The Sudden Appearing
This type of race is different from the hockey stick race in that it doesn’t show up as competitive at all until the last few weeks and, in some cases, the last few days. Then, abruptly, everybody’s talking about it, numbering it among likely takeover possibilities. In 2006, we saw a perfect example of this in Kansas’ second district. It wasn’t until mere days before the election that the competitiveness of the race became apparent to political observers, and by election night, Democrat Nancy Boyda had unseated Republican incumbent Jim Ryun in a stunning upset.
There are many races across the country which fall into this category this year. One of the more interesting is the race in California’s CD-47, where Vietnamese-American Van Tran has benefited from Democratic incumbent Loretta Sanchez’ racially charged comments made last month. This district has suddenly become very competitive, and while Sanchez still holds a slight advantage in my projection, a recent Republican poll shows the race exactly tied. The momentum clearly favors Tran.
Others in this category are Phil Hare’s seat in Illinois CD-17 (though Jim Geraghty has seen this coming for some time), Lincoln Davis in Tennessee CD-4, Sanford Bishop in GA-2, Mike McIntyre in NC-7, and Charlie Wilson’s OH-6 seat. All these races have become very competitive in the last month. Expect some, if not all, of them to flip to red on November 2.
The Covert Insertion
There’s a recruitment ad for the U.S. Navy that highlights the skilled stealth with which Navy Seals operate. In the ad, the camera is focused on an empty beach at night. Flashes of lightning reveal nothing out of the ordinary. A short period of darkness follows and then another lightning display. This time, footsteps leading from the water cover the sand. Someone has come ashore without detection. Such is the nature of our military’s special forces. It also describes what may be in store for us on election night.
This type of race is on nobody’s radar early. It is on no one’s radar late. But by the time we wake up to the race results, someone has come in and stolen it away. Of course, by their very nature, these races are the hardest to identify beforehand. That said, we can get hints as to which are candidates for this type of surprise result. Consider a poll out of Washington’s 6th District, home to 17-term Democrat Norman Dicks. Nobody is tracking this race, yet the survey gives Republican Doug Cloud a narrow lead. Could Cloud come out of nowhere to snatch this one for Republicans? Only time will tell. And that’s the thing about this category. Hardly anyone will even suspect these seats are vulnerable until they have been lost.
The Republican wave is coming; of that we can be sure. But in truth, no one knows what the final damage will be to the Democratic caucus in the House. Can the GOP take their present momentum through the finish line? How many seats currently projected as takeovers will live up to that billing? How many, if any, seats leaning Democrat will succumb to the onrushing tempest? And finally, how many Norm Dicks are out there that no one has yet identified? We are in unfamiliar waters this time around. We’ve not seen the factors present as they are in any election in my lifetime. To sum it all up, I think another Obi-wan quip is appropriate: “How can you predict something that hasn’t happened before?”
In seven days, we won’t have to.