Shop Talk

I didn’t link last week to this Bill Safire column on playing hunches:

But when a bunch of campaigns seems so tight, often a last-minute lurch causes the races to break mostly one way. Funny, but the squeakers don’t all average out. I’ll guess against the grain that the Senate will go Republican by two or three votes as the House goes Democratic by a dozen votes. My gut feeling has a 75 percent statistical probability of error, but that fazes only the fainthearted.


Safire admits he’s probably wrong, with only a one-in-four shot of control flip-flopping in Congress. But then there are a couple items of interest in Zogby today.

First is the generic candidate question for the House:

In the final Zogby America Poll before the November 5th elections, 51% of likely voters nationwide say they will vote Democratic in the upcoming Congressional elections, and 49% say they will vote for a Republican candidate. The poll, conducted of 1,006 likely voters nationwide between Oct. 26-29 has a margin of sampling error of +/- 3.2%.

Yes, the Democratic edge is well within the margin of error. Yes, gerrymandering has produced so many safe seats as to make Dick Gephardt an unlikely Speaker. But the results of this poll at least seem to make the unlikely result at least somewhat more likely. Interesting — especially since most handicappers (including me) think the Republicans will actually pick up a set or five tomorrow.

Next, a few items on key Senate races (few links — I’m trying to post this in a hurry).

Arkansas Senate Democtatic candidate Mark Pryor faces last-minute Nannygate-type charges. Don’t laugh off this one — the last minute DUI revelation against George W. Bush two years ago damn near handed Gore the election.


In Colorado, Democrat Tom Strickland is running a new series of pretty goddamn good TV spots. This one remains nasty and it remains tight. I had expected Allard to have cemented a small lead by tomorrow, but now I’m just not sure — money is playing a big part, and Strickland has more now than it was thought he would.

If the Democrats end up with a nasty surprise in Arkansas, where they were expected to unseat unstable Republican Pryor, they might just get a pleasent surprise in Missouri. Jean Carnahan is proving surprisingly resilient against Jim Talent.

Minnesota? I didn’t watch the debate. Anyone have a line on it? In any case, the backlash against last week’s “memorial rally” is hurting Mondale, and so is Mondale, himself. This one might end up as another “December surprise” after the lawyers are done. Who knows?

Despite a lot of money and a famous name, voters in North Carolina seem to be having second thoughts about coronating Elizabeth Dole. If Erskine Bowles wins this one, it could be the end of the Clintonista Curse. This one has ramifications far wider than just Tom Daschle hanging on to his Majority Leader status.

Races is New Hampshire and Massachusetts are equally weird, with a possible Democrat upset in the former and a possible Republican upset in the latter.


So is Safire’s impossible bet possible? You bet it is. Curiouser and curiouser, indeed.

The only certainty is, I’m putting a TV in the office again, so I’ll be here all night tomorrow. Some newlywed I’ve turned into.

UPDATE: The Note gives the generic Republican candidate a six or seven point lead over his generic Democrat rival.

But it’s still not time for Republicans to get out the broom. The only thing any of us know for sure is, this won’t all be over by Wednesday morning.

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