Dem 48
image description
Ties 3
GOP 49
image description

The Senate: Candidate Quality Matters after All

We have said many times that often it seems that all that matters is that little (D) or (R) after the candidates' names. Maybe there are some limits, though. In some cases, if the candidate is simply horrid, enough people will say: "Whoa!" Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) alluded to this earlier in the fall when he suggested the Republicans had a "candidate quality problem" in some races. He was obliquely referring to Mehmet Oz (PA), Blake Masters (AZ), and Herschel Walker (GA) in the Senate and others in other races. All of those were eminently winnable races. In the end, Oz clearly lost, Walker finished second and now has to try again in a runoff, and Masters is facing an uphill battle, at best. He's down 5 points with 70% reporting. Here is a table showing the status of the vote counting in the five biggest counties in Arizona. As you can see, there are many votes yet to be counted in the two biggest counties, Maricopa (Phoenix) and Pima (Tucson), both of which are heavily Democratic.

County Margin Votes % Counted
Maricopa Kelly +8 1,129,073 73%
Pima Kelly +24 273,959 63%
Pinal Masters +11 115,558 82%
Yavapai Masters +22 101,711 85%
Mohave Masters +45 71,204 85%

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) won a third term, despite having promised to retire after two terms. Voters don't expect politicians to keep their promises and don't punish them breaking them. In Wisconsin, it was the Democrats who had a candidate problem. They put up Lt. Gov Mandela Barnes (D-WI). Barnes is not a deeply flawed candidate like Herschel Walker. He is just too far left for a swing state like Wisconsin, even running against a super Trumper who was deeply involved in trying to steal the 2020 election for Trump. The race wasn't called until Wednesday afternoon, but when Barnes fell 25,000 votes behind Johnson, it was all over. It is not like Democrats can't win in Wisconsin. Gov. Tony Evers (D-WI) was reelected by 90,000 votes, but he is more moderate than Barnes. The message for Democrats is that it is not sufficient to pick candidates who are intelligent, likeable, and experienced. They also have to be good matches for their state. Barnes was not, even if he would have been dynamite in New England or California.

What is going to happen to the Senate now? As noted Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ) looks like he will probably beat Bad Candidate™ Blake Masters. If he does, the score will be 49-49. It will all come down to Nevada and the Georgia runoff. If Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) holds serve, the Democrats are in and the Georgia runoff won't matter so much, but not having to cater to every one of the whims of Sen. Joe Manchin (D?-WV) would be a plus for the Democrats. As to the future career of the senior senator from Arizona, let us simply state that ambitious politician Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) was reelected on Tuesday from a district in Phoenix with 76% of the vote. He is clearly very popular in the heart of Arizona's biggest population center and he knows that. To be continued.

Counting the votes in Nevada could take a day or two, and there could be recounts as well. Right now, Cortez Masto is down about 2 points with 79% reporting, though all of the remaining ballots are mail-in. If Adam Laxalt (R) wins, everything will come down to the billion-dollar runoff in Georgia on Dec. 6. Should that come to pass, people in Georgia would be advised to turn off their televisions until Dec. 7 because 100% of programming will be preempted for really, really, nasty horrible, awful negative ads.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) won reelection easily against a strong Democrat, Rep. Val Demings (D-FL). Rubio is a poor campaigner and poor fundraiser. But Florida is now officially a red state and Democrats will struggle to win statewide races until the inflow of New Yorkers into Broward County exceeds the inflow of Midwesterners into the Villages.

One race that is interesting, although the outcome is not really in doubt, is the Alaska Senate race, which is a top-four ranked-choice voting affair. Donald Trump's choice here, Kelly Tshibaka, is leading with 44% of the vote over Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who has 43% of the vote. If that continues until all the votes are counted, then fourth place finisher, Buzz Kelley (R), will be eliminated and his 2.9% of the vote will be redistributed. That won't do the job, so there will be round 3. Then, Democrat Patricia Chesbro's 9.5% of the vote will be redistributed. We are going to go out on a limb here, but we predict that 100% of it will go to Murkowski and that will get her over the hump and she will be reelected.

Late yesterday, the AP called Georgia: Runoff wins. Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) got 49.42% and Herschel Walker got 48.52%. Libertarian Chase Oliver got 2.07%. So Warnock is ahead, but not quite by enough. He needs another 0.58% to make it over the top. If he can get 0.58/2.07 = 28% of Oliver's vote, he will make it. If Laxalt wins Nevada and the Senate hinges on the runoff, this will be the nastiest election since, very possibly, the presidential election of 1860, which led to the Civil War. If Masto wins in Nevada, and Kelly holds on, then this becomes the icing on the cake, not the cake itself. (V)

This item appeared on Read it Monday through Friday for political and election news, Saturday for answers to reader's questions, and Sunday for letters from readers.                     State polls                     All Senate candidates