From Harry Reid’s symbolic battle in Nevada to the role Latinos, blacks, and white women will play in tonight’s elections, here are 9 key issues and states to consider as the results come in.
Alaska’s Senate race has surprisingly become one of the most exciting this year. Polls on this race vary wildly, and any outcome is possible. Will Joe Miller’s scandals doom his candidacy? Will Murkowski’s hard-to-spell last name sink her prospects as a write-in? Or will Miller and Murkowski divide the conservative vote enough to give Scott McAdams (D) a surprise first-place finish? Plan to stay up late and expect the unexpected. The Daily Beast’s Election Oracle gives Murkowski and Miller each a 40 percent chance of winning.
The Not-So-Energized Youth
With all this talk of Democratic doom, one has to wonder, what happened to all those new young voters Obama inspired to vote in 2008? The answer might be in a polling problem. Most polls call respondents on landlines, but a quarter of U.S. households can only be reached on a cell phone—and many of that growing cohort are young people. Could the polls just be playing catch-up with this technological shift, overstating the trouble the Democrats are in by under-counting one of their key constituencies?
Is the GOP Losing Latinos?
After years of increasing outrage over illegal immigration, the Republican base has finally succeeded in forcing the Republican establishment to act. Arizona’s tough and controversial law is inspiring copycat laws elsewhere, and Latinos may feel they no longer have a place in the GOP. Look at the voting patterns in Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona, where high Hispanic turnout and a shift toward the Democrats could dramatically change the electoral calculus for Republicans down the line.
The Dems’ White Women Problem
White women have been reliable voters who tend to favor Democrats, but they may be leaving the party in the dust in 2010. When The Daily Beast re-analyzed Gallup polling data in September, we found that white women are the least enthusiastic of all demographic groups, behind black men (36 percent) and white men (40 percent). A significant percentage of white Republican women are enthusiastic, but independents (21 percent) and Democrats (24 percent) are anything but excited.
Colorado: A Key Battleground
The state was a key Democratic pickup in 2008, a symbol of Democratic inroads into the Republican West. In 2010, Colorado will be an important proving ground for the Tea Party. Their candidate, Ken Buck, is challenging Michael Bennet (D) for a senate seat, and polls are nearly even—The Daily Beast’s Election Oracle gives each a 50 percent chance of victory. Two ultra-conservative candidates, Dan Maes (R) and American Constitution Party candidate Tom Tancredo, are squaring off against the popular Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper (D), in the gubernatorial race. Hickenlooper gets a 90 percent chance of victory from the Oracle.
Emotions Run High Over Obama’s Senate Seat
If Mark Kirk (R) wins Obama’s old Senate seat away from the Democrats the emotional toll on Democratic morale might be as significant as the knock to the Democratic Senate majority. Alexi Giannoulias (D) trails Kirk (R) 40 percent to 60 percent in the Oracle’s prediction.
Nevada’s Tight Race
Harry Reid (D), a milktoast incumbent who as Senate majority leader represents the Democratic establishment more than perhaps anyone is feeling the heat from his conservative, insurgent, lightning-rod opponent, Sharron Angle (R). Polls are fairly tight but the Oracle has called the race for Angle, giving her a 70 percent chance of winning. Her victory will be seen as a tremendous rebuke for the Democratic policies of the last two years.
Obama’s Man in Virginia in Trouble
In no race has Obama put his name on the line more than in the Virginia 5th, campaigning for Tom Perriello (D) against challenger Robert Hurt (R). Obama gave Perriello a shout-out on The Daily Show, and visited the state, rallying students around the embattled Democrat, a freshman congressman who has taken heat in his conservative district for voting in favor of the health-care bill. This could be a very close race, but it isn’t looking good for either Obama or Perriello, who has only a 30 percent chance of holding on to his seat, according to the Oracle.
The Black Vote
North Carolina’s 8th is a swing district where the importance of the African-American vote will be on full display. The Daily Beast’s Election Oracle gives Democrat Larry Kissel a 60 percent chance of keeping his seat, but Harold Johnson (R) trails him by less than two points in recent polling. Thirty percent of North Carolina’s 8th district is black, so the outcome of this race will answer one of the most intriguing questions of 2010—will blacks come out to support the president, as they did in 2008, even though he isn’t on the ballot?