Politics Expert Sabato: GOP Has 'Terrific' Shot to Win Senate

Monday, 03 Mar 2014 08:37 PM

By Lisa Barron

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Democrats could well lose the Senate in the coming midterm elections, says Larry Sabato, founder and director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics.

"This is the best math Republicans have had in a generation, at least a generation. People forget only a third of the Senate is elected every two years, and it's a different group of states and a different group of incumbents and open seats, and so it's a crap shoot as to what the math is actually going to look like," Sabato told John Bachman on Newsmax TV's "America's Forum" on Monday.

"This one is terrific for Republicans because the Republican seats coming up are in deeply red states — with one exception, Maine — and Sen. [Susan] Collins doesn't really have any opposition up there," he said.

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"The Democrats have a bunch of incumbents in states that are also deeply red: Alaska, Louisiana, Arkansas, and so on, West Virginia, South Dakota, Montana. So it's a great opportunity for Republicans to pick up those six seats they need," he said.

Sabato, the Robert Kent Gooch Professor of Politics at UVA, launched Sabato's Crystal Ball, an online newsletter and website that provides free political analysis and electoral predictions, in 2002.

If Sabato's projection is on target this year, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky will return to Capitol Hill for another term.

"He will win handily in the primary, and we also have bet on him in the general election despite the fact that several recent polls have had his Democratic opponent, Alison Lundergan Grimes, ahead of him," Sabato said.

"The reason's simple: President [Barack] Obama's popularity in Kentucky is in the mid-30s. Mitch McConnell knows how to run a tough race, and Alison Lundergan Grimes is going to change out 'Lundergan' for 'Obama' as a middle name by November."

Sabato is not as positive about Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who is expected to face a primary challenge from conservative activists.

"That's one we're watching carefully because while Graham is way ahead, he's below 50 [percent]. It depends on which one of these candidates gets into the runoff with him, assuming there is a runoff, and I would think there would be a runoff. When it's one-on-one, Graham will have to sweat. If he's in a runoff, all bets are off," he said.

Acknowledging that the primaries in both South Carolina and Georgia, where seven Republicans are competing for the nomination, could be bruising for the GOP, Sabato said, "You have the Republicans who can win a general election and you have some Republicans who could turn out to be the next Todd Akin, the Republican who threw away the Missouri seat in 2012."

Akin, who had won the Republican primary in a crowded field, lost his bid to unseat Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill after saying that women who are victims of what he called "legitimate rape" rarely get pregnant.

"Republicans are going to have to choose wisely there, and people aren't stupid. They do learn from election to election, and some people have caught on to what you can get away with and what you can't get away with in order to be elected, even in a red state," Sabato said.

Turning to the Florida gubernatorial race, where incumbent Gov. Rick Scott is facing former Gov. Charlie Crist, a Republican-turned-independent-turned-Democrat, Sabato said, "Rick Scott has got to go after Charlie Crist hard every single day. Scott is not a popular governor. He has got to make Crist's tenure as governor as unpopular as his is."

"I tell people Crist has universal appeal. A Democrat, a Republican, and an independent, and on top of that, for Florida, he's well-tanned. So it's going to be interesting to watch that. We have it as a toss-up," Sabato said.


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