Top political pundits tell Newsmax that just a handful of races on Tuesday evening will show whether Democrats face the debacle of "biblical proportions" that some grass-roots conservative leaders anticipate.
Newsmax asked the nation's top political experts to select three bellwether races each that likely will portend how the midterm elections will break. According to those experts, these are the races you need to follow in order to get an early picture of just how big the GOP wave will be:
John Zogby, president and CEO, Zogby International
Bellwether No. 1. Pennsylvania Senate — Democrat Joe Sestak vs. Republican Pat Toomey.
Specifically, look for how big the turnout is in Philadelphia. "If a big vote comes out of Philly," Zogby tells Newsmax, "that could bring a Sestak victory, [and] then means local officials and the governor were able to generate turnout from the Democratic base. And if that doesn't happen, [it means a] bad night for the Democrats."
Bellwether No. 2. New Jersey Congressional District 3 — Democratic Rep. John Adler vs. GOP challenger Jon Runyan.
"Adler is a one-term incumbent, Runyan is a former football star," Zogby says. "The district cuts right across the state, and it's been a 1- to 2-point race all along. If Adler is knocked off by Runyan, that's another good indicator." Polls indicate the race is a tossup.
Bellwether No. 3. New York Congressional District 24 — Democratic Rep. Mike Arcuri vs. GOP challenger Richard Hanna.
"Mike Arcuri is a two-term incumbent Democrat running against a libertarian, independent Republican," says the pollster. "If the Republican loses, it's not going to mean so much that Arcuri won it. But it would indicate that the tea party maybe is not very potent, at least in upstate New York." The latest Siena College poll shows Arcuri leading 48 to 43 percent, with 10 percent still undecided.
Doug Schoen, Democratic pollster and Fox News contributor
Bellwether No. 1. West Virginia Senate — Republican John Raese vs. Gov. Joe Manchin.
Bellwether No. 2. Colorado Senate — Republican Ken Buck vs. Democrat Michael Bennet
Bellwether No. 3. Washington state Senate race — GOP challenger Dino Rossi vs. Democratic incumbent Sen. Patty Murray.
Schoen tells Newsmax: "Out of Washington, West Virginia, and Colorado, if one of the three goes Republican, they'll have a solid night. Two out of three signals a Republicans bloodbath. And three out of three means Armageddon."
A.B. Stoddard, associate editor, The Hill
Bellwether No. 1. West Virginia Senate — Democratic Gov. Joe Manchin vs. Republican John Raese.
Manchin, a very popular governor, leads 50 to 46 percent in the latest Rasmussen Reports poll. "Only a tsunami would elect John Raese, a weak candidate, and knock out someone like Manchin," Stoddard tells Newsmax.
Bellwether No. 2. Indiana 9th CD — Democratic Rep. Baron Hill vs. GOP challenger Todd Young.
Observes Stoddard: "Rep. Baron Hill was elected in 1998, and lost his seat in 2004 to Republican Mike Sodrel. Hill faced him in two more rematches in 2006 and 2008, earning 50 percent, and then 58 percent, of the vote. His constituents know him well, and according to The Hill 2010 Midterm Election Poll, Hill enjoys higher favorability ratings than his opponent. Hill has been through several knife fights and if he can't hang on this year, then the power of incumbency is only alive for Democrats in the bluest, most urban pockets of America."
Bellwether No. 3. Georgia 8th CD — Democratic Rep. Jim Marshall vs. GOP challenger Austin Scott.
"Rep. Jim Marshall is exactly the Democrat the party will hate to lose the most," Stoddard tells Newsmax in an e-mail. "He is a centrist, representing a mostly rural district in a red state, and a Vietnam veteran who was awarded two bronze stars and a Purple Heart. If Democrats can't save him, there will be many more like him defeated throughout the South and Midwest."
Stuart Rothenberg, publisher, The Rothenberg Political Report
Bellwether No. 1. Indiana 2nd CD — Democratic Rep. Joe Donnelly vs. GOP challenger Jackie Walorski.
According to Nathan L. Gonzales, political editor for The Rothenberg Political Report: "In Indiana, the 8th District is likely to go Republican, 9th is in good shape to go Republican, but the 2nd is key for a big wave. That's because Donnelly ran so defiantly against Obama and Pelosi, and goes into Election Night with a lead in the polls."
Bellwether No. 2. Various House races in North Carolina
— Four key seats Democrats hold in North Carolina could preview how the night will go nationally. They are congressional districts 2, 7, 8, and 11. "For different reasons, if any number of them starts to fall, then it's worse news for Democrats," Gonzales tells Newsmax.
Bellwether No. 3. Georgia 2nd CD
— The African-American vote, which overwhelming supported President Barack Obama in 2008, represents more than 40 percent of the voting age population in this district, which includes former President Jimmy Carter's home. The race pits Democratic Rep. Sanford Bishop vs. GOP state representative Mike Keown. Bishop, an African-American, would benefit from a strong African-American turnout. "There are dozens of Democrats in more conservative districts than Bishop's, so if he's losing that's a sign of a larger trend," Gonzales says.
Charlie Cook, columnist and publisher of the Cook Political Report
Bellwether No. 1. Florida District 24 — Incumbent Democratic Rep. Susan Kosmas vs. GOP state representative Sandy Adams.
"By 9 o'clock we're going to have a majority of the vote in, in Florida, Indiana, and Kentucky," Cook tells MSNBC's Morning Joe program. "Those would be the three states and the House races I would watch early on." In Florida's 8th District, watch Alan Grayson vs. Republican Daniel Webster. And in Florida's 2nd District, incumbent Democrat Rep. Allen Boyd, a blue-dog Democrat, faces a tough challenge from Republican Steve Southerland. The district leans Republican.
Bellwether No. 2. Indiana's 2nd CD — Democratic Rep. Joe Donnelly vs. GOP challenger Jackie Walorski.
The race is considered a tossup. Sarah Palin has endorsed Walorski. Another race to keep an eye on in Indiana is Democratic Rep. Baron Hill's race against Republican Todd Young in the 9th CD. Both parties have invested heavily in that race.
Bellwether No. 3. Kentucky's 3rd CD — Rep. John Yarmuth vs. Republican challenger Todd Lally.
The district leans Democratic and polls show Yarmuth with a 4 percent lead. But Lally, a newcomer, has strong tea party support. Another good indication should come from Kentucky's 6th CD, where Democratic Rep. Ben Chandler in Kentucky faces Republican Andy Barr. RealClearPolitics.com has that race in its tossup column.
Susan MacManus, political scientist, University of South Florida
Bellwether No. 1. Florida governor's race — Republican Marco Rubio vs. Democrat Kendrick Meek and Independent Gov. Charlie Crist.
"Even though [Rubio] is supposed to be 20 points ahead, is he really? Because if he's not, that would suggest some of the Democrats have a shot," McManus says.
Bellwether No. 2. Georgia governor's race — Republican Nathan Deal vs. Democrat Roy Barnes.
Deal appears firmly in command of the race, leading by about 8 points according to most polls. If he wins by a significantly greater margin, that could signal a big GOP surge.
Bellwether No. 3. Michigan governor race — Republican Rick Snyder leads Democrat Virg Bernero by about 18 points.
Watch to see whether Snyder's margin is more or less than predicted. "I'm looking at places where it looks like a slam dunk," McManus tells Newsmax. "Is it really as big a slam dunk as they're expecting? Because if not, that suggests that in some of the Western states, where they're very, very close, the Democrats have a good shot."
James E. Campbell, political scientist, University at Buffalo
Bellwether No. 1. Pennsylvania Senate Race — Republican former Rep. Pat Toomey vs. Democrat Rep. Joe Sestak.
Polls show Toomey running 4 to 5 points ahead.
Bellwether No. 2. West Virginia Senate Race — Republican challenger and businessman John Raese vs. Democratic Gov. Joe Manchin.
Polls show Manchin with a solid 4 to 5 point lead. "It could be a big night for Republicans even if they lose West Virginia, given Manchin's popularity and how clearly he's run away from the administration," Campbell tells Newsmax. "But if that goes to Raese, I think we're looking at a huge Republican tide."
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