WASHINGTON, Nov. 2
The Thursday before the Tuesday of Election Day is when honest campaign pollsters who have decent relationships with their candidate clients begin to warn them that things are looking tough.
These discussions often are held in conjunction with decisions about closing advertising and other voter communication messages. In most of these instances, the question on the table is how negative on the opposition (and on which topics) the campaign should be in the final days in order to pull out a win.
The Senate battlefield is in some flux today.
Democrats are still counting on beating incumbents in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and (to some extent) Rhode Island.
The big battlegrounds remain Missouri, Tennessee, and Virginia. Both parties claim to be leading in Tennessee and Virginia, and everyone agrees that Missouri is non-proverbially too close to call.
The flux comes from Montana (where Bob Novak, George Bush, and Dick Cheney perceive Republican incumbent Burns as narrowing the race), and Arizona, where Democrats are hoping a national wave might allow them to beat incumbent Kyl with a last-minute infusion of dough.
In the House, both sides have some good news. For Republicans, a handful of their embattled incumbents have climbed from too-far-down-to-win to back-in-contention, including some with biggish names (by House standards). For the Democrats, the playing field continues to expand in both Blue and Red areas, and is now above fifty and maybe above sixty.
More important analytically is the extraordinary number of seats where both parties agree the races are within the margin of error -- a phenomenal thirty or more. That is far more than anyone thought likely just a few months ago, and, obviously, not good news for the majority party, since all but three or four of those seats are Republican-held.
If you are a Rovian Optimist, you would count as few as six GOP seats lost for sure. If you were a Rahmian Cautionist, you would put the number at around twelve. A more objective look gets you closer to the second number but with a fairly small plus-or-minus.
Either way, it would be pretty amazing if more than half of the close races went to the party whose congressional wing, president, ethics, SecDef, and war all get very low marks from voters. And, make no mistake, the President's party is playing a lot of defense, including a POTUS stop in Nebraska this weekend, to save the seat in the third district, about which the DCCC helpfully points out:
— In 1992, Bill Clinton came in third place in the congressional district (achieving only 23% of the vote).
— In 1996, Clinton increased his standing but still lost the district to Bob Dole 59% to 29%.
— President George W. Bush received 71% then 75% in the district.
— Republicans have held this seat for 48 years.
Armed with these facts and others, President Bush, Vice President Cheney, and First Lady Laura Bush are all out in force on the campaign trail today.
At 1:20 pm ET in Billings, MT, President Bush attends a Montana Victory 2006 rally to help boost embattled Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT) in his tough reelection fight against Democrat Jon Tester.