Ticket Splitters: McCain's Best Last Hope

Washington Matters

Ticket Splitters: McCain's Best Last Hope

John McCain's last best argument in the final week of this race may be an overt appeal to independents and ticket splitters that he alone is the one brake needed to prevent a runaway Democratic government. That may mean throwing some Republican congressional candidates overboard, but with Democrats certain to control Congress anyway, the argument would appeal to at least some voters.

To make it work, McCain would have to essentially announce publicly and often that Democrats will make large gains in the House and Senate. His Republican colleagues in the House and Senate may not appreciate hearing that. But at this point, so be it. Just saying so could serve McCain well.

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Ticket splitters who don't want either party having full control matter this year because many battleground states in the presidential race also have high profile Senate races where Democrats have an edge or a even a wide lead with a week to go.  

If ticket splitters go for the likely Democratic winners in Senate races and do so knowing a larger Democratic congressional majority is in the making, which it clearly is, McCain stands to win their nod at the top of the ballot.


The number of voters who consistently and intentionally split tickets in favor of divided government varies state to state. Some count themselves as Republicans, some Democrats, some independents. Election experts say ticket splitters who routinely vote for divided governmment amount to about 15%. That's not insignificant.

It's important considering battleground states where Democrats look to score wins in the Senate.

-- New Hampshire: Democrat Jeanne Shaheen has long enjoyed a lead over incumbent Sen. John Sununu, R.

-- New Mexico: Democrat Tom Udall looks good to defeat GOP Rep. Steve Pearce.


-- Colorado: Democrat Mark Udall (cousin of Tom above) is expected to defeat Republican Bob Schaffer.

-- Virginia: Democrat Mark Warner will overwhelm Republican Jim Gilmore.

-- Michigan: Incumbent Democrat Carl Levin will win easily.

-- Iowa: Incumbent Democrat Tom Harkin will win easily.

-- Montana: Incumbent Democrat Max Baucus will cruise to reelection.

-- North Carolina: Democrat Kay Hagan is leading Republican Elizabeth Dole

-- Minnesota: Democrat Al Franken is closing strong on incumbent Republican Norm Coleman.