Rothenberg: Forecast for Senate seats changing because of White House scandals

Interesting, simply because it cuts against so much conventional wisdom. Many, if not quite all, recent polls suggest that O’s approval rating is hanging tough despite the scandal bombardment, probably because economic optimism is acting as anti-gravity on his numbers. Charlie Cook went so far as to publish a concern-trollish piece today nudging the GOP to back off a bit because no one out there in America much cares. There are two replies to that. One: Even if he’s right, so what? If the reasons for pursuing a scandal go no further than partisan advantage, gonna be an awful lot of uninvestigated scandals out there. Two: It’s early yet, and what matters to the national electorate isn’t always what matters to a swing-state electorate. Stu Rothenberg peers into his crystal ball and sees a reddening:

Our moves are as follows:

West Virginia (Open seat; Sen. Jay Rockefeller, a Democrat, is retiring): From Tossup/Tilt Republican to Lean Republican.

South Dakota (Open seat; Sen. Tim Johnson, a Democrat, is retiring): From Tossup/Tilt Republican to Lean Republican.

Arkansas (Sen. Mark Pryor, a Democrat): From Tossup/Tilt Democrat to Pure Tossup.

Louisiana (Sen. Mary L. Landreiu, a Democrat): From Tossup/Tilt Democrat to Pure Tossup.

Alaska (Sen. Mark Begich, a Democrat): From Lean Democrat to Tossup/Tilt Democrat.

North Carolina (Sen. Kay Hagan, a Democrat): From Lean Democrat to Tossup/Tilt Democrat.

Those shifts aren’t dramatic — I’m frankly amazed he had Arkansas tilting towards Pryor, his votes against gun control notwithstanding — but those six seats going red would mean GOP control of the Senate. More circumstantial evidence via Fox News that things might be changing:


Yeah, granted, that question is over the top in how leading it is, but the GOP’s midterm messaging will be over the top too. Thanks to Scandalmania, even a plurality of Democrats now think there may be something to this idea. The one thing Rothenberg’s pick-six has in common, of course, is that they’re red states, and if ever there was a scandal to get red-state voters motivated to turn out, it’s the IRS scandal. That’s the real potential significance of all this — not that low-information voters will turn en masse against the Democrats because of it, although that potential remains depending upon how high up the malfeasance stretches, but that the Republican base might ride a wave of righteous rage to the polls and swamp Dems again like they did in 2010.

And that’s why you should worry about the GOP using the cover of scandal to make a deal with Democrats on key legislation, most notably immigration reform. The great terror of congressional Republicans is that they’ll pass amnesty, the base will vomit, and no one will show up to vote in November 2014. Scandalmania gives them some insurance on that. No matter how disgusted you may be with Rubio et al. for rolling over, the thought of making The One cry by crushing his dreams of a Democratic Congress for his last two years will be a powerful lure to vote. What I can’t decide, though, is whether the turning political tide is more likely to make the immigration bill better or worse right now. It could become worse simply because Democrats know that Republicans now have a little more room to maneuver in making concessions than they did a month ago. All the more reason for Dems to press hard during the floor debate on their demands; grassroots conservatives are distracted by scandal, so maybe Republicans will be willing to slip in an extra concession or two. On the other hand, if O comes to believe that there’ll be no Democratic Congress in 2015 to rescue him from his present misery, then this is his last best chance to get an immigration deal done. If he presses too hard and the GOP walks, that probably means no further major domestic legislation for the rest of his presidency. By that logic, Democrats should be a bit more yielding to GOP demands. Do what you have to do to get Republicans to sign off on a deal. We’ll see over the next month which theory is correct.