Friday, October 13, 2006

Carlos Beltran and the Senate

That's two separate topics. Carlos Beltran is not, to my knowledge, opposing Hillary Clinton. He could be, though, for all we know about the former First Lady's challenger.

If I had an MVP vote, I'd probably vote for Albert Pujols. I hate to say it, but it's true. Without Beltran, the Mets probably still win the NL East. Without Pujols, the Cardinals probably win 65 games. That said, Beltran is generating, in me, that confidence that only the absolute best players generate. I don't know that it's on the level of what Red Sox fans feel about Jedi Knight David Ortiz, but it's a pretty huge level of confidence.

Case in point: in last night's game, when Beltran came to the plate in the sixth with LoDuca on first, I didn't just hope he was going to deliver a big hit, I expected nothing less. I actually would have been a little surprised if he DIDN'T homer. And indeed, he hit a ball that would have landed in Chappaqua if it hadn't hit the scoreboard.

In other words, take how Yankee fans feel when Alex Rodriguez comes to the plate in a big situation, and make it the complete opposite.

Here's the weird thing, though: the Mets are generally considered overwhelming favorites to win the NLCS, yet they probably needed last night's game a lot more than the Cardinals did. The Mets will now start John Maine, Steve Trachsel, and Oliver Perez on three straight days. In each of those matchups, the Cardinals will have an advantage. Moreover, the Mets' bullpen will probably end up working at least 10 innings in that time, which would wear out even the deepest bullpen. So, a game 1 win was crucial for the Mets, but a luxury for the Cardinals.


I'm following, as closely as I can, the important Senate races. When one lives in a thoroughly non-competitive state, that happens.

Our current Senate, of course, features 55 Republicans and 45 Democrats. So, a pickup of 6 seats gives the Dems control of the chamber. There are, right now, 9 races worth watching: Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Virginia, and Washington. I'm ignoring Connecticut because whoever wins will be part of the Democratic caucus; the Republican candidate is running around 6 percent.

Washington is a stretch to include in that group; incumbent Maria Cantwell (D) leads by 9 and Mike McGavick hasn't been closer than that for months. Moreover, Washington has voted fairly consistently Democratic over the last few years, and given the national trend toward the party of the jackass, there's little reason to believe that will be competitive.

The other 8 races are more interesting...

Conrad Burns (R-MT) wasn't the most popular Senate incumbent to begin with, and he's trailed John Tester throughout. Burns looked headed for defeat in 2000, as I recall, though, so maybe he can come back again. Last poll showed him trailing by 6.

Rick Santorum (R-PA) pretty much needs a miracle; he's trailed Bob Casey throughout (by as much as 17 at one point). One voter (can't remember the story in which I read it, and so I'm paraphrasing) summed up what's probably the prevailing sentiment about Santorum: "I admire him because you know where he stands at all times. The problem is, I don't agree with a lot of those stands."

Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) has been running neck and neck with Sheldon Whitehouse, but the challenger has opened up a 6 point lead. Since Chafee is the most liberal Republican in the Senate, one doubts the GOP would miss him much if they could still hang onto a majority. Still, that majority is obviously in doubt.

So Montana, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island look increasingly like likely Democratic pickups, which would give them 48. That leaves the Senate to be decided by five races: Missouri, New Jersey, Ohio, Tennessee and Virginia.

Virginia is the only one that doesn't appear to be a genuine toss-up. George Allen (R) had this race locked up, and then shot himself in the foot by referring to an Indian-American volunteer as a "macaca", which apparently is a slur in some cultures. This raised concerns about Allen's good old Southern boy background. Of course, since good old Southern boys still predominate in Virginia, and since the only pollster who hasn't had Allen leading this thing throughout is the unreliable John Zogby, he should hang on to this seat. Put another way, if Allen DOESN'T hang onto the seat, it won't be a question of whether the GOP loses the Senate, it will be a question of by how much.

New Jersey is the GOP's only real chance for a pickup. This was Jon Corzine's (D) seat, which he vacated to run (successfully) for governor. So, Bob Menendez is the incumbent, and apparently a vulnerable one. Republican Tom Kean has been running neck and neck with Menendez throughout. Everyone but Zogby has this thing within a couple points. Given the national trends, it's hard to imagine a Republican winning in New Jersey, which hasn't gone for a Republican presidential candidate since 1988 and hasn't had a Republican senator since the earth's crust was cooling. Still, if the Republicans could swap Rhode Island for New Jersey, I'm sure they'd take that.

In Ohio, I do not understand how incumbent Mike DeWine (R) is still in this thing. He's looking like Santorum in 2000 or Al D'Amato in 1992 the way he's hanging around despite rampant voter disaffection with the state party and high negative ratings. I don't know a blessed thing about Sherrod Brown, but he must be a terrible candidate; a Democrat with even a hint of charisma or competence would be running away with this election.

Tennessee is another race that's closer than it should be. Most expected Bob Corker (R) to succeed to the seat of the retiring Bill Frist with ease, but Harold Ford Jr. has made this an extremely close race. The most recent SurveyUSA poll has Corker up 2. Ford, like Illinois' Barack Obama, is a young, good-looking, intelligent career politician for whom bigger things within the Democratic Party probably lie in store.

Finally, Missouri is the one state that everyone can agree is a dead heat. The last poll showed Jim Talent (R) tied with challenger Claire McCaskill, which is pretty much where the race has been throughout. Missouri has long been considered a battleground state (going back to the Civil War, when that was quite literally true), though it's been veering to the right in recent years. This one's a coin flip.

So what happens on Election Day? I say the Dems pick up Montana, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Ohio. They hang onto New Jersey, and the Republicans hang onto Virginia and Tennessee. As for Missouri, heads it's Talent, tails McCaskill...(flip)...tails.

So, the new Senate is 50-50.


Blogger AlexM said...

Oh yeah.....I can't watch TV anymore because of the constant McCaskill/Talent attack adds. Its getting obnoxious.

On a more pleasant note, Phil you would be proud of me. When I was in a bar this evening, surrounded by Card's fans, I jumped and shouted "woohoo" when ever the mets scored. Its not that I care who wins...I didn't actually know the playoffs had started...but its just fun being an asshole.

1:25 AM  
Blogger Phunwin said...

I am proud of you, Alex. That's awesome! :)

9:59 AM  

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