The Washington, DC punditocracy was awash this week with The Word. The Word was: The "wave" that has been expected to wash over the nation in favor of the GOP does not appear to be building as we approach the two-months-to-go mark toward the November 4 mid-term elections. Especially not in the campaigns for the U.S. Senate.
As those of you who have followed my predictions over the years know: I stink at it. I used to say I was as likely to be correct as incorrect and so you couldn't bet with, or against, me and expect to make any money.
Here's a tip: Bet against me.
Nevertheless. As the August recess draws to a close, and the traditional election season begins post-Labor Day, let's take a look at what others think might happen later this Fall.
We know that we are going into this election with the Democrats having a 10 seat advantage in the Senate 55-45. That means that the GOP has to win a net six seats to take control of the U.S. Senate. If they win a net five - meaning a tie at 50-50 - Vice President Joe Biden will make the difference and Senator Harry Reid (D-Nev) will be able to organize the Senate. Professor Larry Sabato at the University of Virginia's Center for Politics confidently predicts that the GOP will win between four and eight seats this Fall. That would mean they will have between 49 and 53 seats going into next January. That is like saying it is possible it will rain this weekend, but maybe not. Actually, to be fair to Prof. Sabato, his latest prediction is:
"A Republican Senate gain of four-to-eight seats, with a GOP Senate pickup of six-to-seven seats the likeliest outcome."
That would be enough for Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) to become Majority Leader assuming he wins his own race for re-election.
The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza who oversees a column called "The Fix" wrote earlier this week under the headline: "All of the election models are starting to converge. And they are all pointing to a Republican Senate." Cillizza puts the odds of a GOP takeover at 58 percent. Not a wave, but that means the Democrats have only a 42 percent chance of keeping control. There is little debate that the GOP will win at least three seats right now: West Virginia, South Dakota (which even Harry Reid has declared lost to the Ds) and Montana. That leaves (assuming no surprise losses in GOP-held seats) only three to go for the Rs.
Not surprisingly, Fox News' Carl Cameron along with co-writer Jason Donner declared earlier this week that "Democrats who once felt the party would retain their majority are now worried the GOP's momentum could cost them even more than the six seats necessary for Republicans to retake control." Cameron quotes Democratic strategist Joe Trippi as saying:
"We all thought four were in the bag [for Republicans], but right now, it's looking like the bottom end of that scale isn't four anymore, it's five or six."
The other GOP wins might come from some combination of Louisiana, Alaska, Arkansas, North Carolina, Iowa, Colorado and - believe it or not - New Hampshire. A WMUR-University of New Hampshire poll last week set the press on Martha's Vineyard a-shutter when it showed former Massachusetts Republican Sen. Scott Brown had pulled to within 2 points of incumbent Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen there. We'll wait for other polls to be completed to see if that one was a real reflection of the current state of the state of New Hampshire or not. The New York Times, hardly a mouthpiece for the Republican National Committee, published its Senate forecast this week and you could almost hear the tearing of hair in the newsroom as they were forced to write:
"According to our statistical election-forecasting machine, the Republicans have a moderate edge, with about a 68% chance of gaining a majority."I can't help but think that if the data showed the Democrats' chances of holding on the majority were at 68 percent, the Times would proclaim that something more than a "moderate edge." The Times' bell curve shows the most likely outcome to be between +6 and +7 (51 or 52 seats) for Republicans when the dust clears. Assuming any of this is correct, analysts' proclamation that this will not be a "wave election" might be correct. But, as we move through the back stretch the tide certainly appears to be moving in the direction of the GOP.