58 Senate Seats for the GOP?
A substantial number of political prognosticators, including the likes of the highly respected Nate Silver's 538.com blog, give the Republicans a substantial chance of not only picking up senate seats in November, but of getting at least 51 and thus a working majority (50 seats would see a tie with Vice-President Biden giving the Dem's a majority).
Where the seers differ is not only the percentage probability of the Republicans gaining control of the senate, just how many seats the GOP will end up with. This is where the tracking poll sites like Real Clear Politics and Electoral-Vote.com come to the fore.
Their weekly, or even daily, results as to which party is leading in the contestable states varies according to the most recent polls they track but for some considerable time the GOP has been in a majority, or near majority situation.
RCP gives the GOP 52 seats, one above the required number for a majority based on seven pickups. These include South Dakota, West Virginia and Montana, all three of which even the most partisan Democratic Party support sites have given up on. That takes a more or less guaranteed floor for the GOP of 48 seats (from the current 45).
RCP also assigns to the GOP, based on current aggregate polling, Arkansas, Iowa, Louisiana, and North Carolina. These highly contested states see leads of under two points and of course any or all could go to the Dems.
But given the current state of President Obama's approval rating and a general feeling of malaise in the country as well as foreign policy problems, it is just as likely that the GOP will win all four. That brings the total to 52, seven pickups, which is exactly how the RCP sees the current situation.
Electoral-Vote.com, which assigns states based on the latest reputable poll, has a 50-50 tie at present, having Iowa as an exact tie but assigns Alaska to the GOP based on the first post Republican-primary poll. Alaska would be the 53rd seat and, given the states voting history that is a result with a more than strong possibility.
Are there any further realistic possibilities for the Republicans? Yes, absolutely. If we look at the RCP aggregate polling which have Democrats currently in the lead, the leads are such that they are well within reach.
If, for example, President Obama makes a major policy statement on immigration, or some foreign-policy drama unfolds or, as in 2008, there is a significant stock-market correction, then the comparatively small leads can be overturned.
In point of fact, it might not even need some dramatic event, rather a depressed Democratic voter base staying home while an energized Republican base votes in large numbers, as is historically the case in the mid-terms.
Thus Democratic leads of 2.5 in Colorado and 3.8 in Michigan are hardly beyond the bounds of probability. In fact, Electoral-Vote.com assigns Colorado to the GOP as of today based on the most recent polling of the state.
The lead of 6.6 points in New Hampshire does, on the face of it look prohibitive, but remember RCP is an aggregate poll and the latest individual poll shows Republican Scott Brown within only two points. These three would take the GOP to 56 senate seats.
And the two further seats to get to 58? These could come from two senators switching from Dem to GOP.
Again, this is well within the bounds of being possible. Firstly Senator Joe Manchin in West Virginia might see the omens from his state moving solidly into the Republican column in the presidential elections.
He might take further note of West Virginia’s Republican senate candidate Shelley Moore Capito holding a 17-point lead over her Dem opponent and bow to the obvious will of the people and the fact that he is at odds with the Democratic position on coal. That takes the total to 57.
And the 58th seat? Maine's Independent senator Angus King has been the subject of such switching speculation since at least April and has left the door wide open; According to the Washington Post, "Angus King suggests he may caucus with GOP if they retake the senate."
To make this 58th seat more than mere speculation King advised that "I'll make my decision at the time on what I think is best for Maine." There is also the possibility of high-powered Senate committee appointments which might affect the thinking of these gentlemen.
Perhaps it might be for the best for the Republicans-and the country too if the GOP stopped at this maximum result. If two more seats were available and a veto-overriding majority and even an impeachment majority came into play, the results might be sub-optimal for the GOP's 2016 presidential or even congressional results.
Fifty-eight senate seats might see some solid conservative legislation passed, which could signal to the country that in 2016 a Republican senate majority would be worth continuing with in what would normally be a Democratic party year based on the seats being contested.