I have been disappointed by the many pundits who are not willing to put their election predictions up for public display. While there have been exceptions, most commentators are busily hedging bets and couching their predictions in vague and plausibly deniable language, and otherwise running away from the challenge of predicting the outcome of tomorrow's election.
So I am bravely offering my predictions (at the end of this column), and asking you to chime in with your own take on where we will stand, come the morning of November 8th. "Put up or shut up" is the gauntlet I throw down to all and sundry -- rabid lefties, rightwing trolls, and undecided voters (UDVs?) -- all are welcome to predict the makeup of the 110th Congress.
But before we get to that, I have to practice some of what the late great San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen called "three dot journalism." The bulk of today's column is made up of items that never rose to the prominence necessary for me to devote a full column to them, but are merely odds and ends from this election cycle that I'm tossing out there before they all become stale and otherwise moot. As an homage to Caen, these snippets will all be presented with the requisite ellipses preceding them:
. . . Looks like DNC Chairman Howard Dean has been totally vindicated in his pursuit of the "50-state strategy," as more and more House districts which were once Republican locks are made competitive by the Democrats. You don't win in such districts unless some groundwork has already been done, and Dean has tirelessly and relentlessly been pushing this concept ever since he got the chairmanship. This bodes well (it should be highlighted) for 2008.
. . . For the "Hoist By Their Own Petard" award in this election, look no further than the gerrymandering of districts by the Republican Party -- in particular Tom DeLay. Everyone talks about gerrymandering as a bad thing, but in reality it's going to bite Republicans on the ass this time around. DeLay's district is just one example of how this will haunt the GOP this election. Tom DeLay had a district with an overwhelming Republican majority. The redistricting which he forced upon Texas Republicans (complete with his abuse of Homeland Security to track Democrats who flew out of the state to deny him a quorum) bled some of his staunch GOP voters off to neighboring districts to improve those districts' chances to elect Republicans. This left his district with a slimmer 55% Republican majority. And now his district may vote a Democrat into office. If he had left things as they were, this would not have even been in the realm of possibility. This shows how conventional wisdom, when it comes to gerrymandering, may be wrong.
. . . Speaking of surprises, where the heck is Karl Rove's "October Surprise?" I felt so strongly about the inevitability of this, I wrote two columns about it (and much fun was had by all, in the comments sections), but the only thing Rove can come up with this time around is a minor land deal by Harry Reid, and juggling the calendar so Saddam Hussein is sentenced to death two days before the election? That's it? Maybe Karl isn't the evil genius we all took him for. He sure didn't produce this time around! Perhaps he should be dusting off his resume and thinking about applying for a new job?
. . . Kerry's flub and the gay evangelical preacher are both going to affect the vote a whole lot less than anyone in the mainstream media hoped for. From the left and the right, these stories were over-hyped in the closing days of the campaign -- but, seriously, are either one of them going to change anyone's vote? Perhaps the preacher story will very slightly depress the Christian right's turnout, but that's about it.
. . . Keep it under wraps until after the election. I was shocked -- SHOCKED! I tell you -- to hear that Mark Foley is spending an extra week in rehab so that he is not available to the public (and to reporters) until after the votes are counted. Likewise, I was also shocked -- SHOCKED! -- to hear that the House Ethics Committee will not be issuing a report on "who knew what and when" in l'affaire Foley until after the election. And, although it was announced a long time ago, I was also shocked -- SHOCKED! -- to hear that the Iraq Survey Group (the Baker / Hamilton commission) will not be issuing any report until later in the month. Seriously, do they believe we can't read a calendar? "I'm shocked, SHOCKED! to find that gambling is going on in here!" SHOCKED!!
. . . To me, the two most enjoyable races to watch a Republican go down in flames will be the Florida Senate race (Katherine Harris) and the Pennsylvania Senate race (Rick Santorum -- whose last name is now a synonym for a by-product of gay sex, due to the tireless promotion by the man who defined it, sex columnist Dan Savage). I mean, seriously, I'm already popping popcorn and waiting for those returns to be made public.
. . . President Bush's labeling Democrats and everyone who votes for them as supporters of terrorists is going to come back to haunt him in a big way when he has to deal with Democratic majorities in Congress. Calling Democrats traitors is not going to help him pass any legislation in his last two years in office.
. . . Why didn't the mainstream media pick up the Virginia "Allen supporters beat down a peaceful questioner" story? It wasn't even in the Washington Post that I noticed, even though they normally treat Virginia as a "local" story. Although other gaffes by Allen have been instant national news, there was a resounding silence on this particular story. Why?
. . . While I'm on the subject, why didn't the mainstream media pick up on the Senator Burns judgeship quid-pro-quo story? A lawyer donates $2,000 to Burns and the next day Burns nominates him for a federal judgeship? Maybe the local Montana press ran with the story, but the national media ignored it. Why?
. . . Sadly, the only unifying message that has been successfully communicated by the Democrats is: "We're not Bush!" Much to my surprise, this year it seems to be enough for them to coast to victory.
. . . Push the yellow button and you can vote as many times as you like? Say what? We really could use some federal voting standards that mean something. Sheesh!
. . . Even though I just wrote about it, the numbers seem to be in on the Latino voter registration drives across the country, and the numbers are not good. The goal was to sign up a million new voters. The final tally? About 150,000. Nice, but not very impressive after all those street rallies last spring.
. . . A bold prediction by Amy Sullivan on The Chris Matthews Show -- if the Democrats take the Senate, Hillary will not run for President, but rather cut a deal with Harry Reid and run for Senate Majority Leader, where she will be happier and do more good than she would as President. I don't know if I totally buy it, but an interesting prediction nonetheless.
. . . Speaking of leadership posts, will Nancy Pelosi succeed in installing Jack Murtha in the Majority Leader position in the House if the Democrats take it? This could be the most interesting intra-party fight, post-election. One to watch!
. . . Apropos of absolutely nothing, has anyone else noticed that "Borat" is really just an updated version of the "Wild and Crazy Guys" sketch from SNL? I'm just saying....
. . . Post-election, no matter who is in control of the Senate, Democrats need to sharpen their filibuster skills. Republicans announced weeks ago that there will be a "lame duck" session of Congress before January. Look for the House to pass all their "Hail Mary" bills (to use a football metaphor) in desperation, before Nancy Pelosi takes over. The only thing stopping this juggernaut of bad laws is the backbone of Democratic senators to stand up and filibuster them into oblivion. Can they be trusted to do this? Time will tell.
. . . Will Bush's "bubble" be blown away by strong Democratic victories Tuesday? Will he finally start facing up to reality? Will there be an Oval Office freakout? What will such a freakout bode for the future of his term in office? Will his wife Laura and his dog Barney still support him?
. . . Will Bush decide to finally cut Rumsfeld loose and shift all the blame for Iraq onto Rumsfeld's shoulders, in a desperate bid to save his own political skin? Or will all that vaunted "loyalty" win out after all? Golly gee (as Rummy would say), we'll just have to wait and see!
. . . Of course, even if the Democrats do take both houses, the big question remains: just what the heck do we do with Iraq? How do we declare victory and get the hell out of there, and still sell it to the American public? This is going to be a tough row to hoe for the Democrats, but then, that's what leadership is all about. We'll see what they come up with. A real test of fire.
. . . And finally, for comic relief, don't forget to keep an eye on the wacky propositions on the ballots in various states. There are the usual gay marriage referenda in many states, as well as a handful of state minimum wage increases on the ballot. There are also initiatives to legalize marijuana in Nevada and Colorado (not medical marijuana, mind you, but complete legalization for everyone). There's the odious abortion ban up for vote in South Dakota. Michigan has an anti-affirmative action proposition before the voters. And lastly (my favorite) an initiative to boost voter turnout in Arizona by making voting a lottery -- one lucky voter will receive a million dollars just for voting!
OK, enough of that. On to my picks for the balance of Congress on Wednesday:
Democrats -- 229
Republicans -- 206
Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, Washington.
Arizona, Nevada, Tennessee.
Democrats -- 51
Republicans -- 49
Those are my choices. What are yours?