By Dr. Lee M. Miringoff
As Margo Channing (aka Bette Davis) in the 1950 award winning All About Eve, snarled, “Fasten your Seat Belts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.” The Democrats may not be into classics but, in this era of change, election night may indeed be one for the ages.
Right now, you’d be hard-pressed to find a pundit who thinks the Democrats are likely to hold the House. But, what about the Senate? Here, things are more complicated. So, let me offer my estimates for the likely body count for the upper chamber.
Let’s start with the base numbers. The Democrats currently have 57 seats, plus two independents, for a total of 59. That means the GOP must pick up a net 10 seats to take control. (The tie goes to the Democrats with VP Biden as the tie-breaker). Acquiring a ten-spot is no small potatoes but seems to be more in reach as Election Day nears than at any other time this fall.
First off, the Democrats’ hope of offsetting losses elsewhere by picking up a seat currently held by the GOP (Missouri, Kentucky, New Hampshire) doesn’t seem to be materializing.
Now, the GOP starts off with a quick two-spot with Democrats retiring in Indiana (Bayh) and North Dakota (Dorgan). And, trouble is brewing for many incumbent Democrats trying to hold on against the potential Republican tidal wave.
Democrats in trouble are in Arkansas (Lincoln) and Wisconsin (Feingold). That would the net GOP gain to +4.
There is a group of toss-up states including California (Boxer), Colorado (Bennett, the Salazar seat), Illinois (Giannoulias, the Burris/Obama seat), Nevada (Reid), Pennsylvania (Sestak) (the Specter seat), Washington State (Murray), and West Virginia (Manchin, the Byrd seat). The Republicans would have to win six of these seats to bring the total to +10. With the exception of West Virginia, these were all Obama friendly states in 2008.
If this election is about a sleepy Democratic base, then the best thing the Democrats have going for them, as they try to salvage this fall’s election, is the fracturing of the GOP. The tea party giveth and the tea party taketh away. In this instance, Delaware (Coons, the Kaufman/ Biden seat) once a likely steal for the GOP is now solidly in the Democratic column thanks to Palin look-alike Christine O’Donnell. And, in Connecticut, the Democrat Blumenthal (the Dodd seat) seems to be holding off a strong challenge from tea party supported Linda McMahon.
The bottom line: In this election cycle, voters are clearly saying “no” to politics as usual, but they also are questioning politics of the very unusual.
So, the odds still favor the Democrats holding the Senate, even if there margin is slim. In fact, the GOP goal of achieving a ten seat pickup has only happened twice in many decades, 1958 and 1980.