A status quo election? Could be.

October 26, 2012

What if, after all the hubbub over the 2012 election and the billions spent on it, Americans voted for basically no change whatsoever?

What if President Obama won reelection, Democrats were unable to put much of a dent in the GOP's big House majority, and Republicans failed to win back the Senate?

It's an increasingly real possibility. 

We've known for a while that the presidency is very competitive, but more and more it's looking like the battles for the House and Senate majorities might not be.

On the Senate side, Republican candidates in Missouri and Indiana have jeopardized seats with their comments about rape and pregnancy, and in Massachusetts, Democrat Elizabeth Warren now appears to have the edge on Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.). All three states are integral for the GOP's majority chances.

Instead, with Brown's seat moving from "toss-up" to "lean Democratic" on The Fix's rankings on Thursday, Republicans would now need to win all six Senate races we currently rate as "toss-ups" just to gain a 50-50 split in the chamber.

And if they won just half of those toss-ups, the Senate would remain exactly as it is right now, with 53 seats held by Democrats and 47 held by Republicans.

On the House side, The Fix currently rates 226 seats as favoring Republicans and 182 as favoring Democrats. If the two sides split our 26 "toss-up" races down the middle, it would lead to a net gain of just three seats for Democrats.

In other words, at this point, if all "toss-up" races were split evenly, the Senate and the House would return with essentially the same majorities that we have in the current Congress.

It wasn't supposed to be this way; Senate Republicans appeared to have a great opportunity to win that chamber early this cycle, while House Democrats seemed destined to win back a good chunk of seats after Republicans won their biggest House majority in six decades in 2010.

But in both cases, the majority party has steadily built on its offensive opportunities and made the majority math much tougher for the other side. House Republicans added seven likely pickups thanks to redistricting changes and a series of Democratic retirements in conservative Southern districts. And Senate Democrats benefited from the retirement of Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), Sen. Richard Lugar's (R-Ind.) primary loss to Richard Mourdock, and the Democrats' ability to be more competitive than expected for Lugar's seat and for other open seats in Arizona and North Dakota.

None of this, we emphasize, is to say that Republicans won't win the Senate or Democrats can't win the House. In fact, for both chambers' minorities, there is lots of upside if things go well on Election Day.

Beyond the "toss-up" races, Senate Republicans have at least a shot at 10 other seats that "lean Democratic," including in swing states like Florida and Ohio and in a surprisingly competitive race against Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.). If they can somehow win a few of those 10 states, they would almost surely win the majority.

Similarly, beyond the House races rated as "toss-ups" are 19 seats rated as "lean Republican." If House Democrats can pick off half of them, they would win a majority too.

In both chambers, the minority party has the advantage of having lots of seats at stake, but the disadvantage of a good chunk of them being their own.

Which means that, after three straight "wave" elections, it's very possible that 2012 could be a status quo election.

Sununu suggests Powell backed Obama because of race: Former New Hampshire governor and White House chief of staff John Sununu, a top surrogate for Mitt Romney, suggested Thursday that Colin Powell is supporting President Obama's reelection because both men are black.

Asked on CNN about Powell's endorsement (he backed Obama in 2008 as well), Sununu suggested there was something else at work besides policy. Asked to clarify, he did so in his characteristically blunt manner.

"Well, I think when you have somebody of your own race that you’re proud of being President of the United States, I applaud Colin for standing with him," Sununu said.

Romney outraises Obama in pre-election report: The last fundraising reports before the election were released Thursday, and Romney has regained his edge.

Romney's campaign announced it raised $111.8 million for itself and the Republican National Committee between Oct. 1 and Oct. 17, while Obama's campaign announced it raised $90.5 million for itself and the Democratic National Committee.

Obama had narrowly outraised Romney in August and September after Romney dominated in the middle part of the year.

So far this year, Romney has outraised the incumbent president $784 million to $764 million.

Mourdock says controversy helping him win: Richard Mourdock says he gained voters after his controversial comment about rape and pregnancy.

Asked whether he might have gained votes, the Indiana Senate hopeful said: "I know we did."

"It's an interesting thing that, up until the other night, this issue has not been discussed at all in the campaign trail," Mourdock said before an event Thursday. "That's why I'm absolutely confident that it's going to pass very, very quickly. We're going to win this race."

Meanwhile, former RNC chairman Haley Barbour said he thinks "what (Mourdock) said was kinda crazy" and that he doesn't agree with it.

Fixbits:

New NBC News/Marist College polls show Romney and Obama deadlocked in Colorado, while in Nevada, Obama is at 50 percent and Romney is at 47 percent.

Sheldon Adelson gave the top pro-Romney super PAC, Restore Our Future, another $10 million this month.

Obama suggests Paul Ryan's fondness for Ayn Rand is juvenile.

Gary Johnson's Libertarian campaign for president has significantly more debt than cash right now.

Now or Never PAC is spending $1 million to help Rep. Jeff Flake (R) in the Arizona Senate race. And it has also announced a $410,000 buy against Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.).

Flake's opponent, Richard Carmona (D) is running a new ad featuring kind words that Republican Sens. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) have said about him. Kyl and McCain, who have endorsed Flake, repudiated the ad.

The DCCC outraised the NRCC in the first 17 days of October.

Must-reads:

"Obama and the Road Ahead" -- Douglas Brinkley, Rolling Stone

"4 years after Obama’s breakthrough, few black pols on the ballot for major offices" -- Mary C. Curtis, NBC News

"Judge to release Romney testimony from Staples founder’s divorce trial" -- Carol D. Leonnig, Washington Post

"Crucial Subset: Female Voters Still Deciding" -- Katharine Q. Seelye, New York Times

"Political Newspaper Endorsements: History and Outcome" -- Micah Cohen, New York Times

"Running for Gabrielle Giffords’s House seat is not Martha McSally’s first challenge" -- Ann Gerhart, Washington Post

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix.
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Aaron Blake · October 25, 2012