GOP Still Sees Gains in November Despite Tightening Races

This means that according to the RealClearPolitics poll averages, if all the Senate elections were held today, the Republicans would gain seven seats for a total of 48. This is still a victory for the GOP, but it is not the takeover that is very much within reach. With expectations so high for the opposition, such a result would actually be a morale boost for the DNC.

Should the Republicans manage to hold onto all of their seats and win all of the first and second tier races, they will have 49 seats. This means they have to win two of the races in the third tier, or only one if Independent Senator Joe Lieberman caucuses with the Republicans. If there is a 50-50 split, he gets to decide which party controls the Senate.

To be safe, the Republicans must defeat two of the following five Democratic senators (in order of difficulty): Russ Feingold in Wisconsin, Patty Murray in Washington, Barbara Boxer in California, Richard Blumenthal in Connecticut, and Kirsten Gillibrand in New York.

The Republicans would be wise to shift their resources away from New York and Connecticut. George Pataki’s decision not to run against Gillibrand took away a probable Republican pickup, and she is ahead of her challengers by an average of 23 points. In Connecticut, one Rasmussen poll showed Linda McMahon within striking distance of Blumenthal following the New York Times report on his lying about serving in Vietnam, but this gap will widen as the media moves onto other stories, McMahon is consistently attacked, and the Democratic Party registration advantage kicks in as the race closes. At any rate, two polls showed Blumenthal still leading by 19 to 25 points after the scandal broke. Forget these two.

The decision by Tommy Thompson not to challenge Feingold makes things more difficult for the GOP in Wisconsin, but the latest Rasmussen poll finds Rob Johnson behind by only two points and his name recognition is still substantially below that of Feingold. In Washington, Murray is ahead of Dino Rossi by an average of three points. In California, Boxer is ahead of Tom Campbell by 5.2 points, Carly Fiorina by 7 points, and Chuck DeVore by 8. The GOP can smile at these polls, but they need to remember that the Democrats far outnumber the Republicans in these states. Generally, as races close, the party with the ID advantage sees a surge as their ranks come together.

Democrats have good reason to believe they’ll hold onto the Senate now that the upward trend of the Republican candidates has stalled, but they must face the fact that they may face greater turnout than these polls consider. The Republicans can appreciate that a number of races have become very competitive, some of which were nearly written off a year ago. However, they must recognize that their momentum couldn’t continue forever. This is going to be a nail-biter for everyone.