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The Northeast: Democratic Stronghold?

As spin wars continue over polling assessments of the two parties´ prospects nationally and in individual contests, the overall situation remains relatively stable, with a lot of the fireworks in the national news coming from California, where a controversy regarding Meg Whitman´s employment of an illegal immigrant is not exactly helping her gubernatorial campaign.

The most ominous news for Democrats came yesterday, when Gallup’s weekly tracking poll offered a likely voter sample for the first time this year.  It showed Republicans with a 13 percent margin among likely voters, much larger than the three percent margin among registered voters.

At 538.com, Nate Silver offers a useful analysis Likely Voter/Registered Voter numbers from all pollsters, showing the Gallup “gap” to be unusually high.  But it bears close watching, since likely voter estimates tend to become more accurate the closer you get to election day.

Our regional roundups continue today with the Northeast, the most pro-Democratic region in 2008, and a source of considerable residual Democratic strength today.  According to Gallup´s tracking polls, the northeast region gives President Obama his only majority job approval numbers, currently at 51 percent.

There are eight Senate seats currently at stake in the Northeast, seven currently held by Democrats.  Two of them—held by Vermont´s Pat Leahy and New York´s Chuck Schumer—are completely safe.  Among the other five Democratic seats, Democrats have a robust if not invulnerable lead in three (Gillibrand of New York, Blumenthal of Connecticut, and Coons of Delaware); Republicans have held a steady lead in one (Toomey over Sestak in Pennsylvania); and one is dead even (Manchin versus Raese in West Virginia).  Republicans have a strong but not insurmountable lead to hold on to the one (open) Republican seat, in New Hampshire, where Kelly Ayotte leads Paul Hodes.

The best-case scenario for Republicans, which would include Linda McMahon`s dollars making Connecticut truly competitive, is a gain of three seats.  Democrats would be happy with a net loss of one.

In the gubernatorial races, Democrats currently hold six governorships that are up this year (Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania and Maryland) and Republicans three (Vermont, Rhode Island and Connecticut).  According to the Cook Political Report, all but two of these nine gubernatorial races are currently tossups, with Democrats heavily favored to hold onto New York and Pennsylvania being rated “lean Republican.”  Polling shows Republicans leading in Maine as well as Pennsylvania, and Democrats leading in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Maryland; Vermont appears to be very close.  The range of possible outcomes is very broad, but in gubernatorial races, the northeast appears to rival the West as the most promising Democratic region, in no small part because Dems are likely to pick up some Republican seats.

In House races, New York and Pennsylvania seats make the northeast a potential source of major Republican gains.  Two New York and four Pennsylvania Democrats are in races considered toss-ups by Cook; four more New York districts and another in Pennsylvania are rated “lean Democratic,” vulnerable to a last-minute pro-GOP wave.   Both New Hampshire seats, now held by Democrats, are also tossups, along with an open seat in West Virginia and Frank Kratovil`s seat in Maryland.  The region does include a rare probable Democratic House pickup, in Delaware.  In general, the Northeast is the region where the size and scope of Republican House gains will most be determined.

Photo credit: Peter Miller