Wargaming the Midterms

What a wild week it’s been since we last looked at the battle for control of the Senate, but let’s look at the overall picture before we get to the specific weirdnesses.

At Practical Politicking, my friend Tom Dougherty predicts that "a Republican majority in the Senate is virtually guaranteed," if there’s a solid GOTV effort. That’s a mighty big if, since the Republicans must to produce enough corporeal voters to counteract the Democrats’ natural advantages with the community of Undead American voters.

Tom quotes former Romney pollster Neil Newhouse on the problem:

Republican voters are significantly more enthusiastic, are pumped up for this election and you’ll have to hold them back from the polls on Election Day. So Republicans have a significant advantage in intensity. Well, you know what? I did the Romney campaign two years ago. I’ve seen those numbers before. We had that same intensity advantage in 2012. I’ve learned a lot of valuable lessons from working the Romney campaign. One of the valuable lessons I’ve learned is that an unenthusiastic vote counts just as much as an enthusiastic vote. And so when Democrats are able to, because of their ground operation, turn out voters who are low propensity, who are unlikely, who are low interest voters, their votes count just as much as my Republican 45-year old man in the suburbs who rushes to the polls on election day.

I am that 45-year-old suburban voter, so I feel Newhouse’s pain and echo his worries. Nevertheless, Tom sees a 77% chance of a six-seat pickup for the win, and 60% for an eight-seat gain.

RealClearPolitics’ poll-averaged map helps to confirm Dougherty’s math, showing the GOP netting eight seats for a comfortable 53-47 majority. Oddly enough, the Democrat caucus is really only 45, but two "independent" senators (King, ME, & Sanders, VT) choose to caucus with the Dems for some mysterious reason or other — maybe it’s Harry Reid’s magnetic charm.

Peering into Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball, Kyle Kondik and Geoffrey Skelley see a murkier picture:

The GOP needs at least a net gain of six seats to win back Congress’ upper chamber. But the math is complicated by Sen. Pat Roberts’ (R) struggles in Kansas against independent Greg Orman, and even if Roberts wins, the GOP may not get to 51 seats until after Dec. 6 (Louisiana’s runoff) or even Jan. 6, 2015 (Georgia’s runoff), making it difficult to actually call the Senate for Republicans even this close to Nov. 4.

Don’t you want to put more scare quotes around "independent" when it’s in front of Orman’s name — maybe three or four sets of them? But I digress.

Now let’s get to the weird stuff.

Should the Democrats hold on to the Senate, they might do so due to four races in the unlikeliest place — that terrible, horrible, no good, misogynist, racist South.

Something strange is going on in Kentucky. Just one week after dropping official support for Alison Lundergan Grimes’ efforts against GOP Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, the DNSC is committing almost three quarters of a million dollars in new TV ad buys. The reason given is that "new internal polling shows that undecided voters are breaking Grimes' way." Undecideds typically do break for the challenger, and looking at the map it’s clear that the DNSC doesn’t have many states left where any new spending makes much sense, not to mention the huge bragging rights in taking down the GOP’s top man in the Senate.