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Posted by on Sep 23, 2010 in Politics | 0 comments

Nate Silver: Republican Senate Takeover Chances Better But Checkmated by Democratic “Firewall”

FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver now calculates that the Republicans’ changes for taking over the Senate have improved but their goal is stymied by a Democratic “firewall”:

Polls show the Republican candidate having gained ground in a key Senate race, Wisconsin — and Republicans have put another Senate race, in West Virginia, squarely into play. But strong polling for Democrats in two Pacific Coast states, California and Washington, have somewhat offset these gains and Republicans are only modestly more likely to take control of the Senate than they were a week ago.

The FiveThirtyEight forecasting model assigns Republicans an 18 percent chance of emerging with at least 51 Senate seats following the Nov. 2 elections; this is up slightly from a 15 percent chance last week. During an average simulation run, Republicans finished with control of 47.6 Senate seats, up from 47.1 last week. The simulation counts scenarios in which Senator Lisa Murkowski succeeds in her write-in bid in Alaska as Republican wins.

Republican chances are significantly improved in two states. The first is Wisconsin, where three polls show the Republican, Ron Johnson, leading incumbent Russ Feingold by margins of between six and 11 points. Prior polling had shown the race to be roughly a tie.

He then explains in detail and concludes:

Two other races merit watching: Connecticut and the special election here in New York, where the Republican candidate has some plausible chances. But considering Connecticut to be a tossup, as some analysts have done, is not warranted on the basis of the evidence. The Democrat there, Richard Blumenthal, has a lead in the high single digits on the basis of most polling, and — equally importantly — there are very few undecideds in the race. Although leads like that can be overcome late in a race, it is not common.

Overall, the Senate picture is more fluid than a week ago, and somewhat better for Republicans. But were the election held today, they would probably not win the contests in California and Washington state, and that would prevent them from accumulating enough seats to take over the Senate (even if they were to win other close races like West Virginia, Nevada, and Illinois). Thus, Republicans probably need some additional momentum to claim the Senate, whether in individual states like California or nationally.

One factor that needs to be considered. MSNBC’s First Read has an item about a trend former President Clinton notes: it may no longer be accurate to say “all politics is local” in terms of Congressional races due to some important societal and media changes:

Clinton also makes the case that thanks to Newt Gingrich in 1994, the idea that “all politics is local” might be out of date. In making his that the president and Democrats should nationalize this election, he also argues that ALL politics these days are national and when you consider the unintended consequence of the shrinking local political media combined with the simultaneous expansion of the NATIONAL political media, it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. So for the candidate for Congress who tries to talk local issues, the avg. swing voter tuning into the political debate wonders why they aren’t participating in the NATIONAL political debate.