With just over 7 weeks until the midterm elections, Republican chances to take control of the Senate have tumbled slightly. Two weeks ago, political handicapper Nate Silver estimated the GOP had a 64% chance of winning a Senate majority. On Tuesday, Silver lowered his estimate to 55%. The landscape still favors the GOP, but the trend-lines are ominous.
On Monday, I noted that the GOP could take the majority by simply winning Senate races in states carried by Mitt Romney. While this would be enough to take control of the Senate, it certainly wouldn’t constitute a Republican wave. It would simply revert the partisan make-up of Congress to the political mean. Republicans would have control, but it wouldn’t have won any new political ground.
In Silver’s analysis, Republicans have increased their chances of victory in Arkansas, but have lost ground in perennial swing states like North Carolina, Iowa and Colorado. It is hard to imagine a more favorable political climate to win these purple states. Republicans have solid, professional candidates. Iowa is an open seat and incumbents in North Carolina and Colorado won their first terms in the Obama wave election in 2008.
Obama’s poll numbers are in the basement. Voters disapprove of his performance on every issue. The economy is, at best, stagnant. Large parts of the world are in flames as a result of America’s disappearance from the world stage. If the GOP can’t win a purple state in these favorable conditions, can it ever?
One GOP problem Silver highlights is the enormous cash disparity enjoyed by Democrat candidate. In North Carolina, for example, incumbent Democrat Sen. Kay Hagen has over $8 million cash in the bank, against her GOP opponent’s $1.5 million. The national campaign arms of the Democrats routinely raise more money then their Republican counter-parts.
Republicans have struggled, in particular, with small-dollar donors. These donations represent the activism of base voters, the life-blood of a party. For a year and a half, Republicans in Washington, abetted by their business allies, assailed conservatives privately and in the press. The party’s campaign arms loudly warned that they would assert themselves in primaries to ensure they had the best candidates to take on Democrats in the general election.
It was forgotten that Republicans had largely accomplished this goal in 2012, with little success. Establishment candidates in Montana, North Dakota, Virginia, Wisconsin and Connecticut all met humiliating defeats.
The issue isn’t really the candidates, but the message the party and its consultants sent in the months after the 2012 elections. Conservatives need not apply. Unfortunately, the Republicans may get their wish.