Richie Robb: the most powerful man in America?

Kari Chisholm FacebookTwitterWebsite

Mayor Richie RobbRichie Robb is the the mayor of South Charleston, West Virginia. And if the electoral map falls just so, he may turn out to be the most powerful man in America.

You see, he's one of the five GOP electors for West Virginia. But, he's already served notice that he won't be voting for George W. Bush. In many states, being a "faithless elector" isn't legal - but in West Virginia, it's game on. (In 1988, a Democratic elector voted for Lloyd Bentsen.)

Is there a realistic scenario of red states and blue states that puts Mayor Richie Robb in the catbird seat? You bet there is.

For starters, line up the obvious reds and blues. For Dubya, it's Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Wyoming.

For JFK, it's California, Connecticut, D.C., Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington. With the solids in place, it's Bush 187, Kerry 164 - with 187 left.

Electoral College TieThen, let's assign some realistic outcomes for some swing states. In the red column, let's put Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, West Virginia. In the blue column, it's Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon (wahoo!). After all that, it's Bush 222, Kerry 229 - with 87 left.

I know there's plenty of scenarios under which some of those states could swing another way - but stay with me for a moment.

What's left? Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

We know lil' Jeb is gonna steal Florida for his brother. Color the panhandle red. Bush 249.

After billions of charitable giving in western Pennsylvania, let's figure Teresa has bought the state for her hubby. Color the keystone blue. Kerry 250.

Wisconsin has become a real swing state, but I think that the land of cheeseheads will ultimately swing Kerry's way. Color Packer country Patriot blue. Kerry 260.

Up in New Hampshire, they've been watching Kerry's ads for twenty years through the Boston media market. Color the granite state blue. Kerry 264.

All politics is local, and Bush wants to drive thousands of tons of nuclear waste into Nevada. Color Nevada blue. Kerry 269.

And of course, that leads us to the ultimate swing state: Ohio. No Republican has ever won the presidency without the Buckeye State. Jerry Springer says it's going blue, but I think the good folks at Diebold are going to steal it for Dubya. Bush 269.

Ladies and gentlemen, that gives us a 269-269 tie. Which brings us back to Richie Robb.

Now, he's said that he won't likely vote for Kerry, just withhold his vote from Bush - but you can damn well believe that he'll get lots and lots of pressure.

This last spring, Mayor Robb finished fourth in a ten-candidate primary for the GOP nomination for Governor. He was described as the only progressive running in either party's primary, with a strong pro-environment platform:

"Environmental protection is good business practice and for the tourism industry a necessity. The days of confrontation between our extractive-energy industry and the environmental must end. The two can work together and it is up to us West Virginians to see that they do."

Could Richie Robb be convinced to swing his vote to Kerry - the pro-environment candidate?

Learn more about Richie Robb at his old gubernatorial campaign website.

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    Oh, and there's a great bit of analysis from Joe Lenski at He's put together one, two, three, four articles on "election nightmare scenarios."

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    Now what if Robb withholds his vote? That would be 269-268 giving Kerry the majority (with one abstention, obviously) anyway - without the 270. Would it still be considered a win? Can he put Kerry in the White House without actively betraying his party (y'know, just passively. lol)?

    (In 1988, a Democratic elector voted for Lloyd Bentsen.)

    I forgot about that. At the young age of not-quite-14 I was trying desperately to get my mother not to vote for GHW Bush but, of course, for Dukakis (that was a horrible election night, Dukakis lost, I had the flu... anyway). She said "Well, If Lloyd Bentsen were running for President, I'd vote for him." She said she deliberated in the voting booth up until she finally cast her vote for Bush. Not much I could do (she eventually saw the light, switched parties, voted for Clinton twice and died a Democrat). But I think there might've been a lot more people like my mother out there and history might have been different had Bentsen been the candidate and Dukakis been the running mate (or had Dukakis never gotten into that tank).

    All politics is local, and Bush wants to drive thousands of tons of nuclear waste into Nevada. Color Nevada blue. Kerry 269.

    You really think NV is blue, K? I realize you're throwing this as a what-if scenario, but I don't think that even with the nuclear (nukular? ;-)) waste issue, Kerry has Nevada. It's been pretty "pink" for a while - check it out.

    However, I don't give polling much credit this year - this election is going to be won by the youngsters, the newly registered and returning voters and those of us without landlines. So you could be right. We shall see.

    Kerry could still take Florida. Look at this polling mess. You got a lotta pissed of people down there who don't want to be a laughing stock again. Bet me Miami-Dade County has record turnout this year. Nevermind the fact that without butterfly ballots and dangling chads, that should help Kerry, too - if you believe, of course, that Gore would have won Florida w/o the interference, voter intimidation, and without the ballot confusion (and depending on which "independent" recount you believe).

    All that said, this election will either be a nailbiter or a hefty victory for Kerry (see sentence above re: polling). Just as long as it's over by November 3rd (or, y'know, December 13th). ;-)

  • raging red (unverified)

    My two worlds have collided! (Former Portland resident, current resident of Charleston, WV.)

    I don't have much to add, since you covered the subject pretty exhaustively, but I feel obligated to comment on the first West Virginia-related post at Blue Oregon.

    West Virginia is a neglected state (in so many ways). In 2000, neither Gore nor Bush paid it much attention. WV only has 5 electoral votes, but of course we all know the moral of that story. So, it would be exciting if WV became the linchpin of the 2004 Presidential election.

    Of course, I truly hope that neither this nor any other "election nightmare scenario" occurs. I just want a nice, clear Kerry victory.

    One question - do you need 270 electoral votes to win, or just the majority? If Richie Robb would just withhold his vote, giving Kerry 269 and Bush 268, would Kerry not be the winner?

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    Well, rr, would you mind stopping by South Charleston City Hall - and give the good mayor our regards? Let him know there's a bunch of Blue Oregonians who are wishing him all the best, and, um, yeah, would he mind voting for Kerry?

    Oh, and cc, no, 269-268 isn't a win - especially if Mayor Robb votes for a third candidate. Then, it's going to the House. Be sure to read Joe Lenski's scenarios to get way more detail about how this works.

    Also, be sure to pick up a copy of Jeff Greenfield's The People's Choice: A Cautionary Tale. Basically, a novel in which a single faithless elector causes havoc with the presidential election process. Hilarious.

  • raging red (unverified)

    I'll get right on that, Kari. :)

    By the way, as I've been thinking about this more (it's a fun diversion), I realized that if your carefully-crafted scenario were to actually happen, i.e. if there were a 269-269 tie, there would most likely be many other electors across the country (besides Robb) who would consider changing their votes. I would think that there would be both Kerry & Bush electors who would consider this, as a way to avoid the messiness of a Congressional tiebreaker.

    Of course, leaving the decision up to a few "faithless electors" isn't necessarily more desirable than leaving the decision up to Congress.

    Okay, this fun diversion has ceased to be fun. I'll go back to being optimistic about a clear Kerry victory.

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    Oh, and cc, no, 269-268 isn't a win - especially if Mayor Robb votes for a third candidate. Then, it's going to the House. Be sure to read Joe Lenski's scenarios to get way more detail about how this works.

    Well, shit.

    You know - the EV and popular vote are different so rarely that, though it pissed me off in 2000, I understood that that's just how this system works and it's an anomaly and let it go. HOWEVER, if the will of the people is ignored once again due to the EC? Yeah, somethin's gotta give. This is, of course, assuming that Kerry wins the popular vote and the House appoints Bush.

    However, how is that any different than if Robb voted with his state's popular vote? It'd still go to the House. Therefore the only way, in that scenario, he could prevent the house from appointing a President is to vote Kerry. OK, now it's even clearer to me - now I get it. He really would be the most poweful guy in the country. No pressure there. lol. Of course... wow. That could cause electoral chaos (new meaning to EC, eh? hehe).

    I'm with red - clear victory for Kerry so that we can all go to sleep (or pass out) in the wee hours of November 3rd with big ol' smiles on our faces.

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    Red, you're right, there would be lots of "most powerful people in America". But, many electors are in states where they are legally bound to vote with their party's preference. But not in West Virginia.

    Also, cc, it's not as simple as you'd think in the House. There, every state votes internally. (Oregon would be 4-1 Kerry, if all the incumbents win.) Then, a single state vote is cast. Until there are 26 state votes for one candidate, they vote again and again. Right now, the GOP controls 30 states, and Dems only 15. But, that could easily plummet - they get to choose among the top THREE candidates. If a single faithless provides a third candidate - that could be the compromise candidate.

    Look for Richie Robb to vote for McCain or somebody if this comes to pass. That would throw the House into havoc. Read Lenski's stuff for all the details.

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    OK, I just read all of Lenski's nightmare scenarios. I think they gave me a headache.

    All I can say is that I hope all of the planning and preparing for election nightmares goes the way of the Y2K preparedness plan..... all for naught.

    I don't know if the voting public could handle another drawn out election. There's this wonderful trend of people who've never voted before finally believing that their vote counts! But if any scenario placed this election in the hands of any legal body who would go against the popular vote (again), I think the voting public would lose faith in the system for generations.

    However, the scenarios that put another Clinton in the White House (or even the EEOB)... those I could get on board with.

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    Of course we've already had a presidential election decided by one person and her name is Sandra Day O'Connor. You will recall that the elecion in 2000 came down to a 5 to 4 vote.

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    Great post, Kari. The manifold problems plaguing the electoral college should allow some vast majority of Americans to agree to trash the damn thing (I mean, what's the likelihood of a tie when you've got 120 million voters--as some project we'll have this year?).

    But here's my heterodox belief: it's not going to be close. Kerry is going to win, and he'll surprise by winning convincingly. Kerry will pick up Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, and the Upper Midwest (which I can't really believe is in play). Bush will win the Show Me state and simultaneously demonstrate the irony of the state motto. But it won't matter. We'll be in bed by midnight, spending our bile on the results of Measures 36 and 37.

    Final: Kerry 311, Bush 224.

  • raging red (unverified)

    I suppose right here is as good a place as any to discuss the electoral college in general. I think that lots of Democrats are hating it now because of what happened in 2000. But what if it had gone the other way? Wouldn't those same Democrats be loving it?

    I tend to think that the electoral college is a good thing (though I would love to hear some well-reasoned arguments against it). After all, if it weren't for the electoral college, what Presidential candidate would pay any attention to West Virginia (or any number of other states with small populations)? This year - mostly earlier on in the campaign - Kerry, Edwards, Bush, and Cheney (as well as the candidates' family members) have made numerous trips to little old WV. This wouldn't happen without the electoral college.

    And since candidates and demographics are always changing, each election sees a different set of states getting attention.

    I'm curious about other people's opinions - and not opinions based on underlying anger from the 2000 election. If we just elected the President based on the popular vote, wouldn't California, New York, Texas, and other large states get all of the attention during every single election?

    What I think should probably be changed is allowing the "faithless elector" situation. Though I know logically that when I vote for John Kerry (which I did today!!) I'm really voting for electors to cast a vote for Kerry, you can be damn sure that my intent is for those electors to perform the ministerial act of casting that vote for Kerry, should he win the popular vote.

    So, if Robb wants to withhold his vote (or give it to some third person) as a statement of protest against Bush, that's really a-okay with me, but not if it would change the outcome of the election. That just seems grossly unfair to me, even though it's perfectly legal. (Don't get me wrong, I want nothing more right now than for Bush to be defeated, but my sense of fairness still tells me that it would be wrong, since I would be enormously pissed off if it happened in the reverse - if a Kerry elector voted for Bush and changed the outcome of the election.)

    Sorry if that was a bit rambling. I don't have rock solid opinions on the electoral college, so I'd like to hear some opposing views.

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    I know with all of the stupid errors I seem to be making when I post tonight, I probably shouldn't even try anymore. But I'm stubborn like that. lol.

    Frankly the problems in 2000 had nothing to do with the EC, it's just one of those times where the popular vote and the EC didn't match (what? the third time in history?). Had Bush actually won the popular vote, I don't think there would have been nearly as much ado. The biggest problem in 2000? Gore didn't win his home state - that was the biggest problem in 2000. Florida would have been moot and we all woulda gone to sleep happy that night. Nevermind how the course of history would have changed. However, we can't go back in time, we can only go forward.

    My fear is that if this one is tight - so tight that it goes to the House (which hasn't happened in 180 years, btw) and/or if the PV and EV differ again, I think that two hotly contested elections in a row will spark massive change to how we elect a President (maybe not this Congress but as soon as it's favorable to getting an amendment rolling) otherwise I think we really risk losing the will of the people. Everyone will feel disenfranchised - everyone who voted for the guy who loses anyway. And if it's the same people who felt disenfranchised in 2000, you better believe they're (we're) gonna be pissed.

    People will start to realize that we don't live in a true democracy and all hell will break loose. Somebody forgot to tell them years ago that "and to the Republic, for which it stands" actually meant something and they don't live in a true democracy (basically, no one really defined "democracy" in grade school and they just threw that word around as a catch-all for how our government works - that's my opinion, anyway). Why? Because our founding fathers didn't trust us to make decisions for ourselves. Though Jefferson did hate the EC - after all, we almost had Aaron Burr's face on the nickel. lol. I think in this day and age, and with the EV and the PV only differing a few times in history, we've proven we do alright.

    However, to Red's point, would that be the same if we ran campaigns via the media and Kerry never bothered to stop in Oregon and Bush never bothered to stop in Iowa? I don't know if it would. It gets the base motivated - gets us jazzed. Gets us ready to do something positive for OUR state via whichever candidate we support. Because our litte EVs mean something. Something more collectively than our little votes do all by their lonesome. And what about the 3 EV states like Alaska? Regardless of what I think, it'd be ironic if the state that possesses the most square mileage actually winds up with the least say.

    After all of that back and forth with myself, I think I'm going to hold my opinion on the EC until my faith in the system is restored next week. I know it will be as we see the pretty blue states popping up where no one expected them to - including Florida. Mark my words. If my faith in the system is not restored? Well, we'll cross that bridge when we get to it.

  • the prof (unverified)

    Here's Charlie Cook's most recent column.

    ==== National Journal Group brings you another edition of Charlie Cook's column, "Off to the Races."

    OFF TO THE RACES One Week Out, And One Heap Of Unanswered Questions

    By Charlie Cook Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2004

    I have no idea who is going to win this election. I really don't.

    National polls from reputable polling organizations range from President Bush ahead by seven points (Fox News/Opinion Dynamics) to Sen. John Kerry ahead by three points (Associated Press/Ipsos). The seven-day moving average shows Bush with a lead of 3.1 percentage points -- 48.9 percent to Kerry's 45.8 percent. If you assume that independent candidate Ralph Nader and other minor candidates get about two percent of the vote, Bush needs to be around 49 percent to win. But if you assume that the president, as usually is the case with well-known, well-defined incumbents, get very few undecided votes, then one can conclude he is teetering right on the edge of the knife blade, and could fall one way and win, just barely, or the other way and lose, just barely. If you choose to put more weight on job approval ratings as a predictor of a president's vote, that's better for Bush: The RCP average is 50 percent approve, 46.6 percent disapprove.

    But that assumes that these national polls are right, and that the Electoral College is going to follow the popular vote. We know from 2000, as Emory University's Alan Abramowitz points out, that of the 43 national polls released during the last week before the election, 39 had Bush ahead, two were tied and only two had Vice President Al Gore in the lead, with the average of all 43 polls showing Bush leading by 3.5 percentage points. Gore carried the popular vote by a half of one percentage point, so the national polls were off by four points.

    Now some of this, no doubt, was due to a depression of Republican turnout after the story broke of Bush's arrest for driving under the influence of alcohol a quarter-century earlier. And Democrats were widely thought of as having enjoyed a strong get-out-the-vote organizational advantage that year, which wouldn't necessarily show up in the polls. But the polls were still off -- this stuff isn't that exact of a science.

    In terms of the Electoral College, I'm carrying nine states with 109 electoral votes in the toss up category: Florida (27), Iowa (7), Minnesota (10), Nevada (5), New Hampshire (4), New Mexico (5), Ohio (20), Pennsylvania (21) and Wisconsin (10). While all nine of these states are very close, one might put a feather on Bush's side of the scale in Iowa and Wisconsin, and while Kerry may have the same sliver of an edge in Pennsylvania. But Florida, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico and Ohio look absolutely even.

    Michigan has gotten much closer, but Kerry seems ahead, as he is in Maine and Oregon. Maine, however, splits its electoral votes, and President Bush has a chance of picking off the 2nd congressional district. Colorado, which does not look likely to pass the constitutional amendment to create proportional allocation of its electoral vote, is leaning toward Bush, along with North Carolina, which has gotten closer, and West Virginia. All in all, Bush leads in 26 states with 222 electoral votes, 48 shy of what's needed to win. Kerry is ahead in 16 states with 207 votes, 63 short of the 270 needed to prevail.

    Having gone through all of that, I still think it is a fool's errand to try to out-smart the Electoral College. If the margin on Election Day is more than one percentage point, then the electoral vote will follow the popular vote. But if the margin is less than a point, then it means that there are a bunch of states, roughly a half-dozen, that will be basically tied, and no poll, particularly given the lousy quality of most state-level, news media-sponsored polls, can tell you who will win those.

    Five states were decided in 2000 by a half-percentage point or less. No poll can tell you who will win those. No poll could tell you who was going to win Florida, which Bush won by 537 votes, or New Mexico, which Gore carried by 366 votes. Anybody lucky enough to pick the precise outcome of the last half-dozen or so states in this election shouldn't be wasting their time on politics -- they should be playing the Powerball lottery.

    But as a political handicapper, it is the uncertainties that haunt me in this race. There are massive, unprecedented numbers of new people registering to vote -- we don't really know who these people are, if they will vote and if so, for whom. We see extraordinary levels of interest being shown on the part of the sporadic, infrequent voters -- the folks that haven't shown up for a presidential election since 1992, for example -- so who are they and how will they vote? There are truly uniquely high levels of interest among young voters, a term that is normally an oxymoron, with 74 percent of college students nationwide telling pollsters for Harvard's Institute of Politics that they have discussed the election in the preceding 24 hours. The biggest controversy on campus when I was in school was when the pub was raising the price of beer from 25 cents to 35 cents per glass.

    Finally, there is the issue of cell phones, with estimates ranging from as low as five or six percent to as high as eight or nine percent of all individual telephone subscribers having only cell phones and no land lines. It is against the law for a pollster to call a cell phone. While that means a large number of young people aren't being included in these poll samples, it is also true that pre-paid cell phones are rapidly becoming the primary way in which low-income people get telephone service, as many cannot qualify for the credit check required to get a land line.

    Between the inadequacies of even the best survey research in really close races and these other factors, people can hope who will win this presidential race, but nobody really knows the outcome.

    The Senate In the fight for the Senate, the odds still favor Republicans retaining their majority, but Democrats have expanded the playing field by a seat, which may improve their chances. Democrats are certain to lose their open seat in Georgia, while their four other open seats and the race in South Dakota are all too close to call.

    Every time it seems that Republican Rep. Jim DeMint appears on the verge of putting away the open seat in South Carolina, he sticks his foot, ankle and much of his leg down his throat, tightening the margin and forcing the National Republican Senatorial Committee to go back on the air to help drag him across the finish line. Given the state's strong Republican tilt, DeMint has the slimmest of advantages over Democrat Inez Tenenbaum, but this race should have been over weeks ago.

    In North Carolina, GOP Rep. Richard Burr appears to be ever-so-slightly ahead of investment banker and former Clinton White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles, thanks to the small Republican advantage in the state. Still, there is little question that Bowles has been the better candidate and run the better campaign. Republican worries over Burr's micromanagement of his campaign have made for a more difficult race than it should have been, but the recently passed tobacco buy-out legislation has given him a boost. Although this race isn't over, put a thumb on the scale for Burr.

    There is no question that Republican Rep. David Vitter of Louisiana is exceeding all expectations, particularly mine, and is lapping both of his principal Democratic rivals, Rep. Chris John and state Treasurer John Kennedy, in the state's unique open primary. By most conservative estimates, Vitter is averaging in the mid-40s, while John and Kennedy are each around 20 percent. Democrats went to DEFCON 1 a couple of weeks ago when polls warned that Vitter was in range of reaching the required 50 percent necessary on Nov. 2 to avoid a Dec. 4 runoff. National Democrats ramped up their attacks on Vitter weeks earlier than they had expected.

    Kennedy has been a better candidate than most expected (myself included), while Chris John has been something of an under-performer. Having said that, it is interesting to note that the very same polls showing Vitter with more initial support than Chris John and John Kennedy combined also indicate that Vitter picks up very little additional support in runoff match-ups. Both Democrats pick up a clear majority of the other's support in a runoff contest. In short, it is not accidental that no Republican has ever been elected to the Senate in Louisiana, that 11 of the 12 statewide officials are Democrats and that Republicans have won the governorship only under unusual circumstances.

    Still, it would be a mistake to underestimate Vitter in this race, given his already impressive performance. A runoff will be very close.

    The Florida contest between Democrat Betty Castor, a former state education commissioner and former president of the University of South Florida, and Republican Mel Martinez, President Bush's former Housing secretary, is basically tied. Many believe the outcome will be as close as the presidential contest and will be dictated by which side gets their voters to the polls.

    Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota, meanwhile, is in the fight of his political life against 2002 GOP Senate nominee and former Rep. John Thune. Recent polls are split on who is ahead, but this is another race that will be won on the ground.

    In terms of Democratic shots at picking up Republican seats, appointed incumbent Lisa Murkowski in Alaska looks to be in pretty tough shape. It's not over and it is certainly better to be a Republican than a Democrat in that state, but very few polls have ever shown her ahead of Democratic former Gov. Tony Knowles. While it remains a very close race, it looks tough for her.

    The race in Colorado between Democratic state Attorney General Ken Salazar and Republican Pete Coors is close, but it appears that Salazar has a tiny edge going into the final week. Like North Carolina, the normal advantage afforded Republican candidates seems diminished this year, and Coors is just now getting the hang of being a candidate. It's not over, but put a thumb on the scale for Democrats.

    Expectations that Republican former Rep. Tom Coburn would self-destruct in the open-seat contest in Oklahoma have not come to pass. While Coburn has made some unusual and unconstructive statements, the NRSC helped him retool his campaign and the candidate has largely behaved himself, giving him a slim advantage over Democratic Rep. Brad Carson. This race isn't over, but the political demographics tilt slightly in Republicans' favor.

    Finally, there is Kentucky, the newest addition to the list of toss up races. Democratic physician and state Sen. Daniel Mongiardo has pulled within single digits of Republican incumbent Jim Bunning. Democrats' enemy is time and whether the race tightened too late to get Mongiardo over the top. Give the edge to Bunning, but this race is definitely not a done deal.

    For Democrats to capture a majority in the Senate, they have to win six out of these last nine really close contests and win the presidential race (with the vice president breaking the tie), or seven out of nine if President Bush is re-elected. This is a tall order, but the addition of Kentucky to the list improves their odds a bit.

    The House Thanks to a combination of Texas redistricting, a small number of open seats to defend, and just a handful of truly vulnerable incumbents, House Republicans are poised to hold their majority for the fifth election in a row. The only question now is just what the margin will look like on Nov. 3.

    Still, House Democrats do have some significant opportunities. First, outside of Texas, where Democrats could lose as many as six seats (though insiders see Democratic Rep. Chet Edwards holding on to his 17th District, giving Republicans a total of five seats), Democratic incumbents look relatively comfortable. The one exception is Rep. Baron Hill in southern Indiana, whom insiders on both sides are eyeing as a potential upset. Republicans are hitting Hill on his votes on social issues like abortion and gay marriage, arguing that he is "out of the mainstream" and "too liberal for Indiana," a message that may resonate in this culturally conservative district. Still, Hill has survived tough campaigns before and has put down some roots in this district.

    Democrats also have fewer open seat races in jeopardy than do Republicans. Today, Democrats have three open seats in danger: Kentucky-04 (Ken Lucas), Lousiana-07 (Chris John) and Missouri-05 (Karen McCarthy), which is a new addition. By the numbers, Missouri-05 should not even be in play -- after all, McCarthy never took less than 57 percent of the vote, and Gore got 60 percent vote here in 2000. But GOP nominee Jeanne Patterson has already poured close to $3 million of her own money into the race, pummeling former Kansas City Mayor Emanuel Cleaver on ethical issues. A recent Kansas City Star poll put Cleaver at 46 percent and Patterson at 41 percent.

    Republicans, on the other hand, have four open seats in the toss-up category: Colorado-03 (Scott McInnis), Louisiana-03 (Billy Tauzin), New York-27 (Jack Quinn) and Washington-08 (Jennifer Dunn). But also on the watch list are Pennsylvania-08 (Jim Greenwood) and Virginia-02 (Ed Schrock).

    Republican incumbents in the most trouble: Rob Simmons and Chris Shays in Connecticut, where the partisan, polarized political environment may take its toll on these "red" incumbents sitting in a "blue" state. New Mexico Rep. Heather Wilson also has a very tight rematch race on her hands in the Albuquerque-based 1st district. The intense focus on New Mexico as a battleground state in the presidential election could have a significant impact on the race. Georgia Republican Max Burns, the freshman with the biggest target on his head after his improbable win in this heavily Democratic seat in 2002, is also considered vulnerable. Still, in recent days, insiders on both sides seem to be moving away from earlier assumptions that this race was in the bag for Democrat John Barrow. Also in trouble is Phil Crane in Illinois' 8th district, who has been pushed back on his heels not just by his Democratic opponent Melissa Bean, but also by an Illinois press corps that has kept a laser-lik e focus on what would normally be a backburner congressional contest.

    Where the two parties disagree is in Minnesota-06, where GOP Rep. Mark Kennedy is either tied with Democrat Patty Wetterling or has a double-digit lead, and North Carolina-11, where GOP Rep. Charlie Taylor is either in a statistical dead heat with Democratic Buncombe County Commissioner Patsy Keever or enjoys a comfortable lead.

    With so much uncertainty about what turn-out will look like on Nov. 2, districts and incumbents that look comfortable on paper today may find themselves in much tighter predicaments. Still, the two party committees seem focused on ensuring that none of their incumbents fall through the cracks. Today, it looks like the range for House control falls somewhere between Democrats picking up three to five seats to Republicans picking up one or two seats.

  • Jonathan (unverified)

    What about Colorado? Isn't it a state that splits the electoral votes, and doesn't that increase the change of a variety of "tied vote" scenarios?

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    Jonathan -- Colorado's a maybe. They've got that on the ballot, but it's not passing right now. Check out the nightmare scenarios by Joe Lenski

  • Tenskwatawa (unverified)
    <h1></h1> <h2>The biggest worrywart -- Mark Halperin, writing The Note political column at -- found four other 'nightmare scenarios' besides wheeling West Virginia around, to plop into conversation, here.</h2> <h2>What is the rank order of these variables in terms of the likelihood they will affect who wins the White House: Maine's Second Congressional District; West Virginia's potentially faithless elector; Arkansas' electoral votes; Hawaii's electoral votes; and Colorado's ballot measure that would retroactively change the state's electoral college vote distribution system?</h2>

    Myself, I don't think it is going to be close enough that any of these matter. The poll numbers are being jimmied, which is quite a trick. Rove has really outdone himself this time. Even with the polling place cheating and crimes, I think it is going to be too lopsided for Kerry that they can't even steal votes for Dumbo. The big zero.

    cc, I liked your Pledge of Allegiance snippet as far as you took it, but I think you left out the most important part. Think of it like a contract. You pay allegiance. It delivers 'liberty and justice for all.' Whether 'it' is a republic, democracy, commune, cell, whatever -- that's not part of the deal. The deal is allegiance to one nation with liberty and justice for all. If 'it' vacates its responsibility and fails to maintain liberty and justice, you are not bound to yours.

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    I liked your Pledge of Allegiance snippet as far as you took it, but I think you left out the most important part. Think of it like a contract. You pay allegiance. It delivers 'liberty and justice for all.' Whether 'it' is a republic, democracy, commune, cell, whatever -- that's not part of the deal. The deal is allegiance to one nation with liberty and justice for all. If 'it' vacates its responsibility and fails to maintain liberty and justice, you are not bound to yours.

    Right, but my point was basically that every day in grade school we stood up and said The Pledge which clearly states that this is a republic in which we live - yet we're actively taught that we live in a democracy. Which we dont. I'm not saying a pure democracy (as LC is talking about in the other EC thread) is a good idea - after all, we're too big for a true democracy. A republic works just fine. However (and I'm not sure how to say this without incinuating that the majority of the voting public aren't as educated as they should be), those who are not as well-versed as those of us who pay attention to politics and government don't realize this. I hate to say it, but it's true. I just think it'd be bad if they found out the hard way. I realize that I'm as bad as our "founding fathers" by thinking this way, but after the 2000 election - if it happens again? No matter which direction (Bush winning the PV but not the EV) - it's going to have a horrible effect on the democratic aspects of this republic. People used the EC as an excuse not to vote for years - 2000 made them wake up. 2004 could make 'em give up completely.

  • raging red (unverified)

    Hey Kari - this post was mentioned in today's Charleston Daily Mail! (It's the conservative counterpart to the more liberal Charleston Gazette.)

    Here's the link:

    The choice quote: "That publication [BlueOregon] hopes Robb will upset the apple cart and swing his vote to John Kerry."

    (They accidentally called it "Oregon Blue" at the end, but they got it right the first time.)

    Once again, my worlds collide.

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