You’re still welcome to cast your ballot November 2, if you insist, but be advised that America’s pundit class has already unanimously decided what the outcome of next Tuesday’s election will be …

According to the one-note symphony of conventional wisdom being sung from cable news shout fests, the op-ed pages of mainstream media, and political Web sites that feature the group-think stylings of Beltway wise men, Republicans will easily take control of the House of Representatives and are a good bet to seize the Senate, too, as anxious voters across the nation rise up against the policies of President Obama on health care, the budget, and the economic stimulus bill.

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Amid reams of polling data guaranteed to depress the most sunny of Democrats, not to mention the worst economic conditions since the Great Depression, it’s tough to argue with the political forecasts of a huge national GOP wave. In the end, however, the media narrative about the size of this projected tsunami will be shaped and measured by the results in California — and whether this deep blue state gets splashed with Republican red.

Here is a last-lap look at key statewide races.

U.S. SENATE: Republicans will have to pull an inside straight in a host of states to win control of the Senate, and one of the crucial cards in play is the bitter battle between Democratic incumbent Barbara Boxer and Republican challenger Carly Fiorina. While Boxer has consistently led in nearly every poll, most of them show the contest within the statistical margin of error; this week’s decision by the National Republican Senatorial Committee to pour another $3 million into the state, along with Fiorina’s move to toss another $1 million of her own money into the pot, are clear signals that the race remains very tight, and that the GOP’s attacks over jobs, the stimulus, and Boxer’s reputation for fierce partisanship are working. A Fiorina defeat of the three-term Democrat could provide Republicans the winning margin to take over the Senate.

GOVERNOR: Despite spending a record-shattering $160 million — more than $200,000 a day for each and every day she’s been in the race — Republican Meg Whitman in recent weeks has been in self-destructive mode, as Democrat Jerry Brown has combined attacks on her less-than-truthful TV ads, her shifting statements about immigration, and her personal evasions about employing an undocumented housekeeper to shift the campaign debate to a referendum on character and personal integrity. Whitman has poured many millions into a statewide, state-of-the-art, get-out-the-vote operation, however, and if it carries her to a stunning upset victory next Tuesday, doomsday will be at hand for the Democrats.

CONGRESS: While scores of House seats are in play nationwide, only three of them are in incumbent-friendly California: However, if Republicans prevail in the Bay Area’s 11th Congressional District (CD), where right-wing attorney David Harmer is seriously challenging liberal incumbent Jerry McNerney, or in Orange County’s 47th CD, where longtime Democratic Rep. Loretta Sanchez has struggled against conservative Assemblymember Van Tran, then it will be evidence that the GOP wave has breached the Dems’ Left Coast breakwater. On the other hand, a win by Dr. Ami Bera, a physician and upstart challenger to embattled GOP incumbent Dan Lungren in Northern California’s 3rd CD, would offer Democrats a chance to celebrate and to counter the Republicans’ sea-change narrative.

INITIATIVES: Proposition 19, which would legalize pot in California, has lost support in recent weeks, and its passage would be a major surprise that would benefit Democrats by demonstrating the influence and engagement of younger and more liberal voters; in a similar way, a surprise win for supporters of Proposition 23, which would roll back the state’s landmark climate-change law regulating greenhouse gases, would be an unexpected show of power by anti-government conservative Republican and corporate interests.

Finally, Proposition 25 provides perhaps the clearest test of partisan strength on the November 2 ballot: Voter approval would undo the current constitutional requirement for a two-thirds vote in the Legislature to pass a budget. Majority Democrats say the current supermajority standard gives minority Republicans unreasonable, irresponsible, and abusive veto power over the state’s fiscal policies, while GOP stalwarts argue that abolishing the two-thirds budget vote will enable the majority party to use their numerical advantage in the Legislature to maneuver into law a batch of new and higher taxes.

Don’t forget to vote.


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