The Washington Post

Republicans have a better than 80 percent chance of winning the Senate

Our friends at the Monkey Cage blog have run their Senate model again. And the results are eye-popping.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. walks onto the stage holding a rifle before speaking at the Conservative Political Action Committee annual conference at National Harbor, Md., Thursday, March 6, 2014. Thursday marks the first day of the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, which brings together prospective presidential candidates, conservative opinion leaders and tea party activists from coast to coast. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Here's the key paragraph (Bold in the original):

As we have begun to incorporate candidate experience into the model, our initial sense is this: Republicans may have a far better chance of winning control of the Senate than we or other analysts previously thought. Here is a preliminary estimate: The GOP could have as much as a 4 in 5 chance of controlling the chamber.

The main reason for the shift toward Republicans in the Monkey Cage model is that the party has been able to recruit a handful of quality candidates in races -- Virginia, Colorado and New Hampshire to name three -- that were previously non-competitive. As the Monkey Cage's John Sides notes, recruiting -- especially this late in an election cycle -- is heavily dependent on what the political environment looks like.

Here's Sides: "Better candidates emerge when conditions in the country favor their party. As political scientists Gary Jacobson and Samuel Kernell have argued, strong candidates run when they have a better chance of winning. And in 2014 — as in most midterm election years — the playing field is tilted away from the president’s party. So we should see good Republican candidates emerging."

And, we have.  There are now a dozen Democratic seats -- 14 if you include Oregon and Minnesota where if a specific candidate wins upcoming GOP primaries the race could become competitive -- that are genuinely contested, meaning there is a real candidate with a serious consulting team actively and successfully raising money.  And there are only two Republican seats -- Kentucky and Georgia -- that appear to be in any danger at all.

According to Sides, the most likely outcome is Democrats controlling between 46 and 49 seats; "in nearly one-third of simulations, Democrats control 48 or 49 seats, suggesting that if future events break in their favor — for example, President Obama becomes more popular — their chances of controlling a narrow majority could improve," concludes Sides.

Electoral models are, of course, not the gospel truth. (One reason we like Sides and his work so much is that he grasps and acknowledges this.)  But, the Monkey Cage model backs up the ratings changes we've seen from independent political handicappers and the reporting from the ground, all of which suggests Republicans are on the march.

Chris Cillizza writes “The Fix,” a politics blog for the Washington Post. He also covers the White House.



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