How Could Democrats Gain Seats in the Senate? (Updated)

Sean Trende of RealClearPolitics considers what it would take for Democrats to win seats in the Senate in the fall, rather than losing seats and, possibly, the house as analysts including himself and Nate Silver expect:

For Democrats to gain seats this cycle would be the equivalent of drawing a straight flush. With that said, straight flushes do occur, so it’s worth examining how it might occur here.

Here are the conditions he suggests under which Democrats could eke out a victory:

  1. The president’s approval rating goes up sharply, enough to lift “the collective Democratic boat”.
  2. All four “red state” incumbent Democrats (Mary Landrieu, Kay Hagan, Mark Pryor, and Mark Begich) win.
  3. Democrats win at least one of the three open seats.
  4. The Republican candidate loses in one or more of the notionally solid Republican states (Kentucky, Georgia, Kansas, Mississippi, and South Carolina).

I agree with Mr. Trende that those are a lot of “ifs”. However, as I’ve long contented, while all of those pieces falling into place isn’t particularly likely for some of them to happen is a lot more likely which is why I think we’ll have a 50-50 Senate in 2015 which means that Democrats retain control of that house.


Hammering home a point I’ve made for some time, Harry Enten of FiveThirtyEight points out the states in which President Obama’s approval rating hurts the Democratic Senate candidates’ chances: North Carolina, Louisiana, Kentucky, Alaska. Which seats are most important to Democrats’ holding on to the Senate? North Carolina, Louisiana, and Alaska.

One interesting race is Georgia. In Georgia the president doesn’t hurt the Democrat’s chances of winning. In that race whichever Democrat wins the Georgia primary will still be an underdog but with a weak Republican candidate Georgia could still move into the Democratic column.

3 comments… add one
  • jan

    I hope you’re not right, about the 50/50 Senate outcome. For one thing, Harry Reid would still be in charge, stifling any bill he doesn’t like, from being subject to floor debate, scrutiny and open for compromising changes. Secondly, there would be even more polarization exercised in Congress. In-fighting and one-upping each other would only increase. There would be little for the POTUS to do but play more golf and go on vacations with Michelle.

  • michael reynolds

    I’m contributing to Nunn, Lundergan Grimes and Hagen in North Carolina. They seem like the best bets, but I don’t know enough about local conditions to hazard any prediction beyond whatever I see in the scanty polling.

  • jan

    Out of the three that Michael is supporting above, I think Nunn has the best chance. Her father was a popular, positive political figure, in which she could ride coattails on to a win. As for Grimes, she’s attractive and young, but, IMO, will lose to a more savvy McConnell, who once he has finished with his primary, will focus on his general election strategy in his R enriched state. Hagen is struggling in NC. Obamacare will indeed be a nemesis that will be hard to rationalize with the voters in that state.

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