With Labor Day in the rearview mirror — along with the worst summer movie season in the history of cinema (the quality, anyway) — we’re now just nine weeks from Midterm Election Day.
Captain Obvious Alert: Republicans will easily hold the House. The big question you’ll be hearing often on cable news in September and October focuses on the only thing that matters: Can the GOP retake the Senate? Six seats are needed to do it.
So where do the big three forecast models (Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight.com, The New York Times and Washington Post) point to as of today?
Down in D.C., the Post’s forecast has come down from its ridiculous heights of a few weeks ago, when its models showed the GOP having an 86 percent chance of gaining a majority in the Senate on July 29th. Today, that number stands at 52 percent. Democratic wave? Well, not quite… more the Post’s decision to weigh certain factors differently than it did over the summer. Here’s how John Sides, Washington Post contributor and political science professor at The George Washington University describes the reasons behind the massive change in Chris Cillizza’s column today:
[It’s] not that races have narrowed, but that the model has begun weighting information differently — mainly by (a) incorporating polling data (where possible) after the relevant primaries, and by (b) increasing the weight that polls have in the forecast.
So how about The New York Times? Are its models moving in a decidedly Democratic direction as well?
Quick answer: Nope. “Republicans hold a modest but clear advantage in the fight for control of the Senate,” says the NYT’s Nate Cohn. The Times’ model as of today gives the GOP a 60 percent chance of winning, up from 49 percent in late April.
So to recap before we get to the great Nate Silver, the Post’s model shows a 34-point drop in the span of a little over five weeks (because of a change to the formula). As this is happening, the Times — not exactly a publication that could be even characterized as conservative (not having endorsed a Republican for president, even Reagan in ’84, since Eisenhower, for example) — has seen the GOP go from a coin toss to likely winning the majority.
Kind of makes your hair hurt, right? So what does Silver over at FiveThirtyEight.com have to say in his latest report? Republican pundits dismissed him time and again in 2012 when the stat-guru declared Mitt Romney had almost no shot at winning the presidency despite Gallup and Rasmussen having him ahead the final few weeks of the campaign. But they can take solace knowing Silver has Republican chances at controlling the senate at 64 percent. Here’s why:
Midterm elections are usually poor for the president’s party, and the Senate contests this year are in states where, on average, President Obama won just 46 percent of the vote in 2012. Democrats are battling a hangover effect in these states, most of which were last contested in 2008, a high-water mark for the party. On the basis of polling and the other indicators our model evaluates, Republicans are more likely than not to win the six seats they need to take over the Senate.
So with two of three respected models showing Harry Reid the door as Senate majority leader, what does it all mean? Short answers: The president — who was already in lame duck mode with Congress ready to shoot down any of his big-ticket (and big government) items — better get that pen and phone ready. Because lots of Republican bills that were blocked by the aforementioned Mr. Reid, who basically turned the senate into a bottleneck, will be awaiting the president’s signature come 2015. Those signatures likely won’t come, of course, making the president the new bottleneck.
In other words, expect more gridlock and Obama being forced to explain Veto X, Veto Y, etc., as Reid will no longer be empowered as gatekeeper. Not pretty for the president who’s already having what one could generously call a challenging second term.
Republicans could also block any Supreme Court nominees by the president if a vacancy comes up (a very big deal). And that Keystone pipeline that 65 percent of Americans support, according to the latest ABC poll on the topic? Expect that to be one veto the president decides to punt on.
Polls, polls, polls.
Some are reliable…some not so much.
But with an important election coming up for the reasons listed above, expect to hear this intro in some form every day on cable news regardless of network:
“Will Republicans take control of the Senate this November? A new poll out today says…”
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