Most forecasts, including ours, predict a very small Republican majority in the next Senate. This certainly has consequences. The most important one is that any judicial vacancy that comes up in the next two years will remain empty at least until Jan. 2017. As to legislation, it doesn't matter who controls the Senate because there is no bill that both the House Republicans and President Obama would agree to.
If the Republicans capture the Senate, and maybe a few key governorships, they are likely to be giddy going into 2016. However, two Republican pollsters, Glen Bolger and Neil Newhouse, have written a piece saying that such giddiness will be short lived. Basically, if the Democrats can replicate their 2012 turnout in 2016, and with a woman on top of the ticket they could probably exceed it, the Republicans would need to win 64% of the white vote to capture the White House. To put this in perspective, Mitt Romney got 59% and John McCain got 55%. In 2004 George W. Bush got 58%. Getting 64% is not in the cards, especially since a substantial number of white Republican women would vote for Hillary Clinton, just to smash the last glass ceiling.
The pollsters also talk about the big blue wall. The 18 states plus D.C. that have gone Democratic in the last six presidential elections have 242 of the 270 electoral votes needed to win, and they are getting bluer every cycle. Thus the Republican strategy has to be "win all the swing states." With Virginia (and its 13 electoral votes) becoming more of a blue state that a purple state, that will be a tall order.
It is not hopeless for the Republicans, but another candidate like McCain or Romney won't do the job. A new and exciting ticket like Rand Paul plus Susana Martinez might go a long way, but even that is not a sure thing against Hillary Clinton plus a Latino sidekick.
While Washington is deadlocked, many states are not. Republicans run the show in 23 states and Democrats control 13. Only 14 are split, When one party controls the machinery of state government it can enact its program--and then hear what the voters think about it a few years later.
Consider some examples. Colorado is run by the Democrats, and they put limits on ammunition magazines, instituted background checks on private gun sales, allowed some illegal immigrants to pay in-state college tuition, and began mailing absentee ballots to every voter. Wisconsin is run by Republicans, and they sharply limited collective bargaining rights of public service workers, reduced early voting, and expanded school vouchers. There are tight gubernatorial races in both states, so we will soon know what the voters think of actually getting stuff done.
To the extent that 2014 is a Republican wave year, the GOP might pick up the upper houses in Colorado, Iowa, Maine, Nevada, and Oregon, and the lower houses in Kentucky, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Mexico, and West Virginia. Democrats hope there is no wave and are gunning for the upper house in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Washington, and New York, as well as the lower houses in Arkansas and Michigan.
In 2008, Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK) won by fewer than 4000 votes. He expects it to this close again, so both he and Republican Dan Sullivan are going to fight for the last 1000 or 2000 votes. Begich made a slip around Labor Day when he ran an ad tying Sullivan to a criminal who we released who then killed some people, an echo of the Willie Horton ad that George H.W. Bush used, only this time the families of the victims protested. Nevertheless, Begich has recovered and the race is very close.
There is a fair chance the outcome will not be known on Nov. 5. First, getting the votes counted is a slow process in Alaska and absentee ballots can arrive up to 2 weeks after election day and still be valid. In a close race, they may matter.
Sen. Mary Landrieu's comment that "the South has not always been the friendliest place for African-Americans" is unquestionably true. The implication was that President Obama is not popular in her state because the New South is a lot like the Old South. Conservatives jumped all over her about this, and she will need the votes of some of them on Tuesday and also in the likely runoff in December. If "gaffe" is defined as a politician telling the truth, then Landrieu made a gaffe when she said that.
Democrats are certainly in trouble in the South, but one state where they have a fighting chance is Iowa. Some polls have put state senator Joni Ernst (R) ahead of Rep. Bruce Braley (D-IA), but others have shown it to be a tie. Both parties are going all out in Iowa and also in Colorado. In Iowa, $60 million has been spent on TV ads. Only North Carolina and Colorado have seen more spending. Also, both parties have sent their biggest guns to Iowa (and Colorado) to campaign. If the Republicans can win both Iowa and Colorado, they will certainly capture the Senate. If the Democrats can win both states, they will probably hang on by their fingernails. It is going to be close.
This year, nearly all the focus in the Senate races has been on Democrats in red states. In 2016 it will switch to Republicans in blue states because a number of Republicans won in blue states in the low-turnout 2010 Republican wave and will be on their own in high-turnout 2016. Among other potential 2016 victims are Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL), Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), and Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH). Purple state Republicans up in 2016 include Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL). If Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) retires, his seat will certainly be in play.
In addition to all of these, Democrats have shots at Republican seats in North Carolina, Indiana, Alaska, and Missouri. The only Democrat who might have trouble getting reelected in Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), and then only if Gov. Brian Sandoval (R-NV) challenges him.
Politico normally just reports on political news without too much bias, but as election day approaches, its coverage and that of quite a few other publications has become quite partisan. Today, for example, the big headline on top of the front page reads: "Democrats fear Iowa slipping away." In principle this is a perfectly legitimate headline. Except that further down the page, in small type is another headline: "Polls: Iowa, N.C. Senate races tied." How can Iowa be slipping away if it is tied? Especially since Joni Ernst had been leading there recently. Quite a few other publications that are normally neutral are showing their true colors in the heat of the battle. Caveat lector.
|State||Democrat||D %||Republican||R %||I||I %||Start||End||Pollster|
|Alaska||Mark Begich*||42%||Dan Sullivan||47%||Oct 27||Oct 30||Rasmussen|
|Iowa||Bruce Braley||44%||Joni Ernst||45%||Oct 28||Oct 30||Fox News|
|Iowa||Bruce Braley||47%||Joni Ernst||48%||Oct 28||Oct 30||Rasmussen|
|Iowa||Bruce Braley||47%||Joni Ernst||49%||Oct 27||Oct 30||ORC International|
|Kansas||Pat Roberts*||43%||Greg Orman||44%||Oct 28||Oct 30||Fox News|
|Massachusetts||Ed Markey*||54%||Brian Herr||34%||Oct 21||Oct 30||West. New England U.|
|North Carolina||Kay Hagan*||43%||Thom Tillis||42%||Sean Haugh (L)||4%||Oct 28||Oct 30||Fox News|
|North Carolina||Kay Hagan*||48%||Thom Tillis||46%||Oct 27||Oct 30||ORC International|
|New Hampshire||Jeanne Shaheen*||52%||Scott Brown||45%||Oct 29||Oct 30||Rasmussen|
|Oklahoma||Matt Silverstein||28%||James Inhofe*||63%||Oct 25||Oct 29||Sooner Poll|
|Virginia||Mark Warner*||49%||Ed Gillespie||40%||Oct 29||Oct 30||PPP|
|Virginia||Mark Warner*||51%||Ed Gillespie||44%||Oct 23||Oct 29||Chris. Newport U.|