File this one under Insty’s famous “Don’t get cocky” header:
In the campaign’s home stretch, a “red” battlefield has emerged. It’s smaller: just Georgia, Kansas and South Dakota. Republicans forgot to play defense here, and now polling in all three states is volatile. If they let these states slip away, Republicans would only be able to take the Senate by coming from behind in one more “purple” state—New Hampshire or North Carolina—or if independent winners in Kansas and South Dakota decide to caucus in Washington with Republican senators.
You can understand why Republicans didn’t anticipate a “red” battlefield to protect. Georgia, Kansas, and South Dakota are perceived as so conservative that President Obama never competed in them. The first two have Senate seats already occupied by Republicans. While South Dakota’s seat is held by a retiring right-leaning Democrat, the Republican nominee was a two-term governor who left office with broad support, and the first-time Democratic candidate seeking to replace him, Rick Weiland, may be the most liberal of any 2014 challenger in the country.
So what happened? Each state has its own unique set of circumstances, but they speak to a discomfort with far right conservatism and distrust of incumbency.
Anti-incumbent fever typically hurts the party in power, which would be the Democrats in Harry Reid’s systemically corrupt and useless Senate.
In a midterm election, anti-incumbancy hurts the Democrats by suppressing their already-low midterm turnout. But it also hurts the GOP by getting GOP voters and candidates to do, and I’m putting this as gently as I can, all kinds of crazy s***.
So far this year we’ve seen fratricidal primary races, complete with frivolous lawsuits, the national GOP waging war on its own grassroots in Kansas, having to spend major resources in Kansas to correct that oops, Republican voters flirting with neo-sorta-Democrats, and a mess in South Dakota almost too bizarre to describe. Add all that to two or three lackluster candidates in what should have been cakewalk elections, and it becomes impossible to say for sure what will happen on election day.