Hope in One Hand: Senate 2014

Election DayI guess I’m supposed to talk about the election tomorrow. But I don’t want to. It looks bleak. FiveThirtyEight currently gives the Republicans a 74% chance of taking the Senate. And even worse, the chance of the Republicans getting 53 seats is only slightly less than them getting 52. Meanwhile, in my home state of California, the Democrats stand a good chance of losing their super-majority. This is important because the state budget is almost unmanageable without a super-majority. Now, I’ll admit: Jerry Brown was an excellent governor even without the super-majority. But it has been smooth sailing with it, and Brown hasn’t shown much interest in the question.

For years now, I’ve been arguing that turnout is everything. What I’ve seen is that there simply aren’t many “swing” voters. What determines elections is turnout. All the campaigns with the drum beat to “move to the center” do is create candidates that are more to the liking of the power elite. I’m not suggesting that the Democrats could run anyone at all. But moving the Democratic Party ever to the right does not help. In fact, I question if it hasn’t hurt the party. For the handful of “swing” voters it attracts, it repels a large number of regular voters who are not wrong to think that there isn’t much difference between the parties when it comes to the primary issue for most people: the economy.

Democratic Long Shots

Daily Kos provides a nice roundup of the polling data. So let’s go through the races and look at what we have. In Alaska, Begich is losing by 3 percentage points. Given the difficulty of polling, this one isn’t a lost cause. It’s still a long-shot, but it could fall the Democrats’ way. Similarly, Udall is down by 2.6 percentage points in Colorado. Since I’m a pessimist, I think we will lose these races. But there is hope.

Arkansas is a lost cause. Pryor is behind by 8.8 percentage points. You really have to believe in fairies to hope for this one. But maybe fairies really do exist. Similarly, although Grimes is down by less than Pryor at 7.6 percentage points, she is definitely in fairy territory. Landrieu is down 5.0 percentage points in Louisiana. Maybe that’s not fairy territory. Let’s call it orc territory, because there are many Republicans who I wouldn’t be surprised to learn are orcs. But I’m pretty sure orcs don’t really exist and I’m pretty sure that Landrieu is going down.

Close Races in Republicans’ Favor

The Republicans need six seats to take control of the Senate, and if these races go the way I expect, the Republicans gain four. That means that they only need to win two of the close races. So let’s look at them.

In Georgia, Nunn is currently trailing by 0.9 percentage points. In addition, she needs 1.7 percentage points to avoid a runoff that she would likely lose. I tend to think that Nunn will lose this race but it will go to a runoff. And then in the runoff, she will be destroyed. It is possible that she could win this race. But I am not expecting it; that means the Republicans only need one seat.

And they will likely get that seat in Iowa where Braley is down by 1.6 percentage points. It’s weird though. For some reason that I can’t put my finger on, I have a lot of hope for this race. But I wouldn’t put any stock in it. It is probably just that Ernst is such a nut that I find it hard to believe that the reasonable people of Iowa would vote for her. But vote for her they probably will, and that gives the Republicans control of the Senate.

In Kansas, the independent Greg Orman has a razor thin margin. I think he probably will manage a victory. What I don’t understand is why most Democrats think he will caucus with us. I think he’s been pretty clear that he will caucus with whomever has the majority. I admit, if he were the deciding vote, he would almost certainly caucus with the Democrats. I don’t think that’s going to be up to him. But it doesn’t matter because the Republicans already have this seat.

Close Races in Democrats’ Favor

There are two close races that ought to go the Democrats’ direction. Shaheen in New Hampshire is 3.0 percentage points above hunka hunka burning love Scott Brown. I wouldn’t bet the cash that is currently in my wallet on a Shaheen victory. But it looks pretty good. Similarly, Hagan is up by 1.5 percentage points in North Carolina. But notice, if either of those races go to the Republicans, it will bode extremely poorly for the chances of other Democrats in worse races.

Bottom Line

If we add to these races the certain pickups in South Dakota[1], West Virginia, and Montana, I see the Republicans having a 53-47 majority starting next year. It is certainly possible for the Democrats to hold the Senate, of course. If Nunn and Braley manage to win, control will be up to Orman and I think we will see a 50-50 Senate with Democratic control. Most of the models give that a 20% chance of happening. I think that’s about right. Tomorrow is going to be a long night. I think I need to stock up on alcohol.


[1] Let me say a word about South Dakota. There was once some excitement that Weiland might be able to win that race because there is a strong third candidate. I always thought this was a pipe dream, and currently Weiland is down by 13.5 percentage points. But regardless, I would have hated to see Weiland win in this way. We are Democrats: we believe in democracy. Let the LePages try to subvert the democratic process. And for the record, shame on Eliot Cutler for being the spoiler in this race. His run in 2010 was fine, but when it became clear that all he was accomplishing this time was to make Paul LePage governor, he should have dropped out.

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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.

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