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.