T Minus 1: GOP Has Clear Path to Senate Majority

T Minus 1: GOP Has Clear Path to Senate Majority

On Tuesday, voters across the country will go to the polls for this last national election of the “Obama Era.” What began with a bang six years ago and talk of a permanent Democrat majority will end with a whimper. The GOP is certain to solidify its enormous recent gains at the state level and extend its majority in the House. It is also increasingly likely that Republicans finally will take control of the Senate and end Harry Reid’s tenure as Majority Leader. 

One doesn’t have to read the polls to see that the Republicans have the clear edge this election. One simply has to look at the websites of the 3 major networks. In the last 5 days, NBC News has published 7 stories on the unrest in Burkina Faso (its in Africa) and just 6 stories on the 2014 Midterms, two of which were about the growing political power of Asian-American voters. ABC News currently has one story on the elections, a guide to getting election results. CBS News has two stories. 

The near news blackout from the major television networks is the clearest sign that Democrats expect a terrible day on Tuesday. A rundown of the competitive states show the races moving in the GOP’s direction. 

Republicans need a net-gain of 6 seats to take control of the Senate. Certain victories Tuesday in Montana, South Dakota and West Virginia get them half-way to a majority. In Arkansas, GOP candidate Tom Cotton has led every non-partisan poll in October with the most recent poll, from left-leaning PPP, showing him with an 8 point lead. His likely win gets the GOP to 4 seats. 

Republicans are in command of races in Iowa and Colorado. The final Des Moines Register poll of the Iowa Senate race finds Republican Joni Ernst with a 7 point lead over Democrat Bruce Braley. In Colorado, Republican Cory Gardner has a slimmer lead, but his opponent, Dem Sen. Mark Udall has been behind in almost every poll throughout October and has never registered more than 45% of the vote. Winning these two states would yield Republicans the 6 seats they need for control. 

Republican Dan Sullivan is favored to defeat Democrat Sen. Mark Begich in Alaska. While polling in the state is difficult, Sullivan has consistently led Begich in surveys. Republicans are also favored to eventually capture Sen. Mary Landrieu’s seat in Louisiana. Tuesday’s voting features a crowded field of candidates, the top two of whom would go to a runoff in December if no candidate reaches 50%. Landrieu is likely to survive Tuesday but is at a serious disadvantage in a runoff, especially if the Senate majority is already determined by other states. These two races would give the Republicans an 8 seat gain in the Senate. 

Races in New Hampshire and North Carolina are pure toss-ups on the eve of voting. Republicans Scott Brown in New Hampshire and Thom Tillis in North Carolina are tied with their Democrat opponents, Sens. Jean Shaheen and Kay Hagan. Republicans do not need these victories to take majority, but wins would help insulate the party for the competitive 2016 campaigns. These are even-money bets to extend Republican gains to 10 seats. 

The GOP has had to play limited defense this election cycle. In Kentucky, left-wing activists relished defeated GOP Leader Mitch McConnell, but he is heavily favored to win his reelection. In Georgia, Democrats nominated yet another offspring of a popular Democrat former politician to contest the open Republican seat. The Republican candidate, David Perdue, made enough missteps on the campaign trail to possibly push the race into a run-off in January, but is expected to ultimately prevail. 

In Kansas, the Republicans are suffering the fallout of a political “own goal.” Democrats withdrew from the race against long-time incumbent Sen. Pat Roberts after national Republicans waged a nasty primary fight against a conservative opponent. Roberts won the primary, but opened a path for a spirited challenge from Independent Greg Orman. Without a Democrat on the ballot, the race has become a referendum on Roberts, who doesn’t have a residence in the state he has represented for decades. He will likely win, but the outcome of the race has no bearing on the national outcome. 

Surveying the overall landscape, Republicans seem certain to take control of the Senate. The only real question is how big of a majority they will enjoy. The other question is which other states could have been competitive. The Republicans ended up contesting a very narrow band of states, leaving other potentially vulnerable Democrat incumbents with a free ride this election. Republicans will likely lose some surprising states by only narrow margins on Tuesday raising the specter of what might have been. 

Of course, if you are NBC News, the question on your mind Wednesday will be how many more Burkina Faso stories can we cover?