If the most promising candidates run, the GOP could relatively easily get the majority in the Senate. Should Tommy Thompson be persuaded to run in Wisconsin, his prospects are bright as he currently leads Russ Feingold by four points. Given his past presidential ambitions, it’d be assumed that he’d jump at this opportunity, but his recent decision to join the advisory board of a private equity fund indicates he may be leaning against it. If this is the case, the GOP can still win as the Thompson-Feingold poll shows there is room for a challenger, but few will have the popularity and name recognition of Thompson.
George Pataki is ahead of Kirsten Gillibrand in New York by an average of 2.7 points, and that is with Democratic favorability still declining and before a potentially bruising primary fight between Gillibrand, Harold Ford Jr., and possibly Mort Zuckerman. However, Pataki is not making obvious moves to run and has been reported to say privately that he’d rather run for president in 2012. He’s also visiting New Hampshire to host a dinner and meet “with political folks he got to know during his short-lived presidential effort in 2007.”
If Dino Rossi runs in Washington against Patty Murray, he could win as he is currently leading by two points in a hypothetical matchup. She currently has double-digit leads over the declared candidates. This means that under the most ideal scenario, Republicans would lead in 11 Senate races right now. One more race is currently tight and, if the current anti-incumbent and anti-Democrat trend is not reversed or stopped in its tracks, will be a Republican pickup and that is the race against Barbara Boxer in California. She is only ahead of her challengers by four or five points in the latest poll.
It is hard to see how Republican fortunes are reversed. The only conceivable scenario is a massive economic boost, but after all the recent turmoil, it will take a long stream of positive news to make the nervous public feel at ease and supportive of the ruling party. The outlook for Democrats is bleak and several credible paths to a Republican majority in the Senate can be envisioned.
Republicans should remember that their victory is more of a vote against the status quo than for their agenda. Any gain will result in increased responsibility. The opposition will have the ability to complicate President Obama’s agenda, but if they are seen as the party of reflexive objectors, they will see their numbers fall as quickly as the Democrats’ have, and President Obama will be able to deflect some of the public’s dissatisfaction upon them. Republicans will rejoice this November, but the public has become impatient and disenchanted, and they may be the victims of that anti-incumbent sentiment during the next congressional elections.