Rothenberg predicts 7 seat gain for GOP in Senate

Stuart Rothenberg, one of the sharpest and most respected political analysts in the country, goes out on a limb and predicts at least a 7 seat gain for the GOP in the Senate with the potential for more.

Roll Call:

While the current Rothenberg Political Report ratings don’t show it, I am now expecting a substantial Republican Senate wave in November, with a net gain of at least seven seats.

But I wouldn’t be shocked by a larger gain.

Rothenberg Political Report ratings reflect both where a race stands and, more importantly, where it is likely headed on Election Day. Since early polls rarely reflect the eventual November environment, either in terms of the candidates’ name recognition and resources or of the election’s dynamic, there is often a gap between how I categorize each race (my ratings) and what I privately assume will happen in November.

That gap closes as Election Day approaches, of course, since polling should reflect changes in name identification, candidate and party spending, and voter attitudes as November approaches.

Right now, for example, the Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call Senate ratings suggest Republican gains in the mid-single digits. My newsletter has the most likely outcome of the midterms at Republican gains of 5 to 8 seats, with the GOP slightly more likely than not to net the six seats it needs to win Senate control.

Of the seven Romney Democratic seats up this cycle, Montana, South Dakota and West Virginia are gone, and Arkansas and Louisiana look difficult to hold. Alaska and North Carolina, on the other hand, remain very competitive, and Democrats rightly point out that they have a chance to hold both seats.

But I’ve witnessed 17 general elections from my perch in D.C., including eight midterms, and I sometimes develop a sense of where the cycle is going before survey data lead me there. Since my expectations constitute little more than an informed guess, I generally keep them to myself.

This year is different. I am sharing them with you.

After looking at recent national, state and congressional survey data and comparing this election cycle to previous ones, I am currently expecting a sizable Republican Senate wave.

The combination of an unpopular president and a midterm election (indeed, a second midterm) can produce disastrous results for the president’s party. President Barack Obama’s numbers could rally, of course, and that would change my expectations in the blink of an eye. But as long as his approval sits in the 40-percent range (the August NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll), the signs are ominous for Democrats.

Rothenberg is feeling something building out there that other analysts and pollsters are missing. Is he correct? Prior to the 2010 mid terms, Rothenberg predicted a 55-65 GOP tsunami in the House (Republicans picked up 63 seats), and a 6-8 seat gain in the Senate (GOP +6). There's good reason his Rothenberg Political Report is one of the more closely read political intelligence briefs in the country.

But as AT political correspondent Rich Baehr points out, that Kansas race is shaping up to be the upset of the election. A new poll out shows incumbent GOP Senator Pat Roberts virtually tied with independent businessman Greg Orman:

The poll, conducted by SurveyUSA for KSN-TV, showed that if the election were held now with Taylor’s name still on the ballot, Orman would receive 37 percent of the vote, Roberts 36 percent, Taylor 10 percent and a libertarian candidate six percent.

On the other hand, the two GOP races that the party was worried about - Kentucky and Georgia - are both looking better. Mitch McConnell appears to be doing much better than he was in mid-summer, and David Perdue is winning in Georgia. A loss in Kansas would not necessarily doom GOP chances to take over the Senate if those trends hold.

The stars would have to align perfectly for Republicans to win 10 seats, but it isn't impossible. Rothenberg, not given to wild speculation, is feeling pretty confident about a Republican takeover of the Senate and looking at trends underway less than two months before the election, it's hard to argue with him.

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