Sunday, October 31, 2010

Races to watch on election day; MN Senate edition

I want to start with a bit of clarification, I omitted from the House edition post, the methodology behind the three metrics I'm using and why I'm only using those three metrics. To be clear, these were not chosen at random, but rather have had the most predictive power in past Minnesota elections that I've analysed.

A few notes about those metrics.

When I refer to the amount of money raised by a candidate, I talking about the amount raised in individual contributions this year, not total amount raised or cash on hand or anything else. This metric gives us some idea of how much support a candidate has in the absence of polling.

This is by no means a perfect measure, but it has decent predictive power in that incumbents who raise significantly more than their opponent rarely lose, and those who raise significantly less, are in danger of losing.

The other metrics I'm using are; 2006 vote shares and hPVI.

With that out of the way, let's get on with the Minnesota Senate edition of "Races to watch."

The key races

The outcome of these races are likely to be a sign of things to come. If the two DFLers pull out the victory they will almost certainly hold the Senate.

DFL: Bruce Hentges
GOP: John Pederson
Rating: Toss-up

The open seat race to fill Tarryl Clark's vacated Senate seat looks to be the most interesting open seat race of the night on the Senate side. The district is R+6, but was won by Tarryl with over 56% of the vote.

John Pederson, the GOP candidate, has the fundraising lead $28k to $24k, but the DFLer, Bruce Hentges has raised more since the primary, which, in open seat races, is more significant. In the time since the primary, Hentges has raised $10k to Pederson's $8k. This should be a close race and could go either way.

DFL: Jim Carlson [i]
GOP: Ted Daley
Rating: Toss-up

Jim Carlson beat the incumbent Republican in 2006 with 53.6% of the vote. He's a former Republican, which tells you about all you need to know about the DFLs suburban strategy.

That said, even though this is an R+6 district he should be able to hold onto his seat against Ted Daley, who has kept it close on the fundraising front with $22k to Carlson's $23k. If Jim Carlson gets beat though, it could be a sign that things aren't going well for the DFL in the 'burbs.

A few more

DFL: John Doll [i]
GOP: Dan Hall
Rating: Toss-up

John Doll beat incumbent Senator Bill Belanger in 2006 with 52%, in this R+1 district. He was holding his own in fundraising before the primary but his opponent Dan Hall has been pulling away since than and now leads $13k to $9k.

The DFLs dominance of the state Senate is due to their winning virtually all of these kinds of neutral to slightly Republican districts. They will need to hold onto as many as they can to off-set probable loses in GOP heavy districts like SD16.

DFL: Sharon Ropes [i]
GOP: Jeremy Miller
Rating: Toss-up

In 2006 Sharon Ropes won this seat in a three-way race, getting less than 50% of the vote with 46.7%, after losing in 2002 with virtually the same vote share, 46.9%. The district's partisan tilt is in her favor at D+6, but in two races now she's yet to crack the 50% mark and her opponent, Jeremy Miller has been killing her in fundraising, $41k to $24k.

If Sharon Ropes can hold on it's likely to be a good night for the DFL.

The DFLs best pickup opportunities

DFL: Larry Rice
GOP: Joe Gimse [i]
Rating: Toss-up

This is former majority leader Dean Johnson's old seat. Joe Gimse beat him with less than 51% in 2006. At R+16 it's not the most hospitable territory for Democrats, but Gimse's opponent, Larry Rice, is destroying him in fundraising, $26k to $11k.

It's only because of the R+16 tilt that this isn't a Tilt-DFL race, I expect it to be close.

DFL: Ron Case
GOP: David Hann [i]
Rating: Toss-up

Despite this being an R+11 district David Hann only got 52% of the vote in 2006 and is getting out raised by his opponent, Ron Case $22k to $20k. If things go well for the DFL in the suburbs this seat will be in play.

Most at-risk Democratic seats

These seats are likely to flip, but the GOP will need a clean sweep of them if they want to retake control of the Senate.

DFL: Lisa Fobbe [i]
GOP: Dave Brown
Rating: Tilt GOP

Lisa Fobbe barely won this R+24 seat in a special election. In 2006 the Republican incumbent got 57% of the vote and Fobbe's opponent, Dave Brown has been out raising her $17k to $10k. The DFL has spent a lot of money to try and hold this seat, but I honestly don't see how it happens.

DFL: Mary Olson [i]
GOP: John Carlson
Rating: Tilt GOP

Mary Olson won with 52% in 2006, beating incumbent Republican Carrie Ruud. Things don't look so good for her chances of holding onto this R+10 district as her opponent John Carlson has out raised her $30k to $16k.

DFL: Kathy Saltzman [i]
GOP: Ted Lillie
Rating: Tilt GOP

Kathy Saltzman won this seat in 2006 with 53%, beating an incumbent Republican in the process. This year she's facing a vigorous challenge from Ted Lillie for this R+10 seat. The problem for Saltzman is that she's getting out raised $27k to $18k.

DFL: Kevin Dahle [i]
GOP: Al Dekruif
Rating: Tilt GOP

This district only has an R+7 tilt, so it's not completely hostile territory for Kevin Dahle, but he won the seat in a special election and has yet to face an election day electorate in this district that was won twice by GOPer Tom Neuville.

His opponent, Al Dekruif, has out raised him $24k to $8k, so that doesn't raise my expectations any.

An interesting open seat race

DFL: Taylor Stevenson
GOP: Paul Gazelka
Rating: Tilt GOP

This looked like it once had the potential to be a possible DFL pickup. After losing in the primary to Paul Gazelka, the incumbent Republican, Paul Koering, endorsed the DFL candidate Taylor Stevenson.

At that point Stevenson was keeping it close in fundraising with Gazelka, only down $7k to $9k. Since than however Gazelka has been raking in the cash to the tune of $23k while Stevenson has raised just $11k.

This race might be worth paying attention to simply because the aforementioned Paul Koering has since decided that he's going to run as a write in candidate. In this R+14 district Gazelka should be able to win, but what effect Koering will have will be interesting to see.

Long-shot DFL pick-up opportunities

DFL: Becky Siekmeier
GOP: Ray Vandeveer [i]
Rating: Tilt GOP

Ray Vandeveer's fundraising is almost the same as his 2006 run. That year he raised less than $1k before the primary and finished with raising about $7k. His opponent in that race raised slightly less than Becky Siekmeier has so far, she's raised $20k, but Vandeveer still won with 52.5% in this R+15 district.

Because this is Michele Bachmann's former state Senate seat it would be a nice "trophy" seat, and Vandeveer is not the best of candidates, but this is in the long-shot category.

DFL: Peter Perovich
GOP: Mike Jungbauer [i]
Rating: Tilt GOP

Mike Jungbauer only got 51% in 2006, but this is an R+20 district and while Peter Perovich has out raised him, $8k to $7k, neither of them raised much.

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