Tags: GOP | Senate | midterms

Larry Sabato: GOP Could Win Up to Eight Senate Seats

By    |   Thursday, 16 October 2014 10:21 AM

Republicans have a "strong and increasing chance to control the next Senate," says Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, projecting that the GOP could take up to eight seats on Nov. 4.

"Our projection remains a five- to eight-seat Republican gain in the Senate, and with less than three weeks to go, we would much rather be holding the cards Republicans have been dealt versus the ones dealt to the Democrats as both sides play for a Senate majority," Sabato writes in his latest "Crystal Ball" analysis.

There are several "unusual and even a few bizarre features on the landscape," Sabato says, pointing out that the midterm election is "a classic sixth-year itch election" that will see the incumbent president's party lose seats in both the House and Senate.

"We're just arguing about exactly how many," Sabato says. "Overall, it is indisputable that Republicans will have more critical victories to celebrate than Democrats when all the ballots are counted."

But as Americans become more dissatisfied with President Barack Obama, their opinions could show up in the ballot box and tilt the scales even more.

The president is garnering some of the lowest approval ratings of his career, with a new ABC News/Washington Post poll released Wednesday showing that just 40 percent of respondents approve of how he is doing his job.

The poll showed the president's public support is especially dropping according to how he is handling the Islamic State (ISIS) threat. At the end of September, 50 percent of the public approved of his actions against the Islamic State, but Wednesday's poll shows just 35 percent approve.

Republicans are also criticizing Obama's response to the Ebola crisis, saying that he has been too slow to protect the public.

Still, Sabato said, in some states, Democrats are holding tight in Republican territory, when observers thought GOP candidates would easily win. In some states, like Alaska, Georgia, Kansas, and South Dakota, the races are deemed as toss-ups, and some, like in Georgia, could end in a runoff vote, delaying the decision about which party will control the Senate.

Part of the issue, said Sabato, is that independent candidates are competing in places where Democrats "would have a devil of a time winning." However, party loyalty will probably win out in the end, he noted.

Meanwhile, Democrats need just 50 seats to maintain a "Biden majority" in the Senate, as the vice president votes to break ties, but Republicans need 51 seats, and just a few weeks remain before the election.

Sabato said he still believes that the math makes it likely Republicans will hold the majority by one to three seats, but it's not yet clear which seats those will be.

For example, political watchers had believed that South Dakota, like West Virginia and Montana, was sure to go Republican. Former Gov. Mike Rounds will likely win, said Sabato, but not in a landslide.

Arkansas and Alaska will likely be in the Republican side of the tally board, said Sabato, who moved Alaska and its race between freshman Democrat Sen. Mark Begich and Republican challenger Dan Sullivan from toss-up to "leans Republican." In Arkansas, Republican Rep. Tom Cotton is also favored to defeat incumbent Democrat Sen. Mark Pryor.

The sixth seat, which Republicans need, remains "elusive," said Sabato. Louisiana may be headed for a runoff, he said, as neither incumbent Democrat Sen. Mary Landrieu or Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy are expected to get a majority vote.

That last seat may also go to Iowa or Colorado, said Sabato. In Iowa, GOP nominee Joni Ernst was leading Democrat Rep. Bruce Braley by six points in a recent Des Moines Register poll and remains slightly ahead in polling averages.

In Colorado, Republican Rep. Cory Gardner is advancing on Democrat Sen. Mark Udall, Sabato said, and holds a lead in most polling averages.

Democrats hold leads in North Carolina, Michigan, Minnesota, and Oregon. In New Hampshire, Democrat Sen. Jeanne Shaheen is holding off a challenge from former Massachusetts Republican Sen. Scott Brown.

Overall, said Sabato, "it's not impossible to imagine the GOP having a good enough night that they get to 51 seats without Georgia or Louisiana."

Meanwhile, Sabato does not predict large changes in his predictions for the House. Lately, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has canceled ad spending in some Republican-held districts they'd hoped to win, allocating the money to other races seen as highly competitive or tossups.

And as Democrats are focusing on protecting their incumbents rather than going after Republican seats, "that gives us further confidence that the Republicans will in fact add more seats to their majority, but probably not significantly more," said Sabato. "Our outlook remains a six-to-nine seat Republican net gain."

Eight seats would return the GOP to 242 seats, but a 13-seat gain would bring it to 247 seats, the largest majority since the 1928 election, said Sabato.

Overall, Crystal Ball lists 232 races as leaning Republican, 189 Democratic, and 14 as tossups or leans. Of the latter 14, three are held by Republicans and 11 by Democrats.

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Republicans have a "strong and increasing chance to control the next Senate," says Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, projecting that the GOP could take up to eight seats on Nov. 4.
GOP, Senate, midterms
Thursday, 16 October 2014 10:21 AM
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