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February 27, 2014

An Illustration of the Rapidly Declining Prospects for the Democrats in the U.S. Senate

Warning- wide margins.


The Changing Senate Picture.png

At top, the forecast from December as published over at The Federalist. At bottom, the picture as things stand today.

The news out of Colorado just piled onto the Democrats' existing problems. Everyone expected that the Republicans would target the seats in the seven states that voted for Romney: Montana, South Dakota, Arkansas, West Virginia, North Carolina, Louisiana and Alaska. They are, and they outright lead in 6 out of the 7 (Alaska, the sole exception, is likely the artifact of sparse polling). Democrats' chances of retaining the chamber remained over 50/50 when the map was limited to just that- Republicans would need to sweep 6 out of 7 targets, and their recent track record of actual wins versus contested races didn't inspire much confidence in that.

But now, not only is the GOP favored in the initial round of states, they are (at least for now) in the driver's seat in Michigan, making a big, serious play for Colorado, and depending on how they sort things out, are at least semi-serious about New Hampshire and Iowa. The larger the map grows, the tougher it is for the Democrats to keep the Senate.

There comes a point, really, where triage will begin if this map holds or even worsens. It would begin in the states even the Democrats admit are becoming tough holds: West Virginia, Montana, South Dakota. They will try to protect as many incumbents as possible, but if any start approaching Blanche Lincoln territory, it is doubtful the Democrats will pour good money in after bad.

Triaging races would likely do more harm than good: every conceded race brings the Republicans a seat closer to a majority. Firewalls work when the map remains small. This is why what happened yesterday is so important- the shake up in the GOP side for Udall's seat makes that race a top priority, adding to an ever-growing list of legitimate targets. An enemy with a wound can slink off. One with a half-dozen or more will be dead on the field barring a dramatic rescue.

The one-two punch of vulnerable incumbents and numerous vacancies is something the Republicans are familiar with: in 2006 and 2008, they were left defending incumbents in places like Rhode Island, Oregon, Minnesota; and desperately trying to save vacated seats in then-swing states like Colorado, New Mexico, and Virginia. This year has the potential to equal that two-cycle collapse in one disastrous election.

Of course, the election is still eight months out. That's plenty of time for the GOP to destroy itself, or for the economy to spontaneously roar back to life, or for President Obama to send fifty-pound packages of bacon to every household in America. But right now, things look bad for the Democrats, and they have the potential to get much, much worse.

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posted by CAC at 09:09 PM

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