November Scenarios From a Paranoid Mind.
Call me paranoid. I still don't believe the polls, I think something's going to go sideways between now and the election, I still don't trust the GOP to stay away from the polls or punch any name with a (D) after it. NPR is touting a poll this morning that echoes all the rest--the GOP is in trouble and fading, and GOP voters are feeling disinterested. The war in Iraq has jumped out to be the major issue (therefore bad for the GOP). And the Dems lead in all issues except terrorism and immigration, which are statistical dead heats.
On the other hand, I've watched an unsettling pattern wherein all the news suggests a Democratic gain, until election day, when voters hand the GOP more power. I know, this is a new year, things are different, Foley, Iraq, yadda yadda, and yet still I remain paranoid. Here's why:
It's all about turnout. This is really the issue. Despite Dean's 50-state strategy and impressive improvements in infrastructure, the GOP still has a far more impressive get-out-the-vote machine. They are purported to have far greater cash reserves to produce beautiful ads and an election-week slime-o-rama. Elections are marathons, and the GOP are great finishers. Maybe Republican strategists can adequately scare people with the specter of a "Speaker Pelosi" (instructive, isn't it, that that's the most scary image they can invoke--losing power, aaaaiiieeee!).
Remember the gerrymander. If the GOP can get their usual 11th-hour turnout, they may well keep both houses. The Senate is the longer shot, and if they can keep Allen in Virginia, beat back Harold Ford in Tennessee, and win with Talent in Missouri, they will keep a bare majority. So then it falls to the House. The difficulty here is that Dems are running in predominantly gerrymandered districts that have statistically-calculated GOP advantages. Winning in these districts isn't like it was in '94. It's still an uphill battle.
All or nothing. On the other hand, if what everyone says is true, the likelihood that Dems take both chambers is probably as good as just taking the House. It would signal the final death-knell of a fear-powered machine, with conservative Christians and fiscal conservatives sitting this one out or voting Dem. If you can win in gerrymandered House districts, you can probably also take state races in the Senate.
An irony this election is that I'll be in India when the ballots come in. I won't be sitting with my usual celebratory bottle of Scotch--that turns palliative by 8 o'clock--watching darkness descend on the land. Instead, I'll be at a monastery in the Himalayas very far from liquor and other vices, blissfully ignorant of the petty affairs of our collapsing democracy. I spent one other election abroad, again in India. That time I was able to watch the returns via Star TV. It was 1994.
So maybe our luck is turning after all.