Six Months to Go: A Look at the Electoral Vote and Senate

We are slightly more than six months away from the general election where we will decide who our next President will be and whether Republicans can take control of the Senate. The following analysis of the battle for the Senate is based on recent polling information which I then modify based on the trends and the reliability of the polling data. Obviously, some polling services have better predictive value than others, so I essentially weight differing polls based on their past demonstrated accuracy. The same method is used for the Presidential race on a state-by-state basis. In order for the GOP to take control of the Senate, they must successfully defend all their seats and win four seats currently occupied by Democrats.

First, looking at incumbent Democrats running for reelection, it would appear that the following incumbent Democratic Senators will win in these states: Washington (Cantwell), California (Feinstein), Minnesota (Klobuchar), Michigan (Stabenow), Ohio (Brown), Pennsylvania (Casey), Florida (Nelson), Delaware (Carper), Maryland (Cardin), New Jersey (Menendez), New York (Gillibrand), Vermont (Sanders), West Virginia (Manchin) and Rhode Island (Whitehouse). Incumbent Republicans who will win reelection hail from Utah (Hatch?), Wyoming (Barrasso), Mississippi (Wicker) and Tennessee (Corker).

Next, we turn to the open Democratic seats. In New Mexico, it would appear that Martin Heinrich will keep this seat in Democratic hands. In Wisconsin, Herb Kohl is retiring. The most recent polling data indicate that a Baldwin-Thompson race would be close with Thompson winning. In a Baldwin-Neumann match-up, Baldwin comes out the winner. Although this race, like that in Indiana, is the subject of much debate over who should be the GOP nominee, lets just assume that Thompson gets the nod. In that case, Republicans pick up a seat. They will also very likely pick up seats in Nebraska and North Dakota thus giving the GOP three seats. In Virginia, in what should be a very close race, current polling (of which there is a large database) indicates a win for George Allen over Tim Kaine, thus giving Republicans their 4th seat. It would also appear that Democrats will retain open seats in Connecticut and Hawaii.

However, there are six Republican seats that need mentioning. First, in Nevada, Dean Heller should defeat Berkley keeping the seat in Republican hands. John Kyl’s seat in Arizona should also remain in the GOP column with a victory by Jeff Flake while whoever emerges as the candidate for the GOP for Kay Bailey Hutchison’s seat in Texas will also win. The same will hold true in Indiana whether the Republican nominee is Lugar or Mourdock. Olympia Snowe’s retirement in Maine has thrown a monkey wrench into the whole thing as it would appear that an independent will win that seat, but will caucus with the Democrats. Hence, Republicans lose a seat. And although it should be a close race, I am predicting that Scott Brown will prevail over Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts.

That then leaves two targets for the GOP to flip a state to the GOP column- the seats of Claire McCaskill in Missouri and John Tester in Montana. A challenger against McCaskill has not been decided yet, but because all three bona fide challengers (Steelman, Akin and Brunner) lead McCaskill in polls, it would appear that this seat will fall to the Republicans. Likewise, Denny Rehberg looks as if he will take down Tester in Montana. The net gain for the Republicans will be five seats and control of the Senate.

Turning to the Presidential election, based on polling data from 36 states (the other 14 are reliably red or blue), I have Obama at 268 electoral votes to 191 for Romney with 79 in the toss-up category. Unlike other sites like RCP, I see fewer toss-up states AT THIS POINT. For example, they place Colorado and Nevada in this category (I give them to Obama) along with Arizona (I give it to Romney). I realize that many here believe that Michigan and Wisconsin are in play- and they may very well come into play as the campaign progresses- but right now, Iowa is a more realistic state to look at although I also give it to Obama.

The toss-up states are Ohio, Florida, Virginia, North Carolina and New Hampshire. If Obama wins any of these states, he will be President (unless one of these midwestern or mountain states come into play). Come election night, we may know fairly early on where the election’s results are headed as the initial results start to come in from Virginia and North Carolina. If Romney wins these states, then it may foretell results in Florida, Ohio and New Hampshire. However, as many have mentioned here and elsewhere, Ohio may be the key. Simply, neither Romney nor Obama is exactly the right choice for that state. Unfortunately, they cannot vote for “none of the above.” They can, however, stay home and not vote so getting out the conservative vote if for no other reason than to cast a vote AGAINST Obama will be vitally important.

A special note: some have argued that perhaps Pennsylvania, Indiana and Missouri are in play. It is true that Indiana swung to Obama in 2008, but that was by a bare margin. In fact, Indiana is fairly reliable red state which is why I stated that this time around, whoever wins the nomination for the Senate (Lugar or Mourdock) they will likely defeat Donnelly in the general election. I just personally believe the task would be easier with Lugar (but that is for the voters of Indiana to decide). I fully understand the reasons Lugar is so disliked on these pages and it may very well be that it is time for a relic to be retired. However, unlike a lot of posters here, I am fully prepared to support Mourdock should he win the nomination/primary, but I am not so sure the Mourdock supporters would do likewise should Lugar prevail. Some people believe Missouri may be in play because McCain barely won this state in 2008. That was then and this is now. The voters of the great state of Missouri have seen Obama in action and they will hand this state to Romney in 2012. And while it may be true that Obama may not be particularly well-liked in Pennsylvania right now, he still holds a lead over Romney. However, if Romney can make inroads with voters in the Philadelphia suburbs, it can make that state more interesting come Election Day. Still, I think it more realistic to give Obama their 20 electoral votes at this point.

It would appear that Romney has his work cut out for him. Just putting states like Colorado (possible), Iowa (somewhat likely) or Nevada (not likely) into play could change the whole dynamic and make must wins in the east and south less a necessity. Colorado, Nevada and Iowa carry 21 electoral votes which is three more than Ohio’s 18 electoral votes.

Final note: I still thoroughly believe that a stronger GOP candidate than Romney would have swung states like Virginia, North Carolina and Ohio to likely GOP pick-ups. However, that not being the case, it is vitally important, given the stakes involved with the possibility of another four years of Obama, that we all support Romney.