The odds of winning enough races to regain control of the Senate remain in Republicans' favor, but how favorable depends on whether you listen to The New York Times or The Washington Post – or neither.
In its most recent forecast, published July 16, The Washington Post's
Election Lab gave the GOP an 86 percent chance of taking control of the Senate.
On the flip side, The New York Times'
The Upshot finds the environment less favorable to Republicans and places their chances at 53 percent, according to its July 22 forecast.
The Upshot is careful to add the caveat that while "the Republicans currently have a 53 percent chance, that doesn’t mean we’re predicting the Republicans to win the Senate — the probability is essentially the same as a coin flip."
How each organization reaches its conclusion is by more than a coin flip, however.
Andrew Prokop of Vox
says the difference boils down to a "discrepancy" in how the two analyses are calculated. The Upshot relies entirely on polls, while the Election Lab utilizes polls and a broader set of national, state, and candidate-level "fundamental" factors.
And that is just the difference between two organizations. The Upshot
also offers a breakdown of predictions all of the 2014 Senate races made by six organizations, including the Post and its own.
Its scorecard does not include the daily update posted by RealClearPolitics.
So what, if anything, has changed in the last month?
Post reporter John Sides
notes on the Lab that nothing on the national landscape has dramatically changed, but he says the primary reason for the shift from its last forecast is that polling data is showing less GOP weakness.
"There was a time, though, when the polling data suggested more GOP vulnerability. Consider, for example, the Kentucky Senate race between Republican Mitch McConnell and Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes. In late 2013 and the first few months of 2014, polls suggested the race was tied. But now the polling has begun to line up more cleanly with the forecast. McConnell has opened up a narrow lead that, in combination with the model, is sufficient for us to forecast a Republican victory there," Sides writes.
Control of the Senate likely will be determined by the outcomes of nine competitive seats: Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, North Carolina, and Michigan. Specifically, Republicans will need to win at least five to secure the majority.
In a July 17 column in Sabato's Crystal Ball, the website run by Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics,
Kyle Kondik argues Republicans will have to beat more than two Democratic incumbents to win control – which the party has not done since 1980.
Kondik concedes it is possible for them to win by defeating just two incumbents, but would be highly unlikely.
"A Republican path to a 51-49 Senate majority that features the party beating incumbents in just Arkansas and Montana and then sweeping the Democratic open seats in Iowa, Michigan, South Dakota, and West Virginia is a possible path but not a very plausible one.
"So it appears that in order to win the Senate, the Republicans will have to break their three-decade drought of beating just two or fewer Democratic incumbents in any midterm or presidential election year since 1980," notes Kondik.
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