Just last month the Democrats were in high spirits, seeing not only an easy glide path to the White House but a definite shot at retaking the Senate majority and perhaps even the House. Focusing on the upper chamber for a moment, The Hill examines just what it would take for the Dems to boot Mitch McConnell out of the Majority Leader’s office. Given the turbulent nature of this election cycle I wouldn’t rule out anything at this point, but there are a few races worth watching.
At the top of the list (of course) is Illinois Senator Mark Kirk.
Kirk’s seat is most likely to turn blue this cycle. President Obama won the state by double-digits in 2008 and 2012. He faces a formidable challenge from Democratic Rep. Tammy Duckworth.
Kirk has tried to capitalize on the workplace retaliation lawsuit against Duckworth when she served as head of the state’s Department of Veteran Affairs, but it has failed to gain steam and the GOP senator, known for making gaffes, is catching flak for calling Obama a “drug dealer in chief” in regards to the $400 million payment to Iran.
Kirk has famously thrown Donald Trump under the bus, assuming that he would be the major drag on the ticket in his home state. Larry Sabato is still listing the race as “Likely Democrat” at this point, but with Trump closing the gap these days it’s possible that Kirk will benefit from that even if he’s not in the presidential nominee’s corner. The last polling on the race is a bit stale but showed Duckworth up by seven. The nearly 20% undecided still leaves room for Kirk to pull it out, though.
The other races being viewed by The Hill as likely to change hands belong to Ron Johnson in Wisconsin, Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire and Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania, along with the open seat in Indiana. In order for the Democrats to retake the majority they would have to win all of the first four if Tim Kaine is the Vice President or also pick up Indiana if Trump pulls out a win. That’s a tall order, particularly since Toomey should be very hard to beat, even if the state goes for Clinton at the top of the ticket. The biggest question mark on that list looks like Indiana, however. With Dan Coats retiring and former Senator Evan Bayh suddenly back in the race, the Democrats have a real shot there.
As with all prognostication, we can’t rule anything out, but the law of averages has to be taken into consideration. For at least four of those races the Republicans could wind up in real trouble, it’s true. But all of them? Going five out of five in a tightly contested season is a lot to ask, particularly with Ron Johnson included in the mix. I won’t say it’s impossible for the Senate to flip at this point, but if I were the Democrats I wouldn’t start ordering new carpets for the Majority Leader’s office just yet.