PJ Media

Wargaming the U.S. Senate

“The wonderful thing about gridlock, is gridlock’s a wonderful thing — it entails a do-nothing Congress that can mess up hardly a thing!”
—Not A.A. Milne


There’s nothing Washington hates more than gridlock, because it takes the truth out of Gideon Tucker’s observation that “no man’s life, liberty, or property are safe while the Legislature is in session.” And to the ambitious redistributionist, where’s the fun in that? More urgently, there will still be plenty of nominees in need of Senate approval over the next couple of years, and maybe even a Supreme Court vacancy or two. This, more than any other reason, may be why Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid dropped the nuclear option on presidential nominee filibusters — President Obama only has a couple years left to fill various benches and various cabinet positions with various radicals, and believe it or not there’s still plenty of damage to be done to this once-great nation. Forward!

To this I say: Harry Reid would make an excellent Senate minority leader.

So let’s take a look at the state of play for the U.S. Senate.

My friend Tom Dougherty is a serious numbers guy, and he sees “the odds of a Republican majority in the U.S. Senate has increased to 73.5%; with a 55.5% chance of an eight seat pick-up now.” Tom’s dark-horse pickup for the GOP is Dr. Monica Wehby, up against incumbent Dem Jeff Merkley. Wehby’s campaign theme is “Keep your doctor. Change your Senator,” and I would wet myself if she won on that platform.

I’m not (yet) feeling quite as positive as Dougherty is, probably because I like to start with RCP’s poll averaged page — and not just because the map is so pretty and useful. Averaging mostly filters out the outlier poll results, giving you a solid foundation on which to build more etherial prognostications. As of this writing, RCP gives the Donks 40 seats either safe or not up for election, and the Phants 41 seats. Add in the races rated “Likely” wins for each party, and the numbers go up to 43 for the Democrats and 45 for Republicans.


That gives us a grand total of 12 seriously contested races out of 32 being held this year, or about 38% of the open seats. In the House, RCP’s averages show that only 43 races are at all competitive, or under 20%.

The GOP looks to score easy pickups in South Dakota and West Virginia, where the sitting Democrats figured it would be better to retire with dignity than to lose to upstart Republicans. A similar story is being played out in Montana, where the big name Democrats elected to sit out, rather than face Republican Congressman Steve Daines (read PJ Media’s coverage of that race here). The Likely Dem races include zero pickups — just Al Franken, Brian Schatz, and Mark Warner hanging on for their party in Minnesota, Hawaii, and Virginia, respectively. Leaning Dem again includes no pickups in Michigan’s open seat, and Shaheen and Merkley hanging on in New Hampshire and Oregon.

For those keeping score at home, the score is now tied at 46 seats apiece, with eight left in the Toss Up column. The Republicans must net five of those eight in order to demote Harry Reid, and of those eight seats, six of them are currently warmed by Democratic bottoms.

In Kentucky, Mitch McConnell fended off his Tea Party primary challenger without breaking a sweat and now faces Democratic Alison Lundergan Grimes, Kentucky’s secretary of state. Grimes scored a convincing win in 2011, but it’s hard to picture a 35 year old with a thin resumé unseating an experienced campaign war horse like McConnell. I suspect this will turn out like Mitt Romney’s unsuccessful run against Ted Kennedy in 1994 — after a good fight, the incumbent will prevail without too much trouble.


Then we have Georgia’s open seat, currently held by the retiring Republican Saxby Chambliss. It’s difficult to handicap this one, because GOP voters couldn’t settle on a nominee during last month’s primary, and won’t get a chance to pick the winner of the runoff (David Perdue versus Jack Kingston) until July 22. That gives Democrat Michelle Nunn — daughter of former Senator Sam Nunn — another six weeks or so to establish her campaign and her war chest, unopposed. Perhaps complicating things for the Republicans, Wikipedia notes that “the 30.6 percent won by Perdue is the lowest ever for a first place finisher in a Georgia U.S. Senate primary by either party in state history.” On the other hand, Nunn is a Democrat and this just isn’t their year, and Georgia just isn’t their state anymore. I’m calling this one for the Republicans, assuming they can ever get around to choosing an actual candidate.

Our running total is now 48 for the GOP and still just 46 for the Dems.

That leaves us with Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Louisiana, and North Carolina, all of which except for the open race in Iowa are all precariously held by Democrats who voted to pass ObamaCare in 2010, and five of whom herald from a state won by Mitt Romney in 2012.

Colorado’s Mark Udall is the exception, Obama having turned Colorado convincingly blue. But Udall’s bio page curiously omits his vote in favor of the ACA. And — no fooling — it’s also missing the word “Democrat.” Nevertheless, Udall is ahead in every poll, even if not by very much. Given his advantage in name recognition and money over challenger Cory Gardner and Colorado’s same-day voter registration (ie, the Democrat Protection Act), I have to call this one for Udall.


48, Phants. 47, Donks.

That leaves just five races and I’m calling them all for the Republicans for a total of 53 GOP senators next January and a well-deserved kick in the pants for Formerly Dynamic Duo of Barack Obama and Harry Reid.

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