Can the Democrats Hold Senate?

The UpshotOne of my many minor addictions is checking The Upshot‘s Senate Forecast every day. And it is not the simple thrill of seeing what “today’s number” is. For the record, today’s number is 53%—the Republicans have a 53% chance of retaking the Senate, which The Upshot classifies as a “toss up.”

There is much more, though! They also provide up to date forecasts from five other organizations that do this kind of work. These include the Cook Political Report, which does old fashioned analysis and is never, it would seem, willing to go out on a limb. For example, it says that Montana leans toward Republican Steve Daines and against Democrat John Walsh, even though Walsh’s own mother wouldn’t think he has a shot—barring Daines having a fatal heart attack.

Also on the list is Five Thirty Eight, which is what The Upshot replaced at The New York Times. They tend to agree rather well with The Upshot, but it seems that Nate Silver just isn’t that interested in politics anymore. They don’t run their model all that often.

But the real outlier is The Monkey Cage model, now sadly supported by the Washington Post. It is a political science driven model and it does not paint a rosy picture of the Senate come next year. They currently give the Republicans an 87% chance of taking the Senate.

For a long time, I’ve said that the Democrats have a 50-50 change of keeping the Senate. But I am also a “fundamentals” guy. And political scientists have gotten really good at predicting elections—especially from a long way out. And I have to say that I go along with the fundamentals. It is looking more and more like the Republicans will take the Senate in November. But it is important to remember a two things.

First, if they take it, it isn’t going to be a “wave” election. They will have 51 or 52 seats. So it isn’t going to be that big a deal, and they are going to lose the Senate come 2016. Barring a Supreme Court opening, there isn’t likely to be much in the way of change, regardless.

Second, it does not mean that “the people” have turned against Obama or the Democrats or liberalism or anything else. It means that there were roughly twice as many Democrats running for re-election as Republicans. And it also means that angry old rich white people show up to the polls for midterm elections a lot more than calm young poor multi-ethnic people do. Forgive me while I rant for a paragraph.

I am so tired of this idea that Americans are constantly changing their minds about politics. This year they like the Democrats! Next year they like the Republicans! No, no, no! Pretty much year after year, people are the same. They don’t change. All that really changes is who is willing to make the effort to vote. And in this country, we have decided that we don’t believe in a fair democracy. So we make it far easier for rich people to vote than for poor people. So it isn’t even that liberal voters are less inclined to vote, it is just that in general, it is harder for them: they have less time and their polling places are poorly staffed. Regardless, whatever the election result, it doesn’t mean that anything has changed in the mind of the typical American from 2012.

Having ranted that, there is one thing that gives me hope. The Democrats are spending a lot more money this election on efforts to get out the vote. If this works and the electorate looks more like it does during a presidential election, then all the models will be wrong and the Democrats will do much better—almost certainly holding onto the Senate. We will have to see. I’ve been arguing for this for a long time. All this business about attracting the “swing” voter is just madness. You want to know my definition of a swing voter: a Democrat (Republican) who just isn’t yet willing to say he is going to vote for the Democrat (Republican). So the new Democratic approach is a good one. We will have to see how effective they are at it.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

0 thoughts on “Can the Democrats Hold Senate?

  1. We shall see. I am by no means engaging in Karl Rove magical thinking, but there seem to be a lot of things in play. Moral Monday protests, the endless stream of naked racism and misogyny that the Republicans can’t stop transmitting,
    tight governorship races. Probably too small a victory to mean much either way, as you say.
    Unrelated, I am quite pleased to have Netroots Nation coming to Phoenix next year. I don’t think the Kos boycott is well thought out. And there is a fair bit of people saying NN is passe. Nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded. I live in Phoenix, and have most of my life. The place has potential, but the Democrats don’t try to compete here.

  2. @Lawrence – I’m still hopeful. And in terms of governorships, it actually looks pretty good for the Democrats. I’m only talking about the Senate here. And it certainly isn’t hopeless.

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