Recent developments in the presidential race only underscore what has become more and more clear for the last couple months. Despite early indications, it seems that the Republican party are not going to win enough seats to take back control of the senate. In fact, they may end up in a situation where they have the exact same number of seats they do now.
Now, it is clear the Republicans are going to pick up Missouri and Nebraska. Those two seats are lost causes. Conversely, the Democrats I believe will pick up Massachusetts. An independent will likely win the currently Republican held seat in Maine but will caucus with the Democrats on procedural votes etc. so we can count that as a Democratic vote. So we are back to the same breakdown of Senators we have now 51+47+2 Independents who caucus with the Democrats.
The Republicans had pinned some of their hopes on North Dakota but Hedi Heitkamp former attorney general is known to the state and very hard to demonize and now she has taken the a slight lead in holding this seat for the Democrats. Ditto for Martin Heinrich in New Mexico whose lead is only growing.
The races in Florida and Virginia still remain tight but the trend now in both races seems to be an ever so slight lead opening up for the Democratic candidates (these are currently both Democrat held seats).
The only races I see at this point in time as true toss-ups are Montana and Wisconsin and even if the Republicans won both (which I think is unlikely) the senate would be 49+49+2 which basically means 51-49 as the two independents would be caucusing with the Democrats.
In addition, Tea Party whacko Richard Mourdock’s win in the Republican primary in Indiana and Arizona’s various controversies (an open seat) may make both of these potential targets for the Democrats. Could they actually increase their majority? We will see.
Granted, this is all subject to change although I think Paul Ryan’s record with elderly voters, his plans for Medicare and Social Security, in addition to hurting Romney and Ryan’s chances in states with large numbers of elderly voters such as Florida might also negatively affect Republican senate candidates in those states as well.
One state where the Republicans thought they might have a chance and where they dumped lots of money is Ohio. Incumbent 1st term Democratic senator Sherrod Brown has a reasonable progressive voting record, certainly much more than you would expect from someone who represents Ohio which on paper is a swing state but is more like a second tier Republican state. However, Brown is unafraid to talk about his record and his beliefs and in a state with a large number of blue collar workers especially hard hit by the endless recession that is respected. No matter what the Republicans have thrown at him, Brown has maintained a steady lead in polls against his challenger so far.
Contrast that with the most endangered Democratic incumbent senator this cycle Claire McCaskill elected the same year as Brown. Granted, Missouri is even more conservative than Ohio but McCaskill has voted with one finger in the wind with no clear cut ideology but her own re-election. She is a supporter of wars and of Wall Street. She has spent much of this election campaign so far running away from her record (in particular her vote for Obamacare) and from President Obama. She is the Blanche Lambert Lincoln of 2012.
In addition, McCaskill ran attack ads while the Republicans were having their primary against Todd Akin, the winner. Why she did this is either because she wanted Akin to be her competitor or she didn’t want him to be her competitor-two different theories. Anyway, Akin, a career politician, a congressman for more than a decade, is a far tougher opponent than the other two in the primary- Sarah Steelman, a Sarah Palin wannabe or John Brunner a multi-millionaire who has never held elected office. This is/was a baffling strategy.
McCaskill could end up being the only incumbent Democratic senator to lose. That should be a lesson.. People respect candidates who state clearly what they are about and don’t try to fudge or runaway from their records even if they don’t necessarily agree with the candidates’ positions.