People love voting for President. It is the one campaign that every voter in America gets to weigh in on. However, all politics is still local. With that memorable phrase in mind, I take a moment to look at the other story lines worth watching on Tuesday night:
1) The U.S. House of Representatives
Most politicos agree that John Boehner will still be Speaker of the House after this election season concludes, though his Republican ranks may diminish by a few seats. The 63 seat pick-up that swept the GOP into the majority in 2010 will give way to a more narrow race this time around. The Democrats need a 28 seat pick up to re-install Nancy Pelosi to the Speaker-ship. The most generous polls give them no better than 16 or 17 pick ups and it will probably end up closer to 10 - 12. Either way, it is far short of the 28 needed to switch the ruling party in the House.
Here in Illinois, we have several competitive races. The ones to watch are: Walsh v Duckworth in the 8th, Dold v Schneider in the 10th, Biggert v Foster in the 11th, Plummer v Enyart in the 12th, Davis v Gill in the 13th and Schilling v Bustos int he 17th. Illinois Democrats redistricted the state to ensure their party would regain the majority of the Congressional delegation. Having lost a seat in the once-every-ten-year redistricting process, the GOP's 11-8 majority was guaranteed to slip to 10-8 no matter what. However, the map makers envisioned a 12-6 Democratic majority for the Illinois delegation with Dold, Walsh, Biggert and Schilling all easy pick ups and expecting not to have any seats of their own to defend. As it turns out, the Democrats risk losing a downstate seat after one of their own decided to retire, and the other 4 races have not gone as easily as they thought. Illinois may be President Obama's home state, but if you live south of I-80, it would be hard to notice. Polling numbers for the President and anyone politically aligned with him are very poor. In the Chicago suburbs where Biggert, Dold and Walsh are running, Democrat enthusiasm has waned and big money has poured in on the GOP side.
Prediction: The Republicans will hold the U.S. House of Representatives with a 232 -203 majority. In Illinois, Dold, Biggert, Plummer, Davis and Schilling will win. Walsh will fall just short. The GOP will keep the Congressional delegation majority with 10 seats to the Democrats 8. This will be an unbelievable failure in the eyes of Democrats considering they just gerrymandered these seats to guarantee their own victories and still couldn't do it.
Wild Card, Shot in the Dark, Extra Point Prediction: Brian Woodworth will earn more than 40% in the IL-2nd race, Donald Peloquin will get more than 30% against Bobby Rush in the IL-1st, Mia Love will win the UT-4th becoming the first African American Republican woman elected to the U.S. House and the only other black Republican in Congress, Allen West, will hang on to his FL-18th seat.
2) United States Senate:
This should have been in the bag for Republicans. They had the money, the candidates, the map, the polls...everything. Yet, somehow, Democrats may still control of the Senate at the end of tomorrow night.
Missouri Rep. Todd Akin had his win virtually in the bag against a deeply unpopular incumbent, Claire McCaskill. If not for his comments on rape, he would probably win his race by 12 or 13 points. Instead, most polls have him behind by 2 - 4 points. However, Missouri looks to be swinging heavily toward Mitt Romney and those extra Republican votes in an election year could be enough to drag Akin to a win despite his pariah status.
In Indiana, Richard Murdock seemed poised for a landslide win. Then, he too decided to weigh in on rape and abortions. Apparently foot-in-mouth disease is contagious. He blew a sure win and is now in a close race with Congressman Joe Donnelly. Murdock is still a slight favorite, but he will only win if Romney voters avoid the temptation of skipping this race on their ballots.
Maine Republican, Olympia Snowe, was a shoe in to hold her seat; but, she was sick of the do-nothing partisans of the Senate and decided to walk away, leaving Angus King, an independent, in a position to win the seat. He is expected to caucus with the Democrats.
Nevada Congressman Dean Heller is trying to hold on to a lead in his state's Senate race that was made more difficult for the GOP thanks to former Sen. John Ensign's deeply disturbing and unethical behavior that lead to his resignation.
The GOP was hoping to easily defend these seats and pick up Missouri and Nebraska to get to 49 votes in the Senate. They figured that of the other 9 competitive races being fought on Democratic soil, they could win 2 of those 9 and get to their coveted Senate majority.
However, Republicans are holding off strong Democrats in Massachusetts, Arizona and Nevada. They need to hold them all, and I fear they will only hold 2 of the 3.
Meanwhile, the GOP is hoping Montana and North Dakota come easily for them while also picking up a traditional base of support in Virginia. Late GOP surges in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin have the potential to swing those states from blue to red. Connecticut's race is also very close with former WWE executive Linda McMahon giving the GOP their best shot in years of taking the State's Senate seat.
Prediction: While it is still possible for the GOP to win a majority, a lot of things have to go right on Election Night. If Romney ends up with an Election Day surge, he could bring GOP Senate candidates over the finish line with him. However, I predict a 50-50 split at the end of the night. Thus, the winner of the Presidential election will determine the tiebreaker, since it is the Vice President who breaks the ties. I will reveal my Presidential pick tomorrow morning.
Wild Card, Shot in the Dark, Extra Point Prediction: If it is a 50-50 split and President Obama is re-elected, Maine's newly minted independent Senator Angus King will caucus with the Republicans, giving them a majority. It will be an ego-check to the President from the Pine Tree State.
3) Illinois General Assembly:
The Republicans need to flip 6 State Senate seats to take majority control in the upper chamber of the Assembly. They are playing aggressively in 10 races where the Democrats currently hold the seat. However,the Democrats are playing offense in 6 GOP districts.
Winning the State Senate is a long shot for the Republicans, but it is possible if Democrat's fail to turn out voters downstate. I think they will fall short of the turnout numbers they need and the Republicans will take the IL State Senate majority for the first time in ten years.
In the Illinois State House of Representatives, Republicans need to flip 5 seats from blue to red for a tie and 6 for a majority. The Illinois Republican Party has launched a massive negative ad campaign against Illinois's most powerful Democrat, Speaker of the IL State House Michael Madigan. Their entire state house campaign has been about recruiting credible, local candidate who voters can safely choose as a protest vote against Madigan and the Democrats. The only way to remove Madigan as Speaker, is to remove the Democrats from the majority.
This will not be an easy task. Madigan has launched massive negative ad campaigns against GOP challengers in close races. Some have included outright lies that forced local radio station to pull the spots so they don't have to be part of spreading libelous claims.
A tie is very possible and is my prediction. With both parties holding 59 seats, the ensuing backdoor deals to get someone to flip will be intense.
Wild Card, Shot in the Dark, Extra Point Prediction: With a 59-59 state house, the pressure on downstate Democrats from Republicans, media and their own communities to get rid of Speaker Madigan will be too great to withstand and one or more of them will cast a vote for Tom Cross to be the next IL Speaker of the House. It will be the first time since January 1995 that Michael Madigan is not Speaker of the IL House and only the 2nd time in 30 years.
Tomorrow morning, I reveal my detailed prediction for the Presidential Election.