As the battle for control of the Senate comes down to the wire, the major forecasts are edging in the direction of increased likelihood of GOP control of the Upper Chamber. At this point, the path for Democrats to hold their Senate majority is very narrow indeed.
Yesterday, I published an interview with the architect of the Democratic strategy, in which he was very realistic about the challenges they face.
I also asked Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee executive director Guy Cecil this question: If Democrats do end up holding 50 seats — which would appear to be their only plausible way to keep the majority — what is the most likely path to get there? He replied:
“New Hampshire, Colorado, Iowa, and North Carolina are the closest things to purple states that we have. Those states obviously get you to 49 seats. The 50th or 51st state is a jump-ball between a host of states. We’ve seen a lot of progress in Georgia over the last couple of weeks. We’ve seen independents in Kentucky start to move towards Alison Grimes. We’ve seen the race in Alaska start to re-close again. We have a host of states that could be the majority-making states. But clearly, the basis of that is also being successful in the purple states that are competitive at this point in the cycle.“
In other words, with Democrats narrowly favored in New Hampshire and North Carolina, the route to 50 seats will probably also require Democratic wins in Colorado and Iowa at the outset, followed by a surprise pickup elsewhere. This is not impossible. But it’s difficult. Democrats are trailing in both states, albeit narrowly. Any hopes of making up those deficits will turn on whether they can, through brute voter mobilization in the remaining five days, bring in enough unenthusiastic voters, and people who didn’t vote in 2010, to enlarge the electorate beyond what is showing up in the likely voter pools in most surveys.
How is that effort going? Much has been made of the fact that in Iowa, Republicans have outperformed in the early vote. That is true. But would those early Republican voters have voted anyway? And at the same time, are Democrats bringing in voters who wouldn’t have voted otherwise? If the answer to both of those is Yes, than the possibility remains that the electorate will end up larger than the polls suggest, potentially helping Democrats.
Cecil insists this is what the DSCC model shows is happening in Iowa. Most of the GOP early voting there, Cecil told me, “was built off of people who were already regular voters in midterm elections. A disproportionate number of the Democrats were people who did not vote regularly in midterm elections, which is where most of our focus has been.”
Nate Cohn has a deep dive along these lines into the early voting numbers, and concludes they “look good for Democrats.” Though Republicans have kept it close in the raw early voting spread in Iowa, Cohn notes that Democrats are “showing a lead among people who didn’t vote in 2010, 40 to 29 percent.” In Colorado, Cohn writes, Republicans are leading in the raw early voting spread, but “23 percent of those who have voted so far this time did not participate in 2010, and, so far, they are less Republican than those who voted in 2010.” However, even those voters are still more likely to be Republican than Democratic. But Dems could still turn that around with the help of all-mail balloting.
Of course, even if Democrats do win Colorado and Iowa, they’d still then need to win one of the runoffs in either Georgia or Louisiana, or win Kansas or Kentucky, or pull off a surprise in Alaska or even Arkansas. It is very plausible that Democrats could win one out of Colorado or Iowa. But then they’d need two of the aforementioned six, which is getting very hard indeed. And if they lose both Colorado and Iowa — which could very well happen — they’d need three of those six. And that seems borderline impossible.
* DEAD HEAT IN IOWA: A new Reuters/Ipsos poll finds Bruce Braley and Joni Ernst dead even at 45-45 among likely voters in Iowa. As the Ipsos pollster puts it: “because of the lack of incumbency and because of the closeness of the polls, I genuinely find it too close to call.”
That notion is consistent with the HuffPo average putting Ernst up by 1.9 points and the FiveThirtyEight forecast putting her up 1.2 points. Depending on how voter mobilization goes, this race could still go either way.
* ERNST PUMMELED FOR DODGING EDIT BOARDS: Meanwhile, Bruce Braley’s campaign is circulating video of the latest local network newscast hitting Ernst for turning down multiple invitations to sit down with Iowa editorial boards. As the reporter notes, Ernst did, however, find time for an interview yesterday with Fox News. It’s hard to know how much this will matter in the end, but Democrats hope it will continue to resonate as the final undecided voters make up their minds.
* McCONNELL LEADS IN KENTUCKY: The final Bluegrass poll finds Mitch McConnell now leading Alison Lundergan Grimes by 48-43 among likely Kentucky voters, up from a two-point lead in the last Bluegrass poll. That’s right in line with the average, which shows McConnell up five.
One tidbit from the Bluegrass poll: Only 39 percent say Grimes should have revealed whether she voted for Obama, while 62 percent said she shouldn’t have or didn’t care. Even if Grimes loses, Beltway commentators got it all wrong about the importance of that.
* ECONOMY IS GROWING, BUT DEMS ARE LOSING ANYWAY: Bloomberg News has a good piece outlining a key disconnect in this election: Even though the economy is recovering, the party in power is not benefiting from it. The reason? Despite growth, wages have stagnated. This is instructive:
The Republican Party…has blocked Obama’s proposals to boost worker pay such as increasing the minimum wage, extending unemployment insurance and spending more on the infrastructure to stimulate the economy. Economists say those proposals would help raise living standards and speed up the recovery…The lingering dissatisfaction is largely stoked by weak wages…hostility toward Obama is the centerpiece of the Republican election campaign.
And there you have it.
* BOGUS NARRATIVES ABOUT DEMOCRATS AND LATINOS: Aaron Blake has a terrific piece blowing up the narrative of the moment: That Democrats are suddenly tanking badly with Latinos in the wake of Obama’s delay of deportation relief. As Blake notes, new polling shows Latinos are not that angry about the delay, after all, and declining approval of Obama among Latinos tracks largely with that of the rest of the population.
I would add that this whole narrative is also short-sighted, because if Obama does something reasonably ambitious later, then it may restore the dynamic that has been solidifying all year, in which Democrats are the pro-immigration party and Republicans are the unwelcoming one.
* REPUBLICANS RAIL AT COMING ACTION ON DEPORTATION: Matt Fuller has a good piece outlining the Republican take on Obama’s coming executive action to ease deportations: It will absolutely devastate Democratic chances in 2016. That’s a strange view, given that Obama is not running in 2016, that the Latino share of the vote is only going to go up in the key presidential swing states, and that Republican opposition to this action locks them into a place where they are perpetually advocating for ever more deportations.
* AND REPUBLICANS WANT YOU TO KNOW THEY AREN’T SCIENTISTS: Coral Davenport tallies up all the Republicans who have recently offered a similar answer when pressed about climate change: I’m not a scientist. When viewed in one place, the totality of it is striking. Note this:
For now, “I’m not a scientist” is what one party adviser calls “a temporary Band-Aid” — a way to avoid being called a climate change denier but also to sidestep a dilemma. The reality of campaigning is that a politician who acknowledges that burning coal and oil contributes to global warming must offer a solution, which most policy experts say should be taxing or regulating carbon pollution and increasing government spending on alternative energy. But those ideas are anathema to influential conservative donors like the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch.
This is a very clever way out of this dilemma, isn’t it? Of course, Republican lawmakers could instead choose to take their cues from scientists and policy experts. Just a thought.