Last week, major newspapers commented that President Bush kept a date to attend a fund-raiser in Green Bay, Wisconsin, for a Republican candidate, John Guard, on the day that the new terror plot in Britain was announced.
That news item puzzled me because of the post I did several weeks ago about Congressional races, in which I had specifically mentioned that Wisconsin, a very evenly divided state overall, had eight Congressmen, four Republicans and four Democrats, all of whom had been re-elected in 2004 by large to huge margins. It turns out Guard, who has been a Republican leader in the Wisconsin state legislature, is running in the 8th District, whose current Republican incumbent won in 2004 by 248,000 votes to 106,000--a safe enough margin, one would think. A comment in a Washington Post politics blog, however, claims Guard might be vulnerable because of ties to a key figure in a Wisconsin scandal in which public money funded legislative campaigns. Accustomed as I have been all my life to take numbers seriously (the legacy of an early interest in baseball), I cannot believe that seat is in real danger. But why, then, did President Bush visit the district? Is it because the money he raised in this Republican hotbed will be put to better use elsewhere? I would be very interested in any reader's comments on this.
The Washington Post item intrigued me so I did some analysis of my own. It listed the 20 purportedly closest races in the country at this time, and sure enough, the vast majority had been decided by margins of 55% or so last time. Still, there were twelve Republicans who had won with 55% or less and I found it hard to believe that any Democrat on the list was in real danger. Twelve pickups, however--a very optimistic assessment--would not be enough to retake the House. They need sixteen, assuming they win Vermont, where the independent (who voted with them) is stepping down. I hope that I am wrong, but it looks as if gerrymandering will barely keep the Republicans in control of the Senate.
A longer post appears below.