Here is your own personal briefing on what’s really going on in the Democrats’ attempt to win back the U.S. Senate. Regarding the individual races, a lot of this is information that you won’t find elsewhere.
The Democrats hold 46 of the 100 seats in the Senate. They need to pick up 4 Republican seats if Clinton wins the White House (because VP Kaine will then cast the deciding vote when the Senate ties 50-50), and they need to pick up 5 Republican seats if the Apocalypse arrives. (I’m looking at you, Trump.)
Team Blue expects to win GOP Senate seats in Illinois and Wisconsin. That looks solid in Illinois, but as I mentioned yesterday, Wisconsin is far less certain. The latest two polls have Democrat Russ Feingold winning by one point and by two points, both within the margin of error. (OTOH, the average voter in Green Bay will see 90(!) Feingold ads in the last two weeks, and “only” 21 for his opponent.) If the Democrats win both IL and WI, that takes them to 48. For a majority, they would need two more Senate seats, or three more if flesh melts and the twelve plagues return. There are six Senate races where the polling has been within the margin of error for months. Five of those are GOP seats: New Hampshire, Missouri, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Indiana. One is a Democratic seat: Nevada. Since one of these is Democratic, if Hillary wins, and the Democratic Senate candidates in IL and WI win, then the Democrats need to win three of these six seats to take a majority in the Senate. Here is what’s happening in each of these six Senate races:
New Hampshire: The GOP incumbent, Ayotte, has led in five of the six polls this week, but only by two points. Her campaign is out of cash, and neither the GOP nor the Koch Brothers are beating the drum for her. The Democrat, Hassan, is looking to spend a ridiculous $8 million on TV ads in the last two weeks of the campaign. But Trump is surging in New Hampshire, and the state is extremely polarized. I honestly don’t know whether the GOP has cut its spending because they think Ayotte is going to lose, or because she has it in the bag.
Missouri: The corrupt GOP incumbent, Blunt, may have enlisted every single family member to become a paid lobbyist. That would seem to invite a populist, progressive Democratic challenge, but the Democrat, Kander, probably is the most right-wing Democratic Senate candidate in the country. This race has been extremely close for the last two months, since Kander started running an ad featuring him assembling a rifle blindfolded. (Remember, a neighboring state, Iowa, elected Joni Ernst to the Senate when she ran an ad bragging about her castrating pigs.) However, Romney carried Missouri by ten points just four years ago, so it’s just not blue territory. Most of the money being spent in the last two weeks of the race is from Super PACs, $5 million for the GOP and $2 million for the Dems. The average voter in St. Louis will see 71 GOP ads during that time. Advantage: GOP.
North Carolina: The GOP incumbent, Burr, has been ahead in six of the polls during the last two weeks. His Democratic challenger, Deborah Ross, has been ahead in three. Two polls were tied. Burr and Ross are essentially spending equal amounts of money on TV in the last two weeks, but they have become bit players in this drama, thanks to the national parties and the Super PACs. The Democrats are spending $8 million, and the Republicans (and allies) are spending $13 million. The average voter in Charlotte will see 62 Democratic TV ads and 87 GOP TV ads, in 14 days. If that doesn’t make you want to switch to Netflix, I don’t know what would. Burr seems to have a slight advantage.
Pennsylvania: The GOP incumbent, Toomey, has had a lot of trouble trying to figure out whether he should like Donald Trump or hate him. His Democratic challenger, McGinty, is essentially just hoping for all the Clinton votes, since Clinton has won every Presidential poll in Pennsylvania since June– until yesterday, when a GOP polling firm reported a tie in both the Presidential race and the Senate race. In the final two weeks, the Democrats are being hugely outspent on TV: $12 million for the GOP versus $4 million for the Democrats. The national Democrat Party wasted $4 million on the primary back in April, helping McGinty to defeat Democrat Joe Sestak even though Sestak polled far better against Toomey (and still does, as the Huffington Post reported yesterday). The Democrats sure could use that money now. But if the African-American vote in Philadelphia remains high, as it was for the primary, then McGinty may squeak in.
Indiana: It looks like the Democrats have blown this one. The GOP incumbent is retiring, and the Democrats recruited former Senator Evan Bayh (and his $10 million of “cash on hand”) into the race just before the filing deadline. But Bayh’s cash has evaporated, and the recent revelation that he was auditioning for Wall Street during his last term in the Senate has been something of a turn-off for independent voters. Here again, the GOP is vastly outspending the Democrats on TV in the last two weeks: $7 million for the GOP versus $1.5 million for the Democrats. And, of course, this was red territory to start with. It sure looks like Bayh will lose.
Nevada: In the one Democratic seat out of these six close races, the Democrats are, as usual, being outspent on TV in the last two weeks: $9 million for the GOP versus $6.5 million for the Democrats. But a lot of the Democratic money is candidate money, and candidates (by law) get cheaper TV rates. Thus in Reno, the GOP is spending twice as much, but the Democrats are getting twice the air time. The polling has been all over the place; last week, within 24 hours, one pollster claimed that the Democrat was winning by six points, and another claimed that she was losing by seven. I suspect that heavy Hispanic turnout in Nevada, as reported for early voting, will keep this seat in Democratic hands.
And Florida? Patrick Murphy was doomed the moment that his father reneged on the $10 million pledge that bought Murphy the nomination.
Bottom line: I see 49 seats for the Democrats, but I’m not overly optimistic about 50. I wish that these hand-picked Democratic Senate candidates had run more substantive campaigns, and given the voters solid reasons to vote for them. All around the country, the GOP Senate candidates are preaching the gospel of lower taxes, deregulation, fiscal prudence and small government, while the Democrats are primarily heaping scorn on Donald Trump– with the Presidential race virtually tied.
Except for Russ Feingold, who has run a principled progressive campaign from Day One. And there is no way– absolutely no way– that the Democrats can take back the Senate if Russ Feingold loses. Therefore I ask you, one more time, to contribute to Russ Feingold’s Senate campaign.
When you look around the country, and you see how thoroughly DC party bosses have purged liberal candidates, you realize that a progressive is a terrible thing to waste.
Rep. Alan Grayson
“When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross.” — Sinclair Lewis