The Cook Political Report, a subscriber-only newsletter closely followed by Washington insiders, is now predicting that Republicans have an opportunity to score double digit gains in the mid term election next Tuesday.
Via Andrew Clark of the National Republican Campaign Committee, 26 districts from Hawaii to New York — 19 of them Democratic — are now classified as “toss-ups.” This is forcing the Democrats to pour increasing amounts of cash into districts that as recently as a few months ago were believed to be safe.
Overall, we are adjusting our outlook from a GOP gain of four to ten seats to a GOP gain of six to 12 seats, with slightly larger GOP gains not out of the question. With ten ratings changes today, there are 19 Democratic seats and just seven GOP seats in Toss Up or worse. If Republicans were to pick up 13 seats, they would win their largest majority since 1928, when Herbert Hoover was elected president.
Of particular concern for Democrats are several races in DCCC Chair Rep. Steve Israel’s New York backyard, where there is no competitive statewide race driving turnout. Although Reps. Tim Bishop (NY-01), Sean Patrick Maloney (NY-18), and Dan Maffei (NY-24) are all very much still in contention, their leads are no longer large enough to keep them out of the Toss Up column.
Of the three, Maffei occupies the most Democratic district, yet he has never established a strong personal brand in Syracuse and took just 49 percent of the vote in 2012 while President Obama was winning 57 percent. Bishop and Maloney may have the opposite challenge: both won with 52 percent in 2012, but they occupy more GOP-leaning seats and could lose in the event of a big Republican night.
There are also places where problematic statewide races are reverberating negatively for down-ballot Democrats. Now that GOP nominee Joni Ernst has the momentum in Iowa’s Senate race, both parties view the race for Democratic nominee Bruce Braley’s open IA-01 as a pure Toss Up. “Bruce Braley is almost a bigger drag than President Obama,” said one consultant familiar with polling in the race.
It appears that the enemy of the Republicans now is not so much the Democratic party is it is complacency. All the close Senate races as well as contests involving this handful of House districts will depend on a maximum effort to turn out core GOP voters — even if many of them have to hold their nose to vote for someone less ideologically pure than they might prefer. Conversely, RINO’s who may not be enthusiastic about a Tea Party candidate are going to have to bury their doubts and pull the lever for the Republican.
Some in the Tea Party might feel the GOP has the Senate in the bag and registering a protest by not voting won’t matter. Others may think their vote isn’t needed, for what ever reason. With so many races that will be decided by one or two percent of the total vote, it doesn’t take a lot of people with those attitudes to turn victory into defeat.
If that kind of scenario were to unfold, it wouldn’t be for lack of money. The GOP has poured more than $100 million into building a sophisticated voter identification infrastructure that is being used to target their voters in key battleground states. They’re still playing catch-up to the Democrats in this regard, but it’s light years beyond what was available to Republicans in 2012. The army of volunteers has also grown, impressing even long time Republican operatives.
In the end, it will come down to the individual voter motivating themselves to get to the polls. With the state of the economy, the nation, and the world the way it is, most will have all the motivation they need.