Republicans set to maintain status quo in Congress
It’s generally thought that Republicans will not take the Senate this year, despite going up against many vulnerable and unpopular Democrats. The reasons are a mix of gaffe prone candidates and having to run against incumbent Democrats in swing states where President Barack Obama’s campaign is actively competing. But Aaron Blake noted on Friday that there is still a path for the GOP to take control of the Senate:
With six seats listed as “toss-ups” in the latest Fix rankings, a split of those seats would lead to the exact same 53-to-47 Democratic majority that we have today. And for a Republican Party that had designs on regaining the majority, that would certainly be a disappointment.
But with 11 days to go, Republicans also continue to have a very real shot at winning that majority. And that’s because they have something that Democrats don’t: Lots of opportunity.
While the map hasn’t exactly trended in the GOP’s favor in recent months when it comes to the top races (Indiana, Massachusetts and Missouri, in particular), Republicans continue to have plausible opportunities to win in a huge amount of seats that we currently rate as “lean Democratic.”
Recent polls have shown GOP candidates within striking distance — though still trailing — in a bunch of “lean Democratic” states: Connecticut, Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Republicans can still get to a 50-50 tie in the Senate by winning all six “toss-up” races (in which case the vice president would cast tie-breaking votes), but the viable likely path to a majority for the GOP is to move some of those “lean Democratic” seats into the “toss-up” category and pull an upset against Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) or Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).
The good news for Republicans is that there are a bunch of states where they could make that happen.
The list of Republican potential pickups include Nebraska, North Dakota, Montana, Wisconsin, and Virginia. Nebraska and North Dakota look like definite GOP wins come next week. Despite being a solid GOP state in the presidential race, Montana continues to be a dog-fight between Sen. Jon Tester (D) and Rep. Denny Rehberg (R). The same can be said for the Senate races in Wisconsin and Virginia, where Tommy Thompson and George Allen are campaigning hard in very close races.
But Massachusetts is beginning to slip away from Sen. Scott Brown. Rep. Connie Mack (R) has consistently trailed Sen. Bill Nelson (D) in Florida, despite Mitt Romney having an edge there. Linda McMahon has spent millions of her own money in Connecticut, but still slightly trails her Democratic opponent. The GOP’s problems in Missouri — where Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) should be losing — are well documented. And those problems may now carry over to Indiana, where Richard Mourdock has turned into Todd Akin.
Republicans only need a net-gain of four seats on Tuesday to take control of the Senate. It’s plausible that this could happen, but it’s just unlikely at this point.
The good news for Republicans is that they will keep their majority in the House, denying Nancy Pelosi another shot at being Speaker:
Democrats are favored to hold on to the Senate — an outcome few prognosticators envisioned at the beginning of the year. And yet, with a little more than a week to go, the party holds almost no chance of winning back the House.
“They called the fight. It’s over. We’re going to have a House next year that’s going to look an awful lot like the last House,” Stuart Rothenberg, the independent analyst who runs the Rothenberg Political Report, said.
Analysts cite several factors why the Democrats haven’t been able to take advantage. First was a redistricting process that made some Republicans virtually impervious to a challenge and re-election more difficult for about 10 Democrats. A few Democratic incumbents have stumbled in their first competitive races in years. And Republicans have leveraged their majority into a fund-raising operation that has out-muscled the Democrats.
That means that regardless of who wins the White House, the Republican caucus of Speaker John A. Boehner (Ohio) will remain a critical player in the coming showdowns over tax and spending cuts. Such a result will have defied the chorus of prognosticators who saw so many of these inexperienced freshmen as beneficiaries of blind political luck — swept up in the 2010 wave of sentiment against Obama and presumably poised to be swept back to sea when the tide went out this November.
Rothenberg predicted modest gains for Democrats of about a handful of seats, a symbolic victory but well short of Pelosi’s “Drive to 25” for the net gain needed for the majority. Privately, Democrats do not dispute those estimates but contend the gains will set the stakes for a 2014 campaign in which they will shoot for the majority, particularly if Mitt Romney wins the presidency and is facing his first midterm election.
Some are speculating what this means for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Politico reported early last week that a move by Pelosi to hold leadership elections after Thanksgiving could mean that she’s ready to cede her post. Remember, Pelosi thought the shellacking Democrats suffered in 2010 was temporary and that she’d again be Speaker by 2013. That’s not going to happen.
As of right now, it looks like Republicans will, at worst, maintain their current numbers in the Senate, lose some seats in the House, and lose the White House — essentially maintaining the status quo for another two years. The bad news is that winning the Senate in 2014, when the GOP will have to defend more seats, may be too difficult to accomplish.