Mike Berman’s Washington Watch

May 22, 2011 11:56 AM

The Congress

The Bin Laden affect was also felt by the Congress. Approval of the job being done by Congress hit 24% at the end of the 1st week in May, up from 17% the 3rd week of April [Gallup]. Approval was also up to 22% from 20% in the NBC/WSJ survey. However, disapproval of the job being done by Congress remains at 70% in the NBC/WSJ early May survey. And there is no real difference in how the Democrats and Republicans in Congress are viewed.

Republicans in Congress are seen as better able then Democrats to deal with a variety of issues, including the Federal budget (+12), Afghanistan (+6), economy (+5), immigration (+5), and jobs (+2). The only issue on which Democrats are seen as likely to do a better job is healthcare (+3). [Gallup]

The Senate

Democratic Senate prospects took another blow when Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI) decided not to seek re-election in 2012. Given current politics in that State it ends up in the Toss-Up column, with Republican opportunity being enhanced by the potential candidacy of former Republican Governor Tommy Thompson.

It is anybody’s bet whether the resignation of Senator Ensign, and the appointment of Congressman Dean Heller to replace him, improves the Republican position in Nevada. The data is mixed about the re-election prospects of appointed Senators, but WW’s instinct is that it is helpful given that Heller received 63% of the vote in his Congressional district in 2010. The Democrats have a primary contest, with Congresswoman Shelley Berkeley being the current favorite. The primary will be held at the end of February 2012, providing much time for a fulsome general election campaign.

The North Dakota seat (Senator Kent Conrad D-ND retiring) is essentially gone . The Republicans seem to have selected incumbent Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) as their primary target of opportunity in 2012. Next in line are the Democratic-controlled seats in Montana (John Testor) and Nebraska (Ben Nelson). The Virginia seat to be vacated by Jim Webb(D) is a true Toss-Up. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) appears vulnerable, but so far Michigan Republicans have not come up with a strong candidate to oppose her.

Democratic candidates in Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, Virginia, and Wisconsin will have some advantage in that those States are either Toss-Ups or only lean Republican or Democratic in the Presidential race. This means that the Obama campaign will have a substantial operation in each of those States. Voters that are secured for Obama will most likely support the Democratic Senate candidate.

Looking at seats not up in 2012, plus seats that are up that are safe or leaning to one Party or the other in the coming election, results in the Democrats with 45 seats and the Republicans with 46 seats. Of the 9 Toss-up seats, Obama won 5 of them in 2008 and McCain won 4.

The U.S. Senate

  • Democrats 51
  • Republicans 47
  • Independents 2 (caucus Dem)
Here is how the 33 Senate elections -- 23 Democratic incumbents (includes 2 Independents), 10 Republican incumbents -- look to me at this time. (D=Dem incumbent in office, R=GOP incumbent in office, I=Ind. incumbent in office) * Underlining reflects retirement.

Safe Democratic (9) Leaning Democratic (6) Toss-Up (9) Leaning Republican (3) Safe Republican 6
California Connecticut Massachusetts Maine Arizona
Delaware Florida
Missouri North Dakota
Hawaii Michigan
Montana Texas Mississippi
Maryland Ohio
Minnesota Pennsylvania Nevada
New Jersey Washington
New Mexico
New York Virginia  
Rhode Island
  W. Virginia  
Vermont   Wisconsin  


  Democrats Republicans
Seats not up in 2012 30 37
Safe in 2012 9 6
Leaning in 2012 6 3
Total 45 46
Toss-ups 9 (2R/7D)  

Of the 9 Toss-up States, Obama won 5 of them (Massachusetts, Nevada, New Mexico, Virginia, and Wisconsin). McCain won the other 4 (Missouri, Montana, Nebraska and West Virginia).

The U.S. House of Representatives

There are two special House elections soon to be resolved in which both Parties are looking for “evidence” as to how they are doing. In California the special election is to fill the seat left vacant when Jane Harmon resigned. It is assumed that a Democrat will win this seat, but in the 1st round, in which it was anticipated that both top spots would be filled by Democrats, a Republican finished second.

In upstate New York, Republican Christopher Lee resigned, and it had been assumed that the seat would be easily held by the Republicans. But a funny thing happened on the way to the election. A wealthy fellow who had run several times as a Democrat decided to run as a Tea Party candidate. While he is taking votes from both of the other candidates, the Republican candidate has suffered the most from his entry into the race.

When all is said and done, predicting the outcome of the 2012 House elections is made particularly dicey by the pending national redistricting. 12 seats will be in motion. The early view seems to be that Republicans will be slightly advantaged by the final result.

63% of Americans think that most members of the House of Representatives do not deserve reelection. However, 57% believe that their own Representative should be re-elected. This is slightly better than the 51% who had this view just before election day 2010. [Gallup 5/11]

The generic Congressional ballot is just about dead even, with Democrats leading Republicans 42% to 41%. [Battleground 5/11]

The U.S. House of Representatives

  • Democrats 242
  • Republicans 193

1/20/11 3/28/11 5/16/11
TOTAL Dem 193 193 191
Solid Dem 150 151 153
Likely Dem 27 24 21
Lean Dem 12 10 11
Toss-up 10 16 16
D 4 8 6
R 6 8 10
Lean GOP 15 18 16
Likely GOP 38 38 41
Solid GOP 183 178 177
TOTAL GOP 242 242 244

[As always, thanks to “The Cook Political Report.” It is the best when it comes to analysis of Congressional races (as well as other electoral matters)].

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