Monday, August 30, 2010

What should the GOP strategy for the Senate be?

News of a poll - twittered by Tim Montgomery of ConservativeHome fame - which gave the Republicans a 10 point national lead over the Democrats has got me thinking. The 51-41 result would almost certainly wipe out the Presidents party majority in the House, but how close are they to losing the Senate as well? A bit of number crunching has helped.

This is a bumper year of contests including a couple of Special Elections to fill vacancies left both those who resigned to serve in the Obama administration. However the numbers in the Senate without these contest shows the ease by which the Democrats should hold firm; without a vote being cast there are:

Democrats 41
Republicans 21

These elections are from the class of '04, who saw their elections clash with that of President George W Bush. Hence most of the seats up for election are, in fact, Republican held.

Added to these numbers there are 11 very safe Republican states or candidates up for election - either in their solid Southern heartland (Alabama, Georgia Kansas), the Mid-West (Idaho, Iowa, Missouri, Utah) or where the candidate means they will win (Arizona, New Hampshire - plus North Dakota and Ohio). That puts the numbers at democrats 41, Republicans 32.

Let's assume that the Democrats themselves do not make progress - but there are States where the Republicans cannot take victory for granted. In Alaska, Florida, Kentucky, North Carolina & South Dakota their winning majority was less than 5% of the vote. In Oklahoma & South Carolina it was less than 10%. Assuming these States stay red, then the Senate is Democrat 41, Republican 39. Getting closer.

Now the fun states. Scott Brown, Special election winner from Massachusetts is up for re-election. He overturned the late, great Ted Kennedy's 39% margin to win that seat last year. The smart money is on him holiday on. We also have Louisiana where the Republican margin was greatly inflated by having 2 Democratic candidates on the ballot paper. This time with just one the GOP margin falls to just 8%, although you'd still put the mortgage on them holding on. Senate now Democrat 41, Republican 41.

Onto Pennsylvania - the seat of defector Arlen Spectre who quit the Republicans to join the Democrats. His margin of victory was 11% as a republican. He lost the Democratic primary and his replacement looks unlikely to repeat his success. In fact this State is likely to join the "safe R" column. That leaves us as Republican 42, Democrat 41 - without a single toss-up contest being decided.

We've had the safe Republican berths, so what about the Dems? Well, you'd be surprised if any of the following seats were in play (number refers to D winning margin) - Connecticut (34%) , Delaware (29), Hawaii (55), Illinois (42), Maryland (31), New York (2 seats - 47 and 36), Vermont (46). That's 8 seats, without breaking sweat. Senate now Democrat 49, Republican 42.

So the Democrats need just one of the following swing States for half and two for a majority. Four States and they wouldn't have to rely on the votes of Independent members.

Some States are surely lost - it's hard to see the Dems holding on in Colorado (5%) or even Arkansas (11), Washington (12) or Wisconsin (11). That would be Democrat 49, Republican 46.

What's left? the winning margin in West Virginia was 31%, in Oreagon 32%, Nevada 26% and Indiana 24%. All of those should be in play given the latest polls. And that leaves California - which despite a relatively low 20% margin is so solidly Democratic it couldn't be any other way ... could it?

So the chances of the Reps taking the Senate are very very low but only because of the electoral cycle they face. But the result could be squeaky bum time for the Pres and still leave him hanging by the votes of a few independent members.

UPDATE: Rasmussen, the respected US pollster also has the figures of D49, R46 with 5 toss-ups (I didn't look - honest) but disagrees about which states. West Virgina it thinks is OK for the Dems despite the Reps whittling the poll lead down to just 6%. It also thinks Delaware is heading for a GOP victory. It's toss-up seats are Colorado, Illinois, California, Nevada and Wisconsin. For what its worth if the Reps don't take Colorado they're in trouble - but if the Dems don't take California or Delaware the same is true!

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