The upcoming Senate elections will affect everything from confirmations of judges and Cabinet officers to the next president’s ability to escape the dreaded fiscal cliff in January.
And with Republicans poised to win the House of Representatives comfortably, my final Senate map suggests there’s more gridlock ahead.
After projecting the 13 contested Senate races this year, I expect Democrats to keep their majority. In fact, the overall make-up should remain the same—53 Democrats (including independents who caucus with them) and 47 Republicans.
Only 33 of the 100 Senate seats are in play this year. RealClearPolitics rates five of them safe or likely Republican and 14 safe or likely Democratic.
Of the 14 remaining contested seats, I used RCP’s poll spread, Talking Points Memo’s PollTracker, and Nate Silver’s probability ratings at The New York Times’s FiveThirtyEight blog to put together composite predictions.
Unlike in my first Senate map, I’m putting Arizona, North Dakota and Nebraska in the Republican column and Connecticut, Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania on the Democratic side.
Bob Casey appears to be extending his lead in the Keystone State while Rep. Chris Murphy is outdistancing former WWE executive Linda McMahon, who is about to lose her second expensive Senate campaign in hopelessly Democratic Connecticut.
And in Ohio, liberal Democrat Sherrod Brown has maintained a similar five-point margin over Republican challenger Josh Mandel, while Bill Nelson is beating Rep. Connie Mack in a surprisingly easy race in the Sunshine State.
I’ll also keep Nevada with the GOP; incumbent Dean Heller has stayed well ahead of Democrat Rep. Shelley Berkley in a state that should go for President Obama.
The once-tight contest between Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Scott Brown is no longer a squeaker; Warren has opened up a 3.5-point lead as Massachusetts prepares to show its true colors–blue.
In a real reversal of fortune, Claire McCaskill looks well on her way to victory in Missouri over Republican anti-abortion extremist Todd Akin, whose Medieval comments about rape sent women voters scurrying to McCaskill.
And conservative Democrat Joe Donnelly appears poised to take Richard Lugar’s former Senate seat in Indiana after Republican Richard Mourdock, who once seemed like a shoo-in, declared that pregnancy resulting from rape is “something God intended.” Where do they find these people?
When you add Sharron Angle, Christine O’Donnell, and Ken Buck (in Colorado) from 2010, the GOP may have lost five winnable Senate seats by fielding extreme candidates. They could have had the same majority the Dems are likely to enjoy now. Food for thought, no?
And finally there are three genuine toss-ups. Democratic Sen. Jon Tester is putting up a tough fight for reelection in Montana, but I think Republican opponent Denny Rehberg will ultimately prevail in that deeply red state.
In Wisconsin, I expect Democratic Rep. Tammy Baldwin to eke out a win against former Gov. Tommy Thompson, who’s showing his political age. If she’s elected, Baldwin would be the first openly gay US senator in history.
And somehow former Gov. Tim Kaine will notch a narrow victory for the Democratic side in Virginia, which I think will go for Mitt Romney in the presidential election.
Even if Romney is elected, he’ll have a tough time working with the Democratic Senate, if Minority Leader Harry Reid has his way. Last week Reid called the Republican candidate’s pledge to work in a bipartisan way “laughable.”
Reid’s joint interview Sunday with his GOP counterpart Mitch McConnell on “60 Minutes” made it clear that neither of them seems too eager to change.
That feature was called “The Broken Senate.” And it’s likely to remain that way, no matter who wins the White House.
Also read: And the Winner Will Be….