With the midterm election less than a week away on November 4, there is more uncertainty of what the Senate results will be than in any recent election. While every election night holds surprises (remember Eric Cantor?), next Tuesday night we may be in store for several surprises and upsets.
The races that are most competitive with a week to go are the Republican held seats in Kansas, Kentucky and Georgia and the Democrat held seats in Arkansas, Louisiana, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Iowa, Michigan, Colorado and Alaska.
So, let's rub the crystal ball and see what emerges....
A couple of assumptions: First, let's assume Republicans win South Dakota, Montana and West Virginia, giving them three pickups. Republicans have held consistent double digit leads in all three seats for months. Also, we can safely assume that Louisiana will go to a run off on December 6th and in that scenario is considered a toss-up.
With KY, KS and GA in the air, but MT, SD and WV likely additions, Republicans start with a 45 seat foundation.
With MI, LA, NC, NH, CO, AR, AK, and IA in the air, Democrats start with a foundation of 44 seats.
Republicans need to get to 51 for a majority because at 50-50, Vice President Joe Biden is the tie-breaker on behalf of Democrats.
Polling averages in many of these races have been fairly consistent for the last month, indicating that the races have settled a bit. While all are very close (within the margin of error in most cases) the stability of the leader hasn't shifted in over a month in many of these.
Republicans have held a consistent lead in Kentucky, Arkansas, Iowa, Alaska and Colorado.
Democrats have held steady leads in North Carolina, Michigan and New Hampshire.
The three wild cards are Kansas, Georgia and Louisiana. Louisiana, as we have said, is likely to go to a runoff which will be held December 6. Increasingly, a runoff is also the most likely scenario in Georgia, but this one held January 6. Kansas is the other real toss up and is complicated by the fact that Republican Pat Roberts isn't running against a Democrat, he's running against an Independent, Greg Orman, who hasn't said if he would caucus with Republicans or Democrats, but has hinted that he will work with whoever is in the majority. (Just to make it more fun, remember that Maine Independent Angus King has ALSO said he reserves the right to switch and caucus with Republicans if they take the majority).
If current polling trends hold steady for another week and predict who will win each state (a BIG "if"), then Republicans would hold KY and pick up CO, IA, AR and AK, Democrats would hold NH, MI and NC. KS and GA are both tied. That puts Republicans at 50 seats with three in the air. In a 50-50 tie, Democrats would retain control with Vice President Biden as the tie-breaking vote when needed.
So, understanding that there will be at least one and probably two races outstanding, and possibly two Senators who could caucus with either party, what are the various scenarios and how likely are we to see each on the morning of November 5th?
Democrats Hold the Senate:
Democrats holding the Senate is the least likely scenario. It would mean that Republicans won no more than two of the following: MI, NH, NC, CO, AR, AK, IA and/or lost seats in Georgia or Kentucky (or Orman wins Kansas and immediately announces as a Democrat). Given the consistent polling advantage Republican candidates enjoy a week before the election, this is an unlikely scenario.
Republicans Win the Senate:
For Republicans to know on November 5th that they will be in the majority in the Senate in the next Congress is more likely than Democrats knowing that THEY will be in the majority, but still not certain. For this to happen, with Louisiana still out, would mean that Republicans won three or more of the races listed above AND swept GA, KY and KS. With Republicans leading in polls in AR, CO, IA and AK, the first part of that equation is possible, but the second part is deicer. A possible scenario is Roberts wins Kansas, GA and LA go to runoffs. In this case, Republicans would have 51 and be in the majority regardless of the outcome of Georgia or Louisiana runoffs.
Majority Control is Unclear:
An equally likely scenario is that we still won't know who will control the Senate on the morning after the election. If current polling holds through Election Day, Republicans would hold KY and pick up CO, IA, AR and AK, Democrats would hold NH, MI and NC. KS and GA are both tied and LA is already headed to a runoff. That puts Republicans at 50 seats and Democrats would retain control with Vice President Biden as the tie-breaking vote when needed.
The permutations of which party Orman (and King) would caucus with, the results of runoffs, if any state switches from one side to the other in current polling (remember that ALL of these races are still within the margin of error) then we are in for an unpredictable Election Night where anything is possible the next morning.
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