FiveThirtyEight: GOP now has a better than 50% chance of retaking Senate

Not that long ago, ( last July, to be precise) Nate Silver was still calling the 2014 Senate race as effectively being a toss-up. But this week the self-proclaimed prognosticator of prognosticators has revised his estimate and moved the Republicans into a possibly, maybe, just by the skin of your teeth favorite for all of you political betters.

Our new forecast goes a half-step further: We think the Republicans are now slight favorites to win at least six seats and capture the chamber. The Democrats’ position has deteriorated somewhat since last summer, with President Obama’s approval ratings down to 42 or 43 percent from an average of about 45 percent before. Furthermore, as compared with 2010 or 2012, the GOP has done a better job of recruiting credible candidates, with some exceptions.

As always, we encourage you to read this analysis with some caution. Republicans have great opportunities in a number of states, but only in West Virginia, South Dakota, Montana and Arkansas do we rate the races as clearly leaning their way.

Follow the link for the chart showing the full breakdown and the percentages for each, but not too many of these should come as a big surprise. As Nate notes in the intro, he’s got Walsh’s seat in Montana as a relatively solid takeaway for the GOP, along with the newly opening seats in South Dakota and West Virginia. The other two Dem seats Nate lists for a switch are Pryor and Landrieu (no surprises there either) with Kay Hagan in North Carolina coming in at a 50-50 split but moving in the GOP’s direction.

Some of the more interesting picks are that he’s got McConnell hanging on fairly safely in Kentucky and Georgia’s open seat staying in the red column. I suppose if I was going to quibble with any of them, the most likely debate would be over Alaska. Nate has Begich running as a ten point favorite, which sounds a bit on the generous side. He’s also very nearly ruling out a Republican win in Michigan by the same margin. I wouldn’t call either of those a dead lock for the GOP, but they also don’t look nearly that far out of reach.

Then again, you have to give credit where credit is due. Silver has racked up quite the record at playing these numbers, so I won’t make the mistake of completely discounting him again. But it’s very early in the year, with many a slip twixt the cup and lip between now and November. A 51 seat majority wouldn’t be bad, but a 54 seat margin would look a lot better.

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