Meh, I don’t believe it. And yes, I remember that the GOP left Senate seats on the table even in the magical wave year of 2010, nominating Christine O’Donnell instead of Mike Castle in Delaware and sending Sharron Angle into battle against Harry Reid in Nevada.
Catherine Cortez Masto isn’t Harry Reid, though. At a moment when inflation is the highest it’s been in 40 years, Biden’s approval rating is well below 40 percent, and Hispanics are shifting towards the GOP, I’m supposed to believe she’s going to overcome all of that and hold onto her Senate seat? She’s polling at 44 percent!
Yet she’s slightly favored over Adam Laxalt in two respected Senate forecasts out today, a key reason why each is forecasting that Dems will hold the Senate. Decision Desk HQ has them as a nearly 57 percent favorite to retain a majority:
That’s … a lot of movement towards Democrats over the past month, a timeframe that coincides almost perfectly with Roe being overturned. DDHQ sees Cortez Masto winning in Nevada, Raphael Warnock and Mark Kelly holding their seats in Georgia and Arizona, respectively, and John Fetterman dispatching Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania.
Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight site makes Herschel Walker a very slight favorite over Warnock but gives Dems a 51 percent chance of holding the Senate notwithstanding that result. They too like Cortez Masto, Kelly, and Fetterman to win. And they’ve also seen movement towards Democrats lately.
In some ways more interesting is the "Classic" version of our model, which doesn't use expert ratings like the default version ("Deluxe") does. That's shown pretty linear improvement for Democrats. https://t.co/ImBoBkGHdD pic.twitter.com/BhfBRiKliY
— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) July 27, 2022
What gives? It’s not just the Dobbs ruling, Silver notes, as Dems’ chances began ticking up even before the decision was handed down on June 24. His reasons: “Gas prices are down. Trump is back in the news because of the Jan. 6 hearings and for other reasons. COVID deaths remain toward the lower end since the pandemic began. Wacky GOP candidates are winning primaries.” Of those four, the first is probably the most important. Gas prices have dropped more than 50 cents on average in the past month, a metric of improvement that practically every voter is made aware of daily.
But GOP wackiness shouldn’t be underestimated. Herschel Walker, possibly the greatest athletic hero in the history of Georgia, is running five points behind Brian Kemp:
NEW AJC poll in GEORGIA:
— Josh Kraushaar (@JoshKraushaar) July 27, 2022
A figure as beloved as Walker should be a heavy favorite in a year when his party is expecting major gains nationally in the House, but he has a problem. He’s “glaringly unfit” for office, in the words of John McWhorter, who finds Walker’s inability to converse insightfully on policy issues so distressing that he views his nomination as a sort of tokenism by Republican voters. “It’s hard to imagine Republicans backing a white candidate so profoundly and shamelessly unsuited for the role. It presents a double standard that manifests as a brutal lack of respect for all voters, Black voters in particular,” he wrote a few weeks ago.
Warnock’s campaign keeps pressing Walker for a series of debates, believing that an extended Q&A in front of Georgia’s voters will bring the public around to McWhorter’s view of the Republican’s fitness. Walker is game — sort of…
Herschel Walker is asked why he hasn’t agreed to debate Sen Warnock: “First of all, Sen Warnock has nothing else to talk about .. I’ve told him many times, I’m ready to debate him anytime, any day, I just want to make it for the fans, not about a political party or some media.” pic.twitter.com/2on6kQ4NWf
— Ron Filipkowski 🇺🇦 (@RonFilipkowski) July 27, 2022
…but Republicans in the Senate are less enthused:
As Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) sees it, Democrats are pushing for the former NFL star to debate their incumbent in Georgia’s hotly contested Senate race because “they feel like that’s an advantage for their side. And I don’t think Herschel Walker should do anything that gives his opponent an advantage.”…
“We’ve got some strong candidates. Some that, I think, are less strong,” said Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah). “Let’s just say Herschel Walker, I think, is having a hard time getting his running legs back.”…
[O]ne Republican operative involved in Senate races said behind the scenes that, earlier this summer, “there was almost existential concern” about the Walker campaign. This Republican, who spoke candidly on condition of anonymity, said there’s still time for a course correction but that “if the election were today, he would not win.”
The fact that he’s trailing Warnock despite having high name recognition is evidence that some Georgia swing voters are, at a minimum, reserving judgment and yet to be convinced that he’ll contribute meaningfully if they send him to the Senate.
Walker is just one candidate, though. If the GOP fails to gain a Senate majority in November, nominating figures like Mehmet Oz and Blake Masters will also have contributed to the failure. Oz is a man without a natural constituency, too squishy for MAGA and too kooky for establishmentarians, and someone whom Team Fetterman continues to treat as an object of ridicule:
NJ's own @StevieVanZandt 🎸 has a VERY special message for Dr. Oz!!
So Dr. Oz just fuhgeddaboudit! pic.twitter.com/awlAeVcUeg
— John Fetterman (@JohnFetterman) July 27, 2022
Oz isn’t a political radical or incapable of discussing the issues, he just doesn’t excite his base the way Fetterman does his own. As for Masters, if this is the sort of ad his Republican primary opponents are running against him, I can’t imagine what Dems will do if he wins the primary:
Devastating new campaign ad against Trump-endorsed AZ Senate candidate Blake Masters by his primary opponent that has Junior furious this morning. pic.twitter.com/24fuZIHJSV
— Ron Filipkowski 🇺🇦 (@RonFilipkowski) June 6, 2022
What do Walker, Oz, and Masters have in common? They’ve all been endorsed by Trump. If any or all of them end up losing this fall and Democrats keep control of the Senate as a result, that’ll make two cycles in a row in which Trump helped ensure that Biden’s party controls the upper chamber. You might hear about that from Ron DeSantis on the primary campaign trail in 2024.
Related exit question: Why are small-dollar donations to Republicans dropping off lately, at a moment in the campaign when we would expect them to be ramping up? If the answer is “inflation,” why have Democrats’ small donors kept up the pace? Is Trump hoovering up all of the available small money via his Super PAC, leaving GOP candidates downballot to fend for themselves?