Monday, September 17, 2012

Will the Senate Flip?

Last month I speculated on Democrats' chances of taking back the House, which, barring a miracle, will be highly unlikely.  The real question, then, is whether Democrats can hold the Senate.  If Republicans manage to flip it, even with an Obama reelection, the next two to four years promises to be a nightmare, legislatively that is.  And even if they don't flip it, they will manage to grind everything to a halt by threatening to filibuster every bill they don't like.

So what are the odds of the GOP taking the Senate?  As of now, it's about 50 / 50.  In deed some polls show Republicans with a projected 51 to 49 seat advantage.

First the good news.  Thanks to Todd Akin, Claire McCaskill is now a favorite to retain her seat. Then there's Angus King, who is a shoo-in to win Olympia Snowe's seat in Maine.  Though officially an independent, he will most likely caucus with the Democrats.  And finally, the latest polling in Massachusetts shows Elizabeth Warren ahead of Scott Brown.

That's where the good news ends.  In Connecticut, Linda McMahon is ahead - albeit slightly - of Chris Murphy. While we haven't seen any recent numbers out of that state, that race is starting to resemble the Massachusetts' special election that resulted in Scott Brown's  win.  In Virginia, Tim Kaine is trailing the Macaca man, George Allen, by a narrow margin.  If you're looking for a silver lining in this race, Rasmussen, of all polls, shows Kaine ahead by 2 points.  Go figure.

Democrats desperately need both of these seats in the win column if they want to hold the Senate, because of the four remaining Democratic seats up for grabs - Wisconsin, Nebraska, North Dakota and Montana - all but Montana appear to be trending red. And it should be pointed out, Jon Tester has a narrow 2 point lead in that state, according to Public Policy Polling, which is a Democratic-leaning poll.

So let's assume for the sake of argument that the fab four in the Midwest flip.  Let's also assume that Warren holds onto her lead and beats Brown and both Murphy and Kaine win their respective races.  In that event, the Dems would hold onto the Senate by a 51 to 49 margin.  However, if one more Democrat should lose, say Murphy, then control of the Senate would come down to whoever wins the White House.

My guess is that, like the presidential race, the Senate is still too close to call.  I see it going anywhere from Republicans with 51 seats to the Democrats with 51 seats.  In any event, with no super majority, expect the entire chamber to ostensibly be useless and locked in perpetual gridlock for the foreseeable future.


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