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Gambling is a fool’s occupation. I’d as soon flush money down a toilet as put it on a horse, but I–and you–we’re gamblers, all the same. We just prefer to gamble on political candidates instead of on boxers or dice games.

Where there are gamblers, there are handicappers, and the odds makers are pretty much agreed that Todd Akin will still be in office this time next year.

They’ll point to what happened to Ted House in 2000. Akin was making his first run for the office and House was a name in that part of town, a popular name too. But an internal poll showed House losing to Akin, getting only 43 percent of the vote. House raised the funds, though, to make a credible run for the office: one million dollars. He spent half of that on billboards and half on TV advertising. And garnered 43 percent of the vote.

So? That was eight years ago. It was a Republican year. This is a year for the Democrats. Think of Republicans saying bye-bye in recent special elections to Dennis Hastert’s seat in Illinois as well as strongholds in Mississippi and in Louisiana. As both Mike Garman and Byron DeLear, running for the D nomination, will tell you, more Democrats took ballots in the Second Congressional District on primary day than Republicans.

Mmm-hmm, say the odds makers, but primary voters are a different animal than general election voters. Apples and oranges.

The cockeyed optimists will admit that there are lots of well to do Republicans in West County who wouldn’t vote for a Democrat if George Bush himself told them to, but St. Charles County is trending bluer every day and we can expect to take some House seats there.

DeLear’s campaign manager, Kevin Caravelli, doesn’t think his optimism is cockeyed. He sent me an April 2006 article–by Dave Drebes, one of the handicappers who’s convinced that Akin is invulnerable–about a poll Sam Page conducted in 2 CD a couple of years ago.

Last month Sam Page nearly filed to take on incumbent Congressman Todd Akin. Page, a Democratic state representative from the 82nd district, created lots of scuttlebutt by waiting weeks to file for re-election. He finally did on the second to last day possible. That was after fielding a poll on the 2nd Congressional District to measure the political landscape. It was encouraging enough that Page seriously considered giving up his safe seat for a chance to go to Washington.

Considering that the district has a dismal 42 percent Democratic Performing Index (DPI), and that 98 percent of incumbent congressmen who seek re-election win, that must have been some poll. Apparently it showed a Republican-Democratic split within the margin of error. And when framed as “Would you rather have a Republican rubber-stamping President Bush’s agenda or a Democrat to keep him in check?” the results were even more appealing to Page: 60 percent-40 percent in favor of the Democrat.

Page might have stood a better chance than the two candidates leading this year’s field, being already known because he’s a state rep. Neither Garman nor DeLear have held political office. Nor do they seem to be on track to rake in anywhere near a million dollars.

By contrast, Kay Barnes is challenging another political dinosaur, Sam Graves, on the west side of the state. Barnes, the former–and popular–mayor of K.C., had hauled in almost a million and a half dollars as of the end of March.

Byron’s campaign says he’s up to about $150,000 ($100,000 of which he loaned himself, according to the FEC). Garman had receipts of only $21,590 at the end of March ($15,000 of which he loaned himself). At the end of March, Akin had $615,159.

Numbers like that can make Dems dread that Akin will hold on. Caravelli recommends that instead of dread, we dare engage in the audacity of hope. He believes that if we all backed whichever Democrat gets the nod, Akin would be history.

Who knows? I’m just telling you what the handicappers say–and hoping that DeLear or Garman will turn out to be a Seabiscuit.