Riding the Wave – Poll Closing Times and Vulnerable Democratic Seats

I thought it would be fun (and possibly instructive) to track just how we might see the Wave of 2010 developing as it unfolds across the nation.  I did a little research (well, maybe quite a bit) based on poll closing times, the time networks are likely to project/call contested races, and my own list of contested races.




My source for poll-closing times is The Green Papers.  My sources for contested House races are Larry Sabato, Nate Silver, Charlie Cook, Stuart Rothenberg, Jim Geraghty, and the indispensable Real Clear Politics.  Each of these has biases, some of which are stated (Cook almost never moves incumbents worse than tossup, for instance).  But all of them probably have information which most of us don’t have, so I’ve found them useful.



My rankings aren’t that important, except in helping to see where we are performing compared to expectations.  Feel free to disagree with them — they are only helpful on the day in assessing whether a result is really good news or somewhat expected.


Tier 1 Targets — Done and Dusted

I currently rate 23 Democratic seats (and 2 Republican seats) as almost certain to switch, barring a total shock.  These are likely to be declared by the networks within minutes of the polls closing.


Tier 2 Targets — Likely Switch

My next set of targets, which I rate as strongly favored, consists of 10 Democratic seats.  I rate these as highly likely, and it will be a significant surprise if we lose even one of these.  There are no Republican seats in this category.  These may be declared very early as well.


Tier 3 Targets — Lean to Switch

Next are the seats which are somewhat favored to switch party.  In this ranking, I include 17 Democratic seats (and one Republican seat, IL-10).  In a national wave, we could win all of these (and I actually expect to).  However, these are seats where the Democrat still has a decent chance of turning it around if they can come up with something good or the Republican stumbles badly.  Some of these we will get the results early, but some may be too close to call until a while after closing.


Tier 4 Targets — Pure Tossups

These seats could go either way.  In a wave, most of them, perhaps even all of them, could break our way.  I have 16 Democratic seats and one Republican (HI-1) in this category.  Note that if we get all of Tier 1, 2, & 3 and half of Tier 4 Tossups we are already over 50 seats, and that is without picking up any real surprises.


Tier 5 Targets — Lean to Hold

I have 10 Democrats slightly favored to hold their seat.  In a real wave, some of these will fall.  If we are taking seats in this category, we are looking at a gain of between 60-70 seats.


Tier 6 Targets — Likely Hold

Here is where I hope we have some real fun.  I rate 76 Democrats as highly endangered, Tiers 1-5 (vs. 4 Republicans).  In this tier, we have another 30 or so who can’t be feeling too comfortable about what the wave will sweep in (or sweep out, as the case may be).  Some of these are big names, and it won’t be a shock if some of them go down.  For any of these seats, if they don’t call them for the Democrats right away it is good news — it means it is close enough that we’ve got a shot.



I’ve also, for the fun of it, listed some longshots below.  We probably won’t get any of them, but who knows?  It may be that kind of year.



So, here’s a news-watching guide as the wave comes crashing in, to help assess how high and deep it will reach.  All times are EDT.



Polls close in parts of Indiana and Kentucky


Races to watch:

IN-Sen.  Parts of IN will still be open, but the networks usually project, because the overwhelming majority of the state will have voted.  The first Senate seat flips.


KY-Sen.  They probably won’t project for another hour, until the rest of the state closes. 


Tier-5 Lean to Hold.  KY-3 Chandler.  There are about 60 House Democrats more vulnerable than he is.  If he goes down, it’s probably going to be a very, very good night.


Tier-4 Tossup.  IN-2 Donnelly.  Most of the district closes at 6:00, with the rest open another hour.  If Donnelly is winning, the media will tell us, to offset the Senate result.  If he is losing or it is close, they will probably hold the news hoping for some pro-D news elsewhere to give at the same time.


Longshot:  KY-3 Yarmuth.  If this is a pickup, or even too close to call, Katie bar the door.


7:00 (the fun really begins)

Polls close in Florida (except CD-1 & 2), Georgia, the rest of IN and KY, South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia


Races to watch:

KY-Sen.  Rand Paul holds the seat, the first Tea Party senator.


FL-Sen.  Rubio doesn’t get a declaration for another hour, until the Panhandle finishes voting.


Tier-1.  IN-8 Ellsworth-open, FL-8 Grayson, FL-24 Kosmas, VA-5 Perriello.  Done and Dusted.


Tier-2.  VA-2 Nye.  Likely Switch.


Tier-3, Lean Switch.  IN-9 Hill, FL-22 Klein, GA-8 Marshall.  


Toss-Ups.  IN-2 Donnelly, SC-5 Spratt.  If these are declared early, rather than being too close to call, it’s going to be a fun night.


Tier-5 Lean Hold.  GA-2 Bishop.  Send Sanford home, and we’re looking at gaining 60 or more seats.


Tier-6 Likely Hold.  GA-12 Barrow, VA-9 Boucher, VA-11 Connolly.  If we get even one of these, we’re probably looking at gaining more than 70 seats.


FL-12 and 25.  The Ds think they have a shot at these.


7:30 (more pain for Democrats)

North Carolina, Ohio, West Virginia


Races to watch:

OH-Sen.  They’ll call this one at 7:31.


NC-Sen.  They’ll call this one at 7:32.


WV-Sen.  This one could go late, but if Raese wins it early, the long faces on the networks will be glorious to behold.


Tier-1.  OH-1 Driehaus and OH-15 Kilroy are Done and Dusted.


Tier-2 Likely Switch.  OH-16 Boccieri.


Tier-3 Lean Switch.  OH-6 Wilson.


Tier-4 Tossup.  NC-8 Kissell, OH-18 Space, and WV-1 Mollohan.  Early declarations would mean we are winning the pure tossups easily, which means 50-60 seats, at least.


Tier-5 Lean Hold.  NC-7 McIntyre.


Tier-6 Likely Hold.  NC-2 Etheridge, NC-11 Shuler, OH-9 Kaptur, OH-13 Sutton, and WV-3 Rahall.  Remember, if we flip any in this category, it may mean the biggest landslide since 1894.


In my Dreams Category:  NC-4 Price, OH-10 Kucinich.


8:00 (the results people hear when they get in their car as they leave work in California, which could impact West Coast turnout)

Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida 1 & 2, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan (except MI-1), Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, part of South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas (except TX-16 and a small part of TX-23)


Here is where the force of the wave will really be seen.  Races to watch:

FL-Sen.  Rubio is announced as the second Tea Party senator.


MO-Sen.  This will be declared early, too.


CT-Sen, DE-Sen, IL-Sen, PA-Sen.  If we only get one of these, the Senate stays blue.  Two of them, and they’ll be scared.  Three, and there will be outright panic.  And if we get all four, half the Democrats in California who haven’t voted by this time will stay home and post Internet rants instead.  If they can’t announce Democratic wins in CT and DE early, it’s a very good sign, even if we eventually lose those seats.  


Tier 1 Done and Dusted.  FL-2 Boyd, IL-11 Halvorson, MS-1 Childers, NH-1 Shea-Porter, PA-3 Dahlkemper, TN-6 Gordon-open, TN-8 Tanner-open, and TX-17 Edwards will all change hands.  So will DE-AL, in the other direction.  Some network analyst will intone gravely that this pickup for the Democrats will make it harder for the Republicans to take the House.  No one with any brains will believe him — he won’t really believe it himself.


Tier 2 Likely Switch.  MD-1 Kratovil, PA-7 Sestak-open, and PA-10 Carney.


Tier 3 Lean Switch.  AL-2 Bright, IL-14 Foster, IL-17 Hare, PA-8 Murphy, PA-11 Kanjorski, and TN-4 Davis.  IL-10 Kirk-open is somewhat favored to flip to the Ds.


Tossup.  MA-10 Delahunt-open, MI-7 Schauer, MI-9 Peters, MS-4 Taylor, NH-2 Hodes-open, and NJ-3 Adler.


Tier 5 Lean Hold.  CT-4 Himes, CT-5 Murphy, and MO-4 Skelton.


Tier 6 Likely Hold.  IL-8 Bean, IL-9 Schakowsky, ME-2 Michaud, MA-4 Frank, MI-15 Dingell, MO-3 Carnahan, NJ-12 Holt, PA-4 Altmire, PA-12 Critz, TX-27 Ortiz.  


Too Good to be True?  ME-1 Pingree, MD-5 Hoyer, MA-5 Tsongas, MA-6 Tierney, NJ-6 Pallone, PA-17 Holden, TX-30 Johnson.


Scorecard by 8:30:  Hopefully the Senate will be +4, maybe +5.  There is an excellent chance that the polls will have closed on enough seats for us to have gained the House, though probably that many won’t have been declared yet.


By 8:30, if the wave is on, it won’t be a question of winning the election, it will just be a case of watching to see how much of the rubble get swept out to sea. 



Polls close in Arkansas


Races to watch:

AR-Sen.  Goodbye, Blanche.  Take the message, leave with class, and help block any lame-duck naughtiness.  Thanks for your service — I wish I could say I approve of the way you carried it out.


Tier 1 Done and Dusted.  AR-1 Berry-open and AR-2 Snyder-open.


AR-4 Ross is a longshot, I’m afraid.  We’ve got a chance, but it’s slim.



Polls close in Colorado, Kansas (except for KS-1), Louisiana, Michigan 1, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, TX-16 & 23, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.


Races to watch:

WI-Sen.  So long, Russ.  Go exercise your free speech somewhere else, instead of trying to restrict ours.


CO-Sen.  Buck is going to get this one.  Hope he’s a better senator than campaigner.


LA-Sen.  Vitter doesn’t deserve it, but he’ll win easily.


NY-Sen.  The networks will be crowing about these two seats.  Everyone else will shrug.


Tier 1 Done and Dusted.  CO-4 Markey, KS-3 Moore-open, LA-3 Melancon-open, NM-2 Teague, NY-29 Massa-open, WI-7 Obey-open, WI-8 Kagen will all flip.  So will LA-2 Cao going the other direction.


Tier 2 Likely Switch.  MI-1 Stupak-open and SD-AL Herseth-Sandlin.


Tier 3 Lean Switch.  CO-3 Salazar, NY-19 Hall, and NY-23 Owens.


Tossups.  NY-20 Murphy, NY-24 Arcuri, and TX-23 Rodriguez.


Tier 5 Lean Hold.  MN-8 Oberstar and NY-1 Bishop.  Here’s hoping the wave is big enough.


Tier 6 Likely Hold.  CO-7 Perlmutter, MN-1 Walz, NM-1 Heinrich, NY-13 McMahon, NY-22 Hinchey, NY-25 Maffei, and WI-3 Kind.  These are all in the 70-100 target range.  I can’t decide which I want most, CO-7 or NY-22.  Perhaps we should just win both of them.


In the “I Have a Dream” category are the MacLadies, MN-4 McCollum and NY-4 McCarthy.


The House will probably be declared as having switched sometime between 9 and 10 EDT.  There’s a chance it goes earlier.  I’ll be very surprised if it hasn’t happened by 9:30 — and the polls will still be open in California for another hour and a half.



Polls close in Arizona, Idaho 2, Iowa, KS-1, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, and Utah.  (One corner of ND won’t close until later, but since the races aren’t likely to be close, the networks may call them early).


Races to watch:

NV-Sen.  One of the biggest of the day.  Expect there to be recounts and lawsuits unless we win it by at least 2%.  I think we will win by that much or more.


ND-Sen.  Hoeven in a cakewalk.


Tier 2 Likely Switch.  AZ-1 Kirkpatrick and ND-AL Pomeroy.


Tier 3 Lean Switch.  AZ-5 Mitchell and NV-3 Titus.


Tossups.  AZ-7 Grijalva and AZ-8 Giffords.


Tier 5 Lean Hold.  IA-3 Boswell.


Tier 6 Likely Hold.  IA-1 Braley, IA-2 Loebsack, and UT-2 Matheson.  AZ-3 Shadegg-open for the Republicans.



The wave breaks on the West Coast.  Polls close in California, ID-1, Oregon, and Washington.


Races to watch:

CA-Sen.  Please, oh, please, oh, please retire Boxer.


WA-Sen.  Please, oh, please, oh, please retire Murray.


Tier 2 Likely Switch.  WA-3 Baird-open.


Tier 3 Lean Switch.  CA-11 McNerney and OR-5 Schrader.  (Schrader is close to being moved to likely switch).


Tier 5 Lean Hold.  CA-47 Sanchez (verging on tossup).


Tier 6 Likely Hold.  CA-20 Costa, ID-1 Minnick, OR-1 Wu, OR-4 DeFazio, WA-2 Larsen, and WA-9 Smith.  For the Republicans, CA-3 Lungren and WA-8 Reichert.


In the “I can dream if I want to, whatever anyone else says” category is most of the California Democratic contingent.



Polls close in Hawaii and Alaska.


Races to watch:

AK-Sen.  Miller or Murkowski?  No point in staying up for it, it is probably going to take a good long while to count those write-ins.


Tossup.  HI-1 Djou for the Republicans.


Bizarre and insane longshot:  Could the wave break high enough and early enough to depress Democrats enough in Hawaii that they don’t turn out for the Senate election?  Well, no, it couldn’t, I’m afraid.  But Hawaii is looking far less Democratic than ever.  So can we hope?  Well, no.  Well?


Sorry this is so long.  Actually, I’m glad it is so long, because there are so many vulnerable seats on it.  Maybe there are a few more lurking out there, that aren’t on anyone’s radar screen yet.  Hopefully someone finds it helpful.