In 2009, the political talk was all about how the GOP was going to make major gains in the House and Senate, making it even more difficult for President Obama to pursue his agenda. The number of competitive seats just didn’t leave much room for talk of a Senate takeover. That has changed. The political landscape since 2006 has been turned upside down and the GOP is certain to make any Democratic majority razor-thin, and if current polls hold, they will take the Senate — possibly with a seat or two extra.
The Democrats currently hold 57 seats in the Senate and two independents caucus with them, giving them a 59-seat majority. The Republicans obviously hold the remaining 41 seats, requiring a pickup of 10 seats to win a majority. A 50-50 split is a distinct possibility, but since Vice President Biden casts the tie-breaking vote, that is still a majority for the Democrats. If that scenario unfolds, Lieberman holds the key and will likely caucus with the Republicans to give them a majority.
Right now, it is safe to say that the GOP will pick up six seats based on the Real Clear Politics poll averages and political trends. In Nevada, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is behind his GOP challengers by nearly nine points. In Delaware, Beau Biden’s decision not to run gives Rep. Mike Castle a strong lead. In North Dakota, Governor John Hoeven is defeating his rivals by between 24 and 36 points. In Arkansas, Democratic Senator Blanche Lincoln is behind by as much as 19 points. And in Colorado, Democrat Michael Bennet trails Jane Norton by 14 points and Ken Buck by four points. Evan Bayh’s decision not to seek reelection in Indiana has resulted in most political commentators rating that seat as a likely Republican pickup as well.
Based on those numbers, the GOP is very likely to have at least 47 seats. Only three of the remaining races need to be won, as independent Joe Lieberman will caucus with the Republicans if a 50-50 split is established. It is hard to see Lieberman staying loyal to the party that kicked him out and to the president that he crossed party lines to oppose. There are six races remaining from which those three pickups can come.
In Illinois, Rep. Mark Kirk is currently ahead by an average of six points. In Pennsylvania, Pat Toomey is ahead by an average of 7.6 points over Arlen Specter and an average of 11.6 points over Joe Sestak. That means that if the Republicans win the races where their declared candidates are currently ahead, they are at 49 seats.