The Note: Weakness Attracts Those Who Are Waiting

WASHINGTON, Oct. 30

After a week of major and minor developments, and we are almost exactly where we were two-thirds of a fortnight ago: Democrats remain positioned to win control of the House of Representatives but fall just short of taking a majority in the Senate.

That continues to be the most conservative wager, but there are other options and many unknowns. Republicans could, perhaps, do better than the national polling currently indicates. (See, for instance, this must-read passage from this must-read Michael Barone story: "My hunch is that people who identify themselves as independents are substantially less likely to vote this year than people who identify as Republicans or Democrats -- which would be good news for Republicans, since independents give Bush low job ratings. Another hunch is that the Republican turnout apparatus, with which the Democrats haven't yet caught up, will boost Republican turnout as it did in 2004, and that the resulting electorate will be more evenly divided in party identification than the electorates shown in most of the public polls." ) LINK

The party of Bush-Cheney-Cheney-Rove has generated some controversies in the media that have served to rally the conservative base that largely carried them to victories in 2002 and 2004. (See, for instance, Lynne Cheney's virtuoso perf with Wolf Blitzer on the youtube thing all the kids are using. LINK)

Republicans have seen at least some of their endangered incumbents stabilize and even recover in the polls, while at the same time they have damaged a number of Democratic candidates with negative messages. (See Tom Reynolds, on the one hand, and Patricia Madrid, Harold Ford, and Jim Webb, on the other.)

And President Bush's chief political strategist Karl Rove still has such a psychic grip on many Democratic politicians and strategists that, until Election Day comes, they will be holding their collective breath and looking over their shoulders in anticipation of October (or November) Surprises. (Although what could actually help beyond the capture of bin Laden is not clear.)

Democrats, on the other hand, may end up riding a wave that would give them both a substantial majority in the House -- perhaps a win of more than thirty seats, far greater than the fifteen seats they need to net for majority control -- and a narrow control of the Senate, taking precisely the six seats they need for control, and perhaps even one more.

The Senate math remains pretty easy -- if there has been a change in the last few days, it is that the upper chamber landscape is tipping slightly towards the Republicans.

Democratic incumbent Bob Menendez is looking like a safer bet these days to hold his New Jersey seat for his party, giving them zero losses of slots they now hold. Democrats are counting on flips in Montana, Pennsylvania, and Ohio.

To get the final three they need, Democrats have to win three of four of Rhode Island, Missouri, Virginia, and Tennessee. (Readers can switch Virginia and Tennessee if they are so inclined.) At this point, that is the likely order that the minority party could flip them, and/but don't count on any of them changing for sure. Rhode Island's Chafee might get blown out, but he can still win. Missouri is a toss-up and will be until the end, no matter what polling is out there.

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