CBN News Politcal Editor John Waage offers his predictions for the 2012 races for the White House and Congress. Read below.
SENATE RACES 2012
Republicans hope to gain control of the U.S. Senate as well as the White House on Nov. 6. Currently, Democrats remain in charge of the Senate by a margin of 51 to 47 over the GOP, including two Independents who caucus with the Democrats.
The GOP needs to gain four seats to oust Nevada Sen. Harry Reid as majority leader. The vice president casts the deciding vote in Senate proceedings, so if the two parties are deadlocked, whoever wins the White House would have the tie-breaking vote when the next Senate convenes in January 2013.
I'm predicting the Republicans will take away seven Senate seats from the Democrats. Democrats will take away two seats from the Republicans, leaving the GOP with a net gain of five.
The two Independent senators will continue to caucus with the Democrats, meaning that the next Senate would be 52-47, making Sen. Mitch McConnell the new Senate Majority Leader.
Here are some of the key Senate races (incumbents are listed with an asterisk*):
Arizona (R) - Open race.
Richard Carmona (D) vs. Jeff Flake (R)
Republican veteran Sen. John Kyl is retiring and Rep. Jeff Flake won the Republican primary to succeed Kyl. He faces former U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona, an Independent-turned-Democrat who served in the Bush Administration.
Carmona used positive comments about him from Sens. John McCain and Kyl, recorded on video several years ago, to suggest the two support him. They vigorously deny it. Carmona will try to capitalize on the growing Latino vote in a close race.
A Rasmussen survey from two weeks ago showed Flake up six points. Other polls show Carmona with a slight lead.
Connecticut (I) - Open Race.
- Prediction: Flake wins, GOP holds seat.
Chris Murphy (D) vs. Linda McMahon (R)
Independent Sen. Joseph Lieberman, who caucused with the Democrats, is calling it quits, and either the Democrats or the Republicans will claim his seat.
Democratic Rep. Chris Murphy squares off with former pro-wrestling magnate Linda McMahon, who is waging her second Senate campaign in three years. She lost the 2010 race by 12 points but is keeping it close against Murphy.
McMahon's deep pockets help her with ad buys. This is one race that could be affected by Hurricane Sandy, which did extensive damage in on the state's southern shore.
- Prediction: Murphy wins, Democrats hold seat.
Bill Nelson (D)* vs. Connie Mack (R)
Former astronaut and veteran Sen. Bill Nelson is running for a third term against Rep. Connie Mack, a Republican with statewide name recognition. His father was a U.S. Senator from Florida, and his great-grandfather was nationally famous pro baseball manager.
Nelson runs as a bipartisan in the Panhandle, claiming he worked with Republicans to help oil spill victims. But he's also tied himself to Obama, and stays mostly south of Orlando to gin up the Democratic base.
A new MSNBC/Wall Street Journal poll shows Nelson up by 9 points, but Rasmussen has him up only 3 points. GOP officials say a Romney win by 4 points in Florida could put Mack in the Senate.
Indiana (R) - Open race.
- Prediction: Nelson wins, Democrats hold seat.
Joe Donnelly (D) vs. Richard Mourdock (R)
Mourdock held a slight lead in most of the polls until the Oct. 23 debate in which Mourdock said during a question about abortion that the result of rape is "something that God intended to happen." He was speaking up for life, but was pilloried for the unfortunate wording.
Two polls now show 2nd District Rep. Joe Donnelly in the lead. Mourdock ousted Sen. Richard Lugar in the GOP primary and does not have the full support of Lugar backers. His hope on Election Day will be pro-life evangelical voters coming out strong for Romney. He'll have to overcome a showing from the Libertarian candidate as well.
Maine (R) - Open race.
- Prediction: Mourdock wins, GOP holds seat.
Cynthia Dill (D) vs. Charlie Summers (R) vs. Angus King (I)
Democrats hope to take a seat away from Republicans in Maine, where Senator Olympia Snowe is retiring. Former Governor Angus King is running as an Independent, but would probably vote with the Democrats. He's up against Democrat Cynthia Dill, a state senator, and Maine Secretary of State Charlie Summers an Iraq War veteran. A Democratic PPP Poll shows King ahead of Summers 52 to 36 percent, with Dill at only 12 percent.
- Prediction: King wins, Independent/Democrat takeover.
Elizabeth Warren (D) vs. Scott Brown (R)*
Republican incumbent Scott Brown shocked the political world in 2010 when he won the election to fill the term of the late Democratic icon Ted Kennedy in one of the bluest states. The opponent in his re-election bid is Harvard Law School Professor Elizabeth Warren, unmistakably from the party's left wing.
Brown retains high approval ratings (52 percent) among Massachusetts voters, and leads by a wide margin among Independents. But in a state with a 3 to 1 Democrat registration edge, he will have a hard time winning a full term. The latest poll (PPP) shows Warren up 6 points.
- Prediction: Warren wins, Democrats takeover
Debbie Stabenow (D)* vs. Peter Hoekstra (R)
Stabenow is seeking her third term in the Senate and will take on Peter Hoekstra, a former congressman from Michigan's 2nd District. He is the former chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
With some presidential polls pushing Michigan into the tossup column, Hoekstra might have challenged Stabenow. But three new polls all give the Democratic incumbent a double digit lead.
- Prediction: Stabenow wins, Democrats hold seat.
Claire McCaskill (D)* vs. Todd Akin (R)
McCaskill has low approval ratings and was considered one of the most vulnerable Democratic incumbents. But her opponent, Rep. Todd Akin, made a controversial statement on women and rape during a debate and lost the support of many key Republicans. Akin refused to step down and remains higher in the polls than many expected despite an uphill battle.
Missouri voters strongly oppose Obamacare, with 70 percent voting to exempt the state from its mandates in a recent referendum. McCaskill's support for the health care plan could bring her down, despite Akin's widely criticized six second comment on rape. He's close enough to squeak by if enough pro-life conservatives feel he's being railroaded by the establishment in both parties.
- Prediction: Akin wins, GOP pick up seat.
Jon Tester (D)* vs. Denny Rehberg (R)
Tester is a one-term senator and has a formidable opponent in Montana Rep. Denny Rehberg, who has won statewide office because his House district covers all of Big Sky Country.
A Rasmussen poll gave Tester a statistically meaningless 49-48 edge over Rehberg, but Montana is still a red state at the presidential level and Romney's expected victory there could push Rehberg past the finish line. Still, Tester is the incumbent.
Nebraska (D) - Open race.
- Prediction: Tester wins, Democrats hold seat.
Bob Kerrey (D) vs. Deb Fischer (R)
Democrat Ben Nelson is retiring after a firestorm erupted over his vote to support Obamacare in 2009. Former Senator Bob Kerrey won the Democratic nomination to replace Nelson, but rancher Deb Fischer, who came out of nowhere to win a 3-way primary, has a good chance to give this seat to the GOP. Former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel endorsed Kerrey, but that isn't likely to erase Fischer's double digit lead in the polls.
- Prediction: Fischer wins, GOP pick up seat.
Shelley Berkley (D) vs. Dean Heller (R)*
Heller was appointed to replace Senator John Ensign, who retired during his term. Republicans hope it will give him the incumbent's advantage over Berkley, a member of the House who has represented the Las Vegas area for many years. Berkley could benefit from Harry Reid's union machine, which helped him pull out a re-election win two years ago. But a high turnout among Nevadans outside Las Vegas would be good news for Heller, who was ahead by 6 points in a Las Vegas Review Journal poll published Oct. 31.
New Mexico (D) - Open race.
- Prediction: Heller wins, GOP hold seat.
Martin Heinrich (D) vs. Heather Wilson (R)
With Democratic Senator Jeff Bingaman retiring, Republicans had their sights set on a takeaway with Wilson, former Congresswoman and military veteran. But she has rough going in a heavily Democratic state. Heinrich now represents the district Wilson used to represent, the New Mexico 1st.
North Dakoa (D) - Open seat.
- Prediction: Heinrich wins, Democrats hold seat.
Heidi Heitkamp (D) vs. Rick Berg (R)
North Dakota is becoming more Republican by the day, and the retirement of Democrat Kent Conrad presents a golden opportunity for a GOP pickup. Still, Heidi Heitkamp is a formidable and attractive candidate, who won statewide office as Attorney-General. Berg is North Dakota's only U.S. Congressman.
- Prediction: Berg wins, GOP pick up seat.
Sherrod Brown (D)* vs. Josh Mandel (R)
The Buckeye State is one of the key targets in the U.S. Senate, as well as in the presidential race. Incumbent Democrat Sherrod Brown is trying to lock down a second term. His challenger is 35 year-old State Treasurer Josh Mandel, a Marine Corps veteran and intelligence specialist. He's one of the youngest candidates to win a statewide race in Ohio.
Polls by the Columbus Dispatch and NBC/Wall Street Journal give Brown a five to six point margin. Rasmussen shows the race tied at 48. Like the presidential race, turnout will be the decider in a strongly fought battle.
- Prediction: Mandel wins, GOP pick up seat.
Robert Casey Jr. (D)* vs. Tom Smith (R)
The son of one of the nation's last pro-life Democratic governors, Casey was considered a shoo-in for re-election several months ago. But in a blue state where the latest poll shows the presidential race tied, where Republicans have captured the governorship and the other U.S. Senate seat in the past 24 months, Smith, a businessman, has closed to within striking distance.
The last-minute push by the Romney campaign may give Smith the edge in a state where the president's treatment of the coal industry matters.
Texas (R) - Open race.
- Prediction: Smith wins, GOP pick up seat.
Paul Sadler (D) vs. Ted Cruz (R)
Kay Bailey Hutchsion's retirement created an open seat in the Lone Star State, and Republican Ted Cruz's come-from-behind victory makes him the favorite for the general election in heavily Republican Texas.
The Harvard and Princeton-educated conservative is a Tea Party favorite and could become a heavy hitter in the Senate. His opponent is former Texas legislator and attorney Paul Sadler.
Virginia (D) - Open race.
- Prediction: Cruz wins, GOP hold seat.
Tim Kaine (D) vs. George Allen (R)
One of the nation's marquee races, the Virginia contest features two former governors vying to replace retiring Democrat Jim Webb. George Allen lost his Senate seat to Webb by a tiny margin in 2006. He hopes to win it back against Kaine, who served as chairman of the Democratic National Committee part of the time he was governor.
Pick your poll: one has Allen ahead by 5, another has Kaine by 7. The Real Clear Politics average of polls gives Kaine a lead of 0.8 percent. In the end, the ground machine headed by Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell could be the difference.
Wisconsin (D) - Open race.
- Prediction: Allen wins, GOP pick up seat.
Tammy Baldwin (D) vs. Tommy Thompson (R)
Democrat Herb Kohl is leaving the Senate, leading to a contest between Republican Tommy Thompson, who was elected to an unprecedented four terms as governor and then served as Health and Human Services Secretary, and Democrat Tammy Baldwin, who represents liberal Madison in the U.S. Congress.
The race is a test to see if the Badger State's recent turn toward the GOP will continue. Two late polls are mixed, Rasmussen showing Thompson leading by one, 48-47, Marquette Univ. Law gives Baldwin a 47- 43 edge.
Wisconsin has a Republican governor who more than survived a recall effort, a favorite son on the GOP presidential ticket, and a new U.S. Senator (Ron Johnson) elected in 2010. The chairman of the Republican National Committee is also from the Badger State, creating an alignment that should assist Thompson.
- Prediction: Thompson wins, GOP pick up seat.
U.S. HOUSE 2012
The curent House make up is: Republicans 242, Democrats 193
Two years into President Obama's term, House Democrats suffered their worst defeat in 62 years in 2010, a "shellacking" instigated by the Tea Party, which netted Republicans a gain of 63 seats and made Ohio Rep. John Boehner Speaker of the House.
Democrats mobilized to try to retake the House in 2012, with what they called a "drive for 25"-- a pickup of 25 seats that would again install House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi as Speaker. They will not succeed.
In fact, Pete Sessions, R-Texas, Chairman of the House Republican Congressional Committee, predicts the GOP will gain seats on Nov. 6. That would be an impressive achievement, considering that 63 Republican freshmen would be more vulnerable to defeat than their longer-tenured colleagues.
- Prediction: House makeup in the next Congress holds: Republicans 242, Democrats 193 (no change).
U.S. PRESIDENTIAL RACE
Everyone has seen the polls, which show the race to be agonizingly tight. If the national and battleground state polls are over-sampling Democrats, which some conservatives claim, they are probably under-stating Romney's strength.
If this is true, Romney could win significantly more than 300 electoral votes.
- Prediction: At this point, Romney wins Virginia, Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Nevada, New Hampshire, Colorado, and Wisconsin. President Obama wins Iowa, Minnesota, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, giving Romney a 295 to 243 victory.