Saturday, July 26, 2014

Could Georgia and Kentucky Cost the GOP Senate Control in November?

Have you been checking Real Clear Politics' Senate polling lately? Of course you haven't; you have a life. Fortunately I'm not burdened by such things, so let me give you the latest rundown.

RCP, at present, has the Senate at 46 Democrats and 46 Republicans with 8 tossups. That means that the GOP needs to win at least 5 of the tossups to become the majority party. Democrats would only have to win 4 to hold their majority, since they control the White House and the Vice President would cast the deciding vote in a 50-50 tie.

Now Republicans are all giddy because they lead in the polls in six of those tossups. If those leads hold, the GOP would have a 52-48 seat majority in January. However, there are two seats that the GOP holds at present which are in the tossup category and, if I were a Republican strategist, I would be sweating bullets right about now.

Georgia and Kentucky are within the margin of error. In Georgia, businessman David Purdue - who survived a primary runoff against Chamber of Congress-backed Jack Kingston - is ahead 1.7 points over his Democratic opponent, Michelle Nunn, Sam Nunn's daughter. But the last two polls show the race a tie (Rasmussen has Purdue up 6 and Landmark has Nunn ahead by 6). Both polls were taken within the last two weeks. Saxby Chambliss's decision not to run has put this seat in play for the first time since Max Cleland held it.

In Kentucky, Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, is barely ahead of his Democratic challenger, Alison Lundergan Grimes. The latest polling - from June, mind you - has old Mitch up a mere 1.5 points, prompting a Politico piece, titled, "What if Mitch McConnell loses."

Yes, what if, indeed. Imagine the GOP taking four seats away from Democrats and being this close to taking the ball into the end zone, only to fumble at the one (er, two) yard line. As strange as it may seem, Republicans could actually lose two of their own seats this November. And you thought Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock hurt.

But that might not be the only obstacle that stands in the way of the GOP taking the Senate. In Iowa, for example, a state that RCP puts in the GOP column for November, an NBC News/Marist poll taken only two weeks ago shows the race tied. Quinnipiac has Democrat Bruce Braley in front 6 points. Even Rasmussen shows Republican Joni Ernst holding a slim 1 point lead. This race is far from settled.

The same can be said for Alaska, Louisiana and Arkansas, where incumbent Democrats are trailing their Republican opponents but are all within the margins of error. In North Carolina, Kay Hagen has been ahead of her Republican challenger, Thom Tillis, for the last two months. Public Policy Polling has her ahead by 3 points.

My guess is we probably won't get a handle on where these races will end up until a month before the election. It's usually around that time that polling starts to makes sense. Even then, it wouldn't surprise me if we had a surprise or two in November. If House Republicans actually move forward with an impeachment proceeding against Barack Obama, that could have a devastating impact on GOP prospects for Senate control.

Then there's the real issue that nobody seems to be willing to talk about. Regardless of who prevails in November, will anything actually change come January? My guess is probably not. Think about it, if the GOP did actually gain a majority in the Senate, they still wouldn't be able to pass anything. That's because Democrats would filibuster any legislation they didn't like, just like Republicans are now doing as the minority party. And even if, by some small miracle, the GOP got a bill passed both Houses, all Obama would have to do is veto it. Republicans would not have the votes to override him.

So, in other words, we seem to be spending an awful lot of time focusing on what amounts to ostensibly bragging rights, if you could even call it bragging. Truth is no matter what happens this November, it will have little, if any, impact on what goes on in Washington for at least the next two years.

2016, anyone?

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