Republicans across the country are salivating at the prospect of making big gains in the November 2014 midterm elections. They certainly have cause for optimism. The playing field gives them a big advantage, with Democrats defending many more seats than Republicans and several Democratic senators running in states won by Mitt Romney in 2012, and the Obamacare issue favors the GOP. Couple that with a decided “enthusiasm gap” between the Republican and Democratic bases, and you have a recipe for a true wave election where it can be imagined that the Republicans regain control of the Senate and add to their majority in the House.
Much can happen between now and election day, however, and it remains to be seen if this tailwind will propel the GOP to a one-sided victory on November 4.
We’ve asked seven of PJ Media’s top political analysts to look into their crystal balls and answer the following question: How big will the GOP wave be in 2014?
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A Cloudy Outlook for GOP in November
by Rich Baehr
Richard A. Baehr is the co-founder and chief political correspondent for the American Thinker. For his day job, he has been a health care consultant for many years, doing planning and financial analyses for providers.
Six months out from the 2014 midterms, the current political environment favors the Republicans to maintain control of the U.S. House, with a likely gain of a few seats. The current RealClearPolitics.com ratings places 197 seats, all currently held by Republicans, in the safe category. Another 18 seats are considered likely to be won by the Republican candidate — two of them pickups in North Carolina 7 and Utah 4,where Democratic incumbents are retiring. Another 15 seats now held by Republicans are considered to be leaning their way. In total, this gives the GOP 230 seats, four short of the number currently held by Republicans, but 12 more than the number needed to be the majority: 218. In addition, there are 17 seats considered tossups — four of them held by the GOP, 13 by Democrats. If all the seats considered likely or leaning towards the GOP went their way, and eight of the 17 tossups, they would wind up at 238, a gain of four. RCP considers only 162 Democratic held seats as safe, another 15 as likely, and 11 leaning their way, including two GOP-held seats in New York 11 and California 31.
If the real battleground are all the seats considered tossups or leaning to one party or another, the GOP has 215 without winning any tossups or any of the 15 seats leaning their way, and the Democrats are at 177 considered the same way.
In other words, the Democrats have to win 41 of the 43 competitive seats to win a majority, and that seems extremely unlikely.
The Senate picture is far more clouded. The worst outcome for the GOP is likely to be a pickup of one net seat — pickups in open seat races in South Dakota and West Virginia and a win in Montana, coupled with losses in Georgia and Kentucky. The Georgia and Kentucky seats are tossups leaning towards the GOP, while the GOP candidate has solid leads in the other three races. Seven other Democratic held seats are considered tossups — Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana, North Carolina, Colorado and two open seats in Iowa and Michigan. Another two Democratic-held seats in New Hampshire and Oregon are considered leaning to the Democrats. In a best case, Republicans would hold Georgia and Kentucky and win the seven Democratic-held tossup races plus the two lean Democratic seats for a gain of 12. This is highly unlikely. Democrats have done well in competitive Senate races in recent years, and they have the advantage of incumbency and or strong family names in five of the seven tossup races and both lean Democratic races.
Forced to give an early edge in every race, the GOP is slightly favored to hold Kentucky and Georgia and is even or ahead in North Carolina and Alaska. Arkansas, Iowa, and Louisiana seem to be pure tossups, with Iowa emerging as a state where the Democratic nominee for the open seat, trial lawyer Bruce Braley, seems gaffe prone and now trails in the most recent polls. Democrats have the edge currently in Michigan, Colorado, New Hampshire, and Oregon, though only Oregon is a solid lead for the Democrat at this point. If this were the result in November, the Republicans would have an excellent chance of controlling the Senate with a pickup in the range of five to eight net seats.
In the 2010 and 2012 cycles, Republican tossed away opportunities in Nevada, Delaware, Missouri, Indiana, and Colorado with sub-optimal candidates. That is a possibility now in Mississippi, where a bitter primary, with a runoff to follow, may leave the Republican weakened. That could also occur in the Georgia runoff.
But if the party has a very good night in November and wins most of the close races, it could win seven to nine seats without any shocking upsets.
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No Matter What the Dems Do, GOP Must Be United
by Charlie Martin
I wrote a series of articles for PJM in 2012 about polling. All of them were based around the observation that no matter what, some of the polling had to be wrong, because the turnout models, which were weighted heavily Democrat, conflicted with the enthusiasm polls, which were very heavily in Republicans’ favor.
As it turned out, the turnout models were right. Space prevents me from exploring the reasons in detail here, but there seem to have been three things we can point to for suggestions.
First, there was the preternaturally high turnout in some precincts, such as inner-city precincts in Cleveland and Philadelphia, which had total turnout in excess of 100 percent of registered voters, and in some cases in excess of 100 percent of the voting-age population of the precinct. These precincts also often reported vote totals that leaned Democrat to a degree that would make Saddam Hussein blush, with total Republican votes in the single digits.
Digits, mind you, not percentages.
Second was election reporting that was objectively indistinguishable from a campaign to suppress GOP voters. See, for example, Chris Matthews’ assertion that the only reason anyone would vote against Obama is racism.
Third, and most important I suspect, was an active, criminal conspiracy among people in the White House, the Congress, the Department of Justice, and the IRS to suppress and harass the insurgent groups that had been so effective getting out Republican votes in 2010.
As a result, clearly, the actual turnout was in line with the turnout models, and a lot of “enthusiastic” Romney voters didn’t show up.
So what does this mean for the 2014 election? The original question for today’s symposium was to look at a scenario for the changes in Congress after the 2014 election. Obviously there are a lot of possibilities. Now, my inclination is that I think the Republicans will win pretty big and take over the Senate, but I think the 2012 election is an instructive warning. Since 2010, the Tea Party insurgents and conservatives in general have been on a RINO hunt, denouncing anyone who differed from them on any point as “not a real Republican.” Often, people then assert their intention to not vote at all if the Republican candidate in an election is insufficiently “real.”
That way lies madness. The quest for “real” Republicans, cutting off one for not being sufficiently against illegal immigration, or not cutting whatever spending one doesn’t like, or for any other position that doesn’t match in every detail what one person thinks is the “real” Republican position, if carried out, would result in a Republican Party that could hold a national convention in a freight elevator.
But if they want to fill it, they’d better have an open bar. Of course, the Democrats have been more than happy to encourage this. How many times have we found out that Democrats were covertly and sometimes not so covertly supporting the weakest candidate in a primary because, after all, who wants to run against a strong candidate? It’s of a piece with the other voter suppression efforts: anything they can do that convinces anyone who might vote for a Republican to not vote at all, is a vote for the Democrat.
And that’s the bottom line: you might not like whoever your eventual Senate or House candidate is, but failing to vote for a RINO is a vote for the Democrats.