For all the talk early this year about another GOP wave election, the pundits, the politicians, and the poll-watching public spent the summer and early autumn watching for a wave which never materialized. But in the last week or so, the waiting seems to have ended as race after race seems to be breaking the GOP’s way.
The latest and least likely is in Virginia, which most everybody (including yours truly) had written off in favor of Democrat Senator Mark Warner. His challenger, Ed Gillespie, is hardly the type to excite voters into dumping a comfortable incumbent, and yet RCP just moved that race from “Likely Dem” to merely “Leans Dem.” Jeffrey Anderson explains:
About two months ago, that polling found Gillespie trailing Warner by 22 points. About a month ago, it found Gillespie trailing by 12 points. Friday, it found him within 7 points. Over that span, Warner hasn’t merely failed to move undecided voters into his camp but has actually lost support. Indeed, across all polling, Warner has struggled to hit 50 percent support and is at 48.5 percent in the current RCP average, which suggests he still needs to move some undecided voters his way.
And what issue most clearly defines the difference between the two men? Obamacare, which we’ve been assured for months now was no longer a campaign issue of much significance. Warner has attempted to distance himself from President Obama, whom Gallup now pegs at 14 points underwater, but his perfectly leftwing voting record makes that difficult, and may explain why he’s been unable to seal the deal with independent voters. Virginia polls close at 7PM on Tuesday, making Warner vs Gillespie the race to watch if you want to catch early sight of a wave.
Moving south to Georgia, where the polls also close at 7PM, the waters may prove less wavy and more muddy. That’s an open race between Republican David Perdue, Democrat Michelle Nunn, and Libertarian Amanda Swafford. Recent polls have shown collapsing support for Nunn in what is expected to be a tight race. But unless Perdue can garner 50%+1 on Tuesday night, this one goes to a runoff. But if he wins outright, and Gillespie manages to make a serious dent of about 5 points or more in what is currently a 9/7-point polling deficit against Warner, then Tuesday could go very, very well for the GOP.
New Hampshire is still anyone’s best guess. Dem incumbent Jeanne Shaheen looks like she may walk away with this one, but a couple of polls have Scott Brown — the former temp senator from Massachusetts — with a slight lead. This one feels to me like a hold for the Donks, a strong part of their 50-seat firewall. If New Hampshire goes red, it would mark the beginning of a long and horrible night for the Democrats.
The real nailbiter of course is in North Carolina. Kay Hagan maintains a slight lead over the GOP’s challenger, Thom Tillis — but like Warner, she has yet to grab better than 48% in any poll. Hagan remains a bad fit for North Carolina, but Tillis has proven to be an uninspired and uninspiring campaigner. This one might be decided by the lawyers.
Susan Collins is up by an average of nearly 32 points over the Democrats’ sacrificial lamb, Shenna Bellows, and West Virginia looks like an easy seat for a pickup with the GOP’s Shelley Moore Capito ahead by double digits over Natalie Tennant.
As we move into the Central time zone, Mitch McConnell should win handily in dual-time-zone Kentucky, and Joni Ernst seems to have broken out in Iowa, where weekend polling put her up over the 50% threshold and seven points ahead of Democrat Bruce Braley. Arkansas seems to be breaking hard against Democrat incumbent Mark Pryor, so look for Tom Cotton to be sworn in next year. And despite some primary ugliness, to put it delicately, Thad Cochran will beat Democrat Travis Childers in a big way. South Dakota’s open race looks like another easy pickup.
Mary Landrieu seems likely to be the next former senator from Louisiana, unable to poll any better than the mid-40s against two GOP challengers. This one though will go to a December 6 runoff between Landrieu and establishment Republican candidate Bill Cassidy. If this race decides control of the Senate, the two national parties and independent groups will descend on the state like Hurricane Katrina — but Cassidy polls around five points up in a head-to-head matchup.
The two big unknowns in the middle of the country are Colorado and Kansas, but in both places the GOP contenders have spent the last week or so up in the polls.
Kansas voters seem to be confused or disheartened or both by the weird race between “independent” Greg Orman, and GOP fossil Pat Roberts. Both men have been simultaneously losing supporters in the two weeks before Election Day. Roberts had come back to tie things up in the mid 40s in the second week of October, but he may have peaked too soon.
Here in Colorado, Cory Gardner is up by an average of nearly four points, but only once has he ever done better than 50%. Colorado’s mail-in voting and same-day registration might give Democrat Mark Udall the margin of cheating he needs for a win. Colorado polls don’t close until 9PM Eastern, so there’s a good chance many of you will be sound asleep before this one is even close to decided.
For what it’s worth, however, the Washington Post gives the GOP 95% and 97% chances of winning in Kansas and Colorado, respectively.
And that’s about it for the competitive races. The GOP should score a pickup in Alaska, and hold on in the not-Colorado Mountain West without breaking a sweat. If I were a gambling man, I’d put $50 on a 53-47 GOP majority in January — but I wouldn’t bet the booze budget on even a more modest six-seat pickup. In the end, Practical Politicking’s Tom Dougherty says it all comes down to… politicking:
If Colorado or Iowa were to break for the Democrats, and if New Hampshire and North Carolina stay blue, then a loss in Kansas could be a body blow to the GOP. A Roberts loss coupled with a gain of just six seats on election night would place control of the Senate solely on the outcome of a December run-off in Louisiana and a January run-off in Georgia, where the Republicans would have to win both special elections to grab a 51 to 49 majority.
The Obama machine proved in 2012 that it knows how to get its voters to the polls while at the same time suppressing the Republican and right-leaning independent votes with phony issues like “the war on women.” And in states like Colorado, the Democrats have made it easier to rig the game with phony-baloney ballots and Walking Dead voters. The GOP thinks it is closing the GOTV technology gap, but the only way to know for sure is to win some tough races and turn the Senate from blue to red.