omen for the GOP.
7:00PM: Florida, Georgia, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia
KATHERINE HARRIS WILL BE THE NEXT SENATOR FROM FLORIDA!!! OK, I jest. She may not even get 40% of the vote, and her poor performance will make it more difficult for her Republican House colleagues to maintain their seats. God may have told her to run for the Senate, but he clearly didn’t give her the tools to win.
All eyes will be on George Allen in the Virginia Senate race. If the GOP holds his seat, odds of Democrats taking the Senate are reduced significantly. If Allen loses, assume the Democrats will capture BOTH houses of Congress. Although the polls close at 7:00 pm, assume the results of this race won’t be called until midnight or later. I believe Allen will win – but don’t bet the farm on it.
Shaw (R-INC) v. Klien (D) (FL 22): Shaw has had several political scares in recent years. He’s taking this race seriously, and his district is a bit more Republican than in the past. But Bush is unpopular in the district and Harris is polling in the mid-30s. Shaw has had to defend a Medicare prescription drug benefit that has mixed popularity and Social Security reform to a district jam-packed with seniors. This district defines the word tossup.
Buchanan (R) v. Jennings (D) (FL 13): This was a safe Republican seat in Sarasota that Katherine Harris abandoned in her futile quest for a promotion. Now it is one of the most hotly contested open seats. If Republicans lose this seat – and they could – it is a clear indication that open seats will be breaking Democrat. Watch this one closely.
Bass (R-INC) v. Hodes (D) (NH 02): Bass, a leading GOP moderate, was swept into Congress on the 1994 Republican tidal wave. Only a Democrat tidal wave could sweep him out. He’s included in this guide because a loss early in the evening would suggest bad news in nearby Connecticut and a loss of 30 GOP seats. It’s not likely, but it’s worthy of mention.
Drake (R-INC) v. Kellum (D) (VA 02): MoveOn.org targeted this district in early June and it has remained on the political map ever since. The two female candidates are at opposite ends of the Iraq War, and with thousands of military families in the district, those votes could decide the election. If Republicans drop this seat, it’s going to be tough sledding in other military-oriented congressional districts.