posted at 8:41 pm on September 15, 2010 by Dafydd ab Hugh
I still think it’s going to be very, very difficult for Christine O’Donnell, the GOP nominee for U.S. senator from Delaware, to win the general election there. Not impossible, but a lot less likely than, say, Joe Miller’s chances in Alaska (which are excellent).
It’s not just the 10-point deficit — which will probably instantly drop to about a 5-point deficit, now that she’s the nominee. The problem is the problematical nature of the problem-child herself: Christine O’Donnell is simply a lousy candidate; she only won in the primary because Tea Partiers wanted another scalp, and they didn’t care about the long term consequences (where “long term” in this case means “49 days from yesterday”).
She can’t answer simple policy questions, she has a history of financial flakiness, she has no experience in office, and she seems a bit, well, loopy. As we get closer to November 2nd, I believe her manifest unfitness for the job will cause the gap against her to widen, not shrink, as her primary-victory bump recedes; she’ll end up losing to Democrat Chris Coons by about 7 or 8 points.
But honestly, I don’t see what all the hysterics are about. Until recently, I didn’t believe Republicans had a chance in a million of picking up ten Senate seats this year — which is what it takes for the GOP to seize the majority. But now, I think we have an excellent chance — with or without Delaware.
Here are the 19 Democratic seats up for election this year::
|State||Candidate||RCP polling category|
|Arkansas||Blanche Lincoln (incumbent)||Safe Republican|
|California||Barbara Boxer (incumbent)||Toss-up|
|Colorado||Michael Bennet (incumbent)||Toss-up|
|Connecticut||Richard Blumenthal||Lean Democrat|
|Delaware||Chris Coons||Likely Democrat|
|Hawaii||Daniel Inouye (incumbent)||Safe Democrat|
|Indiana||Brad Ellsworth||Likely Republican|
|Maryland||Barbara Mikulski (incumbent)||Safe Democrat|
|Nevada||Harry Reid (incumbent)||Toss-up|
|New York||Chuck Schumer (incumbent)||Safe Democrat|
|New York (special)||Kirsten Gillibrand (appointed)||Likely Democrat|
|North Dakota||Tracy Potter||Safe Republican|
|Oregon||Ron Wyden (incumbent)||Likely Democrat|
|Pennsylvania||Joe Sestak||Lean Republican|
|Vermont||Pat Leahy (incumbent)||Safe Democrat|
|Washington||Patty Murray (incumbent)||Toss-up|
|West Virginia||Joe Manchin||Lean Democrat|
|Wisconsin||Russell Feingold (incumbent)||Toss-up|
We assume Republicans will pick up all seats labeled Safe Republican, Likely Republican, Lean Republican, and Toss-up. There are no seats currently held by the GOP that fall in the categories of Toss-up, Lean Democrat, Likely Democrat, or Safe Democrat; thus, we assume Republicans will hold all their current Senate seates. Thus, we should have a net pickup of ten from the low-hanging fruit alone… and note that does not include a pickup in Delaware, which RCP now rates as “Likely Democrat.”
But in a strong GOP year like this one, we should pick up at least half of the “Lean Democrat” seats; that gives us an additional seat from either West Virginia or Connecticut, for a net pickup of 11 for Republicans.
Finally, there are three “Likely Democrat” seats; I’d bet that with a Cat-5 Republican hurricane, we can even pick up one of those, choosing from Delaware, Oregon, or the New York special election (to fill the seat currently occupied by Kirsten Gillibrand, appointed to Hillary Clinton’s seat after the latter became Secretary of State). That means a net pickup of 12 seats for the GOP… just based on current polling. (And I expect the polling to get even better for the Republicans by election time, since Democrats seem intent upon alienating as many voters as humanly possible.)
I allocate all the “Safe Democrat” seats to the Democrats.
That means, when the smoke clears, I predict the GOP will hold 53 seats in the U.S. Senate, while Democrats (and third-party groupies) will hold but 47. On a good day, we hold the other “Lean Democrat” and maybe a couple of the “Likely Democrat” seats for a majority of 55 Repubs to 45 Dems. If the day breaks badly for the GOP, we capture only the Republican-leaning and toss-up seats for a scant majority of 51 Repubs to 49 Dems.
But were we to fail even to achieve a majority, that almost certainly means we lose several of the toss-ups, as well as all the Democrat-leaning races. Under those distressing conditions, we’ll probably lose half the toss-ups, thus ending up with a net pickup of only seven, for a total of 48 Repubs to 52 Dems… still enough to sustain a filibuster but not enough to hail Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY, 96%).
The odds that we would pick up exactly nine Democratic Senate seats, such that Christine O’Donnell’s victory yesterday would actually cost us the majority, seem remote to say the least: Either we’ll easily surpass 10, or else we’ll fall significantly short of that mark.
So let’s all buck up, support O’Donnell (as the National Republican Senatorial Committee is now doing, with the maximum contribution allowed by law), and understand that a GOP majority in the Senate is not going to hinge on Delaware, come what may.
Cross-posted on Big Lizards…
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