Tuesday, June 24, 2008

It could be worse

Stuart Rothenberg's assessment of Republican prospects in this year's Senate races is less gloomy than I would have expected:
[I]t's . . . possible that all the talk about Democratic Senate opportunities is just a bit over-hyped, and that Democrats will have a good year, not a great one. . . .
Democrats continue to be well-positioned to take over three GOP-held seats: open seats in Virginia and New Mexico, and Sen. John Sununu's seat in New Hampshire. . ..
In sum, developments in two states, Minnesota and Maine, should have Republicans optimistic, while Democrats have reasons to be happy about some longer-shot races, as well as their top takeover opportunities.
At this point, according to Rothenberg, it seems likely that Republicans (who currently hold 49 Senate seats) will lose at least three seats, putting them at 46. Democratic challenges to Norm Coleman (R-MN) and Susan Collins (R-ME) appear to be faltering. And while Rothenberg sees good prospects for the Democrats in Colorado, Alaska and North Carolina, those are all still competitive seats, which Republicans at least stand a chance of holding. Meanwhile, Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu is vulnerable in Louisiana.

There are many bad indicators for Senate Republicans, who have by far the most incumbents up for re-election (23 GOP vs. 12 Democrat incumbents). Combine the clear anti-incumbent signals -- the low congressional approval rating and the 79% "wrong track" number -- with the Democrats' double-digit edge in the "generic ballot," and Republicans certainly have cause to worry this November. Yet as the individual races have shaped up so far, there is no evidence that the worst-case scenario is materializing.

Given the lack of a "bounce" by Barack Obama since the end of his primary battle against Hillary Clinton, it looks as if some independent voters disenchanted with the GOP may be having doubts about the Democrats' readiness to lead. If Obama should stumble -- and, as arguably the least-experienced major-party presidential candidate since Jimmy Carter, an Obama meltdown remains a real possibility -- that might cause a reverse-coattails situation that could drag down some otherwise promising Democratic Senate challengers, leaving the GOP relatively unscathed, with 46 or even 47 seats.

Don't mistake this for optimism. Things still look bad, but they could be much worse.

UPDATE: Thanks to the anonymous commenter who pointed out that there aren't 23 GOP incumbents facing re-election. Rather, there are 18 Republican incumbents seeking re-election and 5 other open seats currently held by Republicans (who are retiring).

1 comment:

  1. Hi Stacy. I got here by accident, and when I saw your statement that in the Senate there are 23 GOP incumbents up for re-election, I had to laugh. I had to laugh because it's completely contrary to fact. (Try 18.) The thing is, there are a lot of members who see which way this thing is going, and they're bailing. Going home to Mama. Oh, also it's funny because it shows that you're more than a bit challenged when it comes to separating fact from fantasy. Anyway, have a great day. I'm going back to the packy to get some more champagne. I've been stocking up for the big celebration this November when the Dems totally wipe the floor with your GOP pals, and Obama is declared the victor in the contest to be 44.