Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Midterm Stretch Drive

It's coming down to the wire for the 2014 midterms. Two months to go till we find out who gets control of the Senate in 2015. If you've heard me say it's too close to call before, that's because it is and has been for some time. And yet, despite what appears to be a favorable political environment - Obama's low approval ratings, general voter unrest - the GOP is having one helluva time closing the deal. Four races - two in red states and two in purple - will decide the outcome.

Let's start with the bad news for Democrats: West Virginia, Montana and South Dakota, barring a miracle from above - are going to flip into the R column. And, though it pains me to say it, Mitch McConnell looks like he's going to beat Alison Lundergan Grimes. He's been leading consistently now for months and all the polls show him ahead between 4 and 5 points. Take away the one poll in June that had Grimes ahead and this race wouldn't even be in the toss-up category. And while Michelle Nunn has made up considerable ground in Georgia of late, David Perdue is still the odds-on favorite to keep that seat red. It looks like Democratic hopes of picking off a Republican seat will have to wait until 2016.

The good news for Democrats is that they will likely hold Alaska, Colorado and Michigan. All of them are considered toss-up states and all are on the GOP hit list. In other races where Democrats are heavy favorites, there appear to be no unpleasant surprises on the horizon.  Illinois, Minnesota, Oregon, New Jersey and Virginia will remain blue. And, despite an outlier poll that shows Scott Brown closing the gap in New Hampshire, Jeanne Shaheen is still the likely favorite to win that state.

So, let's talk about the fab four. In North Carolina, things are looking up for Kay Hagan. Though she still trails Thom Tillis by a mere one point, the last two polls show her ahead. I have maintained throughout that, of the four races, Hagan had the best chance of surviving hers. That's because the Tar Heel state has a far greater share of Democrats than the other three states.  In Iowa, Bruce Braley and Joni Ernst are virtually deadlocked. The last three polls - one of them by Rasmussen - show the race tied. Like North Carolina, this state is crucial for Democrats. If they lose it, they will probably lose the Senate.

And now we come to the two red states: Louisiana and Arkansas. I won't mince words here. The fact that Mary Landrieu and Mark Pryor are still alive, much less within striking distance of winning these two races, should be sending chills up and down the spine of every Republican pollster. The RCP average has Landrieu trailing by only one point, but you'll never guess who has her ahead (and by 3 points no less): Rasmussen. When Rasmussen has a Democrat ahead in a red state, that's news. And Pryor, who only a couple of weeks ago looked like toast, is only behind 1.7 points. That very same conservative pollster shows him ahead by one.

Hmm, so what's happening? Why, with only two months to go, are Democrats still mathematically alive in a races that they should, by all accounts, be dead and buried in? If I told you going in that the party holding 55 seats was going to lose three of them right off the bat and was defending another 13 - some in enemy terrain - you'd have bet the ranch that at least four more would fold. Hell, I'm a progressive and I would've bet the ranch on that. A midterm election with a hostile base ready to pounce and the other base, well let's just be polite and say, unmotivated, there's no way in hell the minority party could lose. Right?

Well, it looks like hell just might be freezing over yet again for the GOP. Another golden opportunity is staring them right in the face and, like the last two elections, that opportunity could go by the boards. Why? Michael Tomasky thinks he knows why.

Even for those who don’t blame Obama for Washington’s paralysis, the mere fact of the dysfunction—the dismal relentlessness of it, the realization that it will not change—has led most people to throw in the towel to one extent or another. As for the fear, well, it’s still present, of course, and it may yet exist at a level of intensity great enough to give Republicans a Senate majority. But it could also be that the Republicans have scorched so much earth these past six years that it’s finally starting to singe their own boot heels. Thus, the Democrats’ best hope for November: that enough voters in enough key states are sicker of the Republicans than of them.

Put succinctly, even the slowest people eventually figure out that it was John Belushi who yelled food fight in the first place. You can only say "no" so many times before it catches up with you. You just can't keep harping on what you're against; sooner or later you have to start saying what you're for. And saying you're for America is NOT enough. My father is for America. So what?

Going into this election, the prevailing logic was that if the GOP could just field candidates who didn't shoot themselves in the foot like Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock, they would cruise to an easy win come November. As David Frum is fond of saying, it isn't the message, it's the messenger.

Don't look now, but I'm thinking that maybe it's the message too.

1 comment:

Prof. Walter Jameson said...

Sir:

Let's cut through all the crap here and get down to some real world predictions that didn't come from a Georgetown cocktail party, okay?

The current configuration of the Senate is 55 - 45, Democratic majority (incl. 2 Ind. who caucus with Dems.). The Republicans will likely keep (or pick up) the following: Montana, Kansas, Georgia, West Virginia, Kentucky and South Dakota. As it stands now, it appears that there are about five toss-ups: Louisiana, Arkansas, North Carolina, Iowa and Alaska. Taking all of this into consideration, the Senate configuration now looks like this: 48 - 47 Republican.

Now let's look at those toss-ups. I predict that the Republicans will grab Louisiana, Arkansas and Alaska. This one will be a lot tougher, but I also predict that they will get North Carolina. I believe that the Democrats will keep Iowa. So, out of the toss-ups I believe that the Republicans will gain four seats. The net configuration of the new Senate will be: 52 - 48, Republican majority.

I can certainly go into all of my reasoning on how I arrived at this conclusion, but it would take up too much space here. Gee, I wonder what Michael Tomasky would think about all of this. Then again, I couldn't care less - and neither should you.

Thank you for the opportunity to respond.