October 26, 2012 How the Republicans could win the Senate with ease
Conventional wisdom now seems to be that the Republicans would have to get very lucky to win the Senate. But it seems to me that the Republicans might outperform the polls, for two reasons. First, Senate polls generally reveal a higher “undecided” vote than Presidential polls, which means the electorate is more volatile. Second, in recent elections, straight-ticket voting has become more and more common, so much so that otherwise weak candidates get elected just by being Republicans. For example, in 2008 only six red states elected Democrats to the Senate. In two of them, the Dem had nominal opposition (Montana and Arkansas) and in a third (Alaska) the Republican nominee was convicted of a felony a week before the election. (My sense is that voters in D states are more willing to split their tickets- see, e.g. Scott Brown, who I still think will lose but is definitely running way ahead of Romney).
So, for example, Romney appears to be leading in Florida. Given the pattern of straight ticket voting it seems to me quite conceivable that Romney’s coattails could carry Connie Mack to victory over Bill Nelson. (Yes, I realize Nelson is ahead by a few points in every poll- but he is way below 50 percent, so if most of those undecideds vote for Romney they will probably vote for Mack too).
So let’s assume that: (1) Romney carries all the tossup states where at least one recent poll shows him ahead (Iowa, Colorado, Fla, NH, NC, Va – but not Ohio or Michigan, where the most favorable polls show him tied with Obama), and (2) all the states Romney carries vote Republican for President other than Missouri (given Todd Akin’s many miscues). This means the Republicans pick up not just Nebraska and North Dakota,but also Virginia, Montana and Florida. So (assuming Republicans lose Maine and Mass.) that’s a 50-50 Senate .* In addition, there are a few more states with close Senate races where Obama has a narrow lead: Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Wisconsin.** If Romney gains just enough support to tip those states and their Senate races, the Republicans are up to 53 seats (54 if Romney’s coattails drag Akin to victory in Mo.)
*I am assuming that the Republicans hold Nevada even if Obama wins that state, where Sen. Heller has a pretty clear pattern of leading in almost every poll and the Democrat has ethics issues.
**I actually think the Republicans could win the Wisconsin seat even if Obama wins the Senate. The Democrat, Tammy Baldwin is gay, and if there is a significant number of Obama voters who simply won’t vote for a gay candidate (and perhaps won’t admit it to pollsters) that could tip the balance to Republican Tommy Thompson.