Perhaps the hardest fought, dirtiest state legislative campaigns in Arkansas will mercifully come to an end on Tuesday. The question is: will Republicans win big or will Republicans win HUGE?
It is a given that Mitt Romney will easily carry the Republican ticket on the Presidential level in Arkansas. The only question there is how far ahead he ends up over the twenty-point margin John McCain had in 2008.
It is also a given that Republicans will win all four Congressional seats for the first time in history. Again, the only mystery here will be the margins.
Congressman Tim Griffin’s race could be the closest as the Second Congressional District has the highest percentage of Democratic voters, but Herb Rule does not have a chance. Congressman Steve Womack does not have a Democratic opponent after Ken Aden dropped out, and Congressman Rick Crawford should end up with a double-digit lead over Scott Ellington whose campaign never really got off the ground. Newcomer and rising Republican star Tom Cotton will take the open seat from retiring Congressman Mike Ross by an even wider margin over his Democratic opponent, Gene Jeffress.
One word of caution – the AP is not doing any exit polls, so I would not expect these races to be called until enough returns come in to project a winner. Without exit polls, the media may be reluctant to do this until they have enough data to know for sure.
Of course, the big question in Arkansas is whether Republicans take control of the state legislature. Really the question is not if, but by how much. If Republicans win only the races they should win but lose all the toss-ups, then they will have at least 54 seats in the House and 20 seats in the Senate. If the Republicans have a big tidal wave night – which is highly likely – then it could be as many as 70 in the House and 25 in the Senate.
I will play it safe and predict it will split the middle with Republicans ending up with 62 seats in the House and 22 seats in the Senate.
As for the Presidential level, I don’t have a clue. It seems both sides feel confident in their chance of winning. Polls are all over the place but show a tight races. Most polls show Romney doing quite well with self-identified independent voters. If that holds, it will be tough but possible for Obama to overcome by turning out his base.
Either way – it could be a long night.