Republicans Poised for Senate Takeover

By Harry Catalani ‘17:

2014-10-30 Senate MapLess than a week away from the 2014 mid-term elections, Republicans are poised to become the Senate’s majority party for the first time since losing power in the 2006 elections. The New York Times pegs the probability of a Republican majority at 68% while The Washington Post is far more generous to Republicans, giving them a 93% chance. However, the size of the Republican majority is still being hotly debated by political analysts and party operatives.

This particular mid-term election is favored for Republicans for a wide variety of reasons. For example, President Obama’s approval ratings are in the low 40s, which are strikingly similar to former President Bush’s approval ratings at the same point in his presidency. During President Bush’s second mid-term election in 2006, the Republicans lost six senate seats, allowing Harry Reid to become the Senate Majority Leader. Additionally, next week’s election features a map that widely favors Republicans because it includes six Democratic-held seats in states that Mitt Romney won in the 2012 presidential election.

In order for Republicans to win the majority, they require a net plus of six seats to prevent Vice President Biden from being the Senate’s tie breaker. Three of those states—Montana, West Virginia, and South Dakota—have open elections because the incumbent in each state decided to retire, causing many political pundits to place them in the Republican’s column. Additionally, Republicans have tried to field strong candidates in blue and purple states that President Obama won in 2012 because they feel they have the momentum going into this election.

Republicans are favored to win in Iowa, Colorado, Arkansas and Alaska, due to weak campaigns by their opponents and/or a more conservative leaning electorate. Should these four states break in favor of the GOP (Grand Ole Party, or the Republican Party), their standing in the Senate would then be 52 Republicans to 48 Democrats. Such a victory, of course, assumes that Republicans successfully defend their seats in Kentucky, Georgia, and Kansas, states that Democrats have gone on the offensive and tried to make competitive. The uncertainty for the size of the Republican majority comes from those three states as well as states such as North Carolina and New Hampshire. Both were previously believed to be Democratic favored, but Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) have each seen their leads fall to single digits against their respective Republican challengers.

Whether it is due to the president’s unpopularity or a GOP-favored map, Republicans are more likely than not to become the majority party. However, competitive races in states that Republicans thought were safe and the possibility of runoff elections in Louisiana and Georgia make it more difficult to predict the upcoming elections. This could mean that the control of the Senate or the size of the Republican majority will not be determined until after the new Senate is called into session, which would be three days before the Georgia runoff would be scheduled. If Republicans are lucky, they will win enough seats on Election Day, making the outcome of the Georgia and Louisiana runoffs less significant in terms of deciding which party will control the U.S. Senate for the last two years of President Obama’s term.



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