The PJ Tatler

The Day Before Election Day: Will Republicans Take Control of the Senate?

One day before the final mid-terms of Barack Obama’s presidency, Republicans are looking to pick up at least 6 Senate seats net to take control of all of Congress. Can they get across the finish line with enough victories? Let’s take a look.

President Obama’s approval rating has hit a career low, according to ABC. Every Democrat is saddled with Obama’s unpopularity, and thanks to Harry Reid’s stewardship of the Senate, they can be tied to him with claims that they voted with him 99% of the time. Because they did. The Democrats’ focus on so-called women’s issues while the economy continued to sputter, the Democrats left the border open, ISIS rose to power and beheaded an American, Ebola exposed the broad incompetence of the Obama administration that Obamacare first highlighted, Russia started looking like a throwback to its Soviet days and American prestige waned around the world, was a big risk. The Democrats ignored all bread and butter issues to focus on the fringe. The party of big government has delivered a big but lousy government that cannot seem to fulfill its core missions. It doesn’t look like it’s paying off for the Democrats at all — voters young and not so young want to hand control of Congress to Republicans.

Let’s go race by race to see where things stand.

The Republican incumbent has nearly always been ahead in Kentucky and is now pulling away from the Democrat. In fact, the Republicans have leads in both KY and Georgia and in Louisiana.

Holding KY and GA and winning LA is +1 for the GOP.

Arkansas is all but gone for the Democrats. If Cotton wins there as expected, that’s +2 GOP.

Republican Joni Ernst has opened up a 7-point lead in Iowa. If she holds that, +3 GOP.

West Virginia and Montana will go GOP, so +5. Republicans need one more seat to take control, with several vulnerable Democrat seats still in play. Where do they get to 6?

In Colorado, Rep. Cory Gardner has built up a lead over Sen. Mark “Uterus” Udall, but that lead is tightening. Udall could pull it out; it’s now too close to call.

Alaska’s Sen. Mark Begich trails slightly to Republican Dan Sullivan, but a dearth of polling makes this race tough to call. Bloomberg says that it could get very close and become an all-nighter nail biter. Because of absentee balloting, we might not have a winner declared for days, possibly weeks, after the election.

A GOP win in either AK or CO gives them control of the Senate. Of the two, Alaska is the most likely to flip — but both are still likely GOP wins, and if they go that way, the GOP picks up the 6th and 7th seats, one more than they need to take control. If we have a winner in Alaska on election night, anyway.

Note that we haven’t discussed North Carolina and New Hampshire yet. Both have vulnerable Democrat incumbents who are not running good campaigns. The polls in both have been tight, but with the Democrat leading slightly but within the margin of error. The undecided vote in NC stands at about 7 or 8 points. If undecideds break for the challenger as they usually do, NC could tip GOP. NH is very similar — the Democrat incumbent leads slightly in one poll but within the margin of error, and undecideds stand at about 6%. Another poll gives the Republican the lead. So it’s a toss-up. Being on the East Coast, NC and NH will give us an early look at how things may go nationally. If Republicans take either one, then Udall’s chances of holding on in CO and Landrieu’s chances in LA shrink. If Democrats hold both NC and NH, then it could be a long night.

Nationally, Republicans and independents tend to be more motivated to vote than Democrat voters. So that’s another edge for the GOP in these tight races. The Republicans could run the table and get to +9. That’s not the way to bet, though — at least one race will break for the Democrats, with NH being the most likely vulnerable seat to stay in Democrat hands.

All of the above explains why the media rate the Republicans’ chances of taking control of the Senate somewhere between 70% (NYT) to 95% (CNN) to 96% (Washington Post). Democrats just don’t have any margin for error. They have to nearly run the table in states that Obama lost in 2012 and in which he is less popular now to keep control. Republicans have to take advantage of circumstances to win, and so far they have, with quality candidates, good but not necessarily great messaging pointing out Obama’s many failures, and by not getting in their own way.

For most of the year I’ve rated the Republicans’ probable gains at +7 in the Senate, and I see no reason to lower that and some reasons to raise it.  But I’ll be conservative and stick with it. The Republicans are poised to pick up 7 seats in tomorrow’s elections, and therefore take control of the Senate.