Cook Political Report: 2012 U.S. Senate Outcome Still Up In The Air

From Charlie Cook at NationalJournal:

A year and a half ago, it looked like Republicans had a 65 to 70 percent chance of capturing the Senate. The 23 Democratic seats up for grabs, compared with just 10 for Republicans, offered the GOP many opportunities for gains, particularly in states that Democrats had captured from Republicans in 2006. Jennifer Duffy, senior Senate editor of The Cook Political Report, now argues that the range of possible Senate outcomes goes from Republicans picking up two or three seats to actually losing a seat or two.

For the most part, the deterioration of the Senate outlook is unrelated to Romney’s problems at the top of the ticket, and it comes despite a strong effort by the National Republican Senatorial Committee. But there’s no denying that things are not looking so good for the red team in the Senate. Arguably, Republicans now have a chance against only one of the four most vulnerable Democratic Senate incumbents, with GOP Rep. Denny Rehberg now running even with Jon Tester in Montana. Republican prospects to unseat Democrats Claire McCaskill in MissouriBill Nelson in Florida, and Sherrod Brown in Ohio are remote, at best. Top-tier recruits in open seats in Hawaii and New Mexico have not caught on despite strong campaign efforts, further undercutting GOP chances of securing a Senate majority. Two moderate Democrats running for open Senate seats in very Republican states are doing unexpectedly well: Democratic former state Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp is locked in a tight race in North Dakota with GOP Rep. Rick Berg, while Democratic Rep. Joe Donnelly is in an equally close contest with Republican state Treasurer Richard Mourdock in Indiana. Republicans were heavily favored to win both seats early on; now both races are very tight.

Duffy points to the last time this class of Senate seats was up, in 2006: Then, three Senate seats and control of the chamber were settled by 60,665 votes spread among three states, Missouri, Montana, and Virginia. Of the 10 Senate races that The Cook Political Report rates as toss-ups, six are now in Democratic hands and four are in GOP hands. The range of possible outcomes is very wide.

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