Most Likely Republican Gains (four seats needed for majority)
1) Nebraska-This election is over. Deb Fisher is destroying former governor and senator Bob Kerrey for the open seat. This year I wouldn’t be surprised if she wins by 20 points.
2) Wisconsin-Tommy Thompson should defeat arch-liberal Tammy Baldwin by at least 8 points. Of the four Democratic seats that should fall to the GOP, this is really the only state that is going to be contested on the Presidential level but that should not affect the Senate race.
3) North Dakota-Rick Berg should beat the popular former attorney general of North Dakota, Heidi Heitkamp in a year in which Mitt Romney should carry the state by 12-18 points. Even though Dakotans have been splitting tickets for years, Heitkamp’s support of Obamacare in a state almost uniformly opposed to the mandate should be enough for Berg to ascend the Senate. Berg wins by 7.
4) Montana-Democratic Senator Jon Tester is keeping it close but he’s got some tough disadvantages in the Big Sky State. He barely won in the heavily Democratic year 2006 and he’ll have a hard time in a state that should go to Mitt Romney by about 15 points. His opponent, Denny Rehberg, is a popular Republican who is universally known and will hammer Tester, who was elected as a “conservative Democrat” on his support of all of the President’s initiatives. While I predict it will be reasonably close, I believe Rehberg will win by 6 points.
Most Likely Democratic Gains:
1) Maine-Former Governor Angus King is running as an Independent but he’ll end up caucusing with the Democrats. While Republican Charlie Summers is keeping it close enough to watch King should win the three-way race by 8 points.
2) Massachusetts-Republican Scott Brown should win this race against the terrible liberal Democratic candidate Elizabeth Warren, he’s going to have to win in the face of a possible 25 point Obama win on the top of the ticket in the Bay State. I think he will (actually I believe he’ll win by 5, 52-47) but any little thing can change this race.
3) Nevada-Dean Heller was appointed to replace ethically challenged John Ensign and is now running for a regular six-year term. Congresswoman Shelley Berkley from Las Vegas is running about 5 points behind and has had some significant ethical challenges and Heller should win even if Obama wins the state his coattails won’t extend to Berkley.
4) Indiana-It is possible but not probable that the Dems can pick up this open seat but Mitt Romney is going to run away with the state and Democratic farther down the ticket will suffer.
True Toss Ups: (Tonight I’m simply going to list them and I’ll describe them in a later post)
3) Connecticut * (A new addition from “leaning Democrat”)
1)Florida * (This has come down from “toss up”)
2)Hawaii (This may be the biggest surprise of the election-more later)
3)Missouri *(The now infamous Todd Akin has taken this seat from a probable Republican gain to a Democratic hold)
Possible for Republicans But Not Likely
Conclusions: If anyone ends up having coattails it would be Mitt Romney but he has yet to break ahead of Obama in the polls. The debates should have some effect but it really is too early to see. Many times Senate races are determined in the last two weeks (as most people are watching the Presidential race instead) and I suspect that many (especially in Ohio, Florida, Virginia and Connecticut) will come down to the last couple of days and the GOTV efforts of the respective campaigns.
If the GOP runs the table and wins all of the toss ups they’ll have 53 seats but they could max out at about 56. Then again, if the tied turns against the GOP they may end up at about 49 with the Democrats keeping the Senate and the Presidency. There is almost no chance the Democrats will win the House (in fact I expect them to lose 5 seats) so we could end up with split government again or, if Mitt Romney does win, full GOP control of the two branches.
Ironically, the ten or so people that most need Obama to lose are the vulnerable Democratic Senators who will be up in 2014. If Obama does wins, Senators in Arkansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Oregon, Michigan, South Dakota and Louisiana (just to name a few) will be in deep trouble. I strongly suspect that if Obama does win several of these Democrats will retire instead of facing the prospect of defeat.