Three weeks from Election Day, control of the House and Senate is still up for grabs. Despite proclamations of an imminent Republican demise, November 7 will not be a blowout. If Democrats retake the House and Senate, they will do so by the slimmest of margins. There will be no wholesale turnover in the Congress, merely a slide back into closely divided government.
Democrats must win 15 seats to take control of the House and six seats to take control of the Senate. Whether they do so depends largely on five states: Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Arizona and Connecticut. For Democrats to retake the Senate, they will have to sweep Ohio. For them to retake the House, they will have to win big in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Arizona, and come out slightly ahead in Indiana.
Republicans will lose at least four House seats to scandal. Mark Foley's seat in the Florida 16th Congressional District will go Democrat. Foley's name remains on the ballot, meaning that voters would have to pull the lever for a man who writes well-publicized dirty e-mails to congressional pages. The Ohio 18th will go Democrat. Bob Ney, the incumbent, left the seat open after pleading guilty to federal corruption charges in connection with the Jack Abramoff scandal. The Texas 22nd will go Democrat for perhaps the silliest reason in recent political history: The Texas court system prevented Republicans from placing a candidate on the ballot to replace Tom DeLay. Republican candidate Shelley Sekula-Gibbs would have to win via write-in. And the Pennsylvania 10th will go Democrat because Republican incumbent Don Sherwood had a longstanding affair with a woman who later accused him of assault and sued him for millions of dollars.
This year's midterm elections look gloomy for the Pennsylvania GOP. Two-term Senator Rick Santorum will likely end up out on his ear after becoming perhaps the chief target of leftist rage across the nation for his social conservatism. Rep. Curt Weldon (R) may be out, especially in the wake of politically motivated allegations that he steered government contracts to his daughter's firm. Along with Rep. Jim Gerlach (R), that would add two more seats to the Democrat total: 6.
Add two seats from Arizona -- Democrat Gabrielle Giffords will take the open Republican seat, and Republican Rick Renzi is in surprisingly poor shape despite President Bush's border fence bill -- and another two from Indiana -- Brad Ellsworth will defeat incumbent John Hostettler, and Joe Donnelly looks strong against incumbent Chris Chocola -- to bring the total to 10.