Sunday, March 23, 2014

Nate Silver On The Senate

Nate Silver's first Senate forecast at his new digs is pretty sobering:  he sees easy GOP pickups of Democratic open seats in West Virginia and South Dakota (90%),  John Walsh losing badly in Montana (80%), Mitch McConnell easily keeping his seat here in Kentucky (75%) and the GOP keeping Georgia's open seat vacated by Saxby Chambliss (70%), Mark Pryor losing in Arkansas (70%) and at best, Mary Landrieu, Kay Hagan, Mark Begich and the open seat in Michigan as toss-ups.

That's four solid pickups for the GOP and four Dem seats that are tossups, plus Mark Udall in Colorado having only a 60% chance of winning.  That puts nine Dem seats in play where the GOP essentially has two outright, most likely has four and a very good shot at getting the six they need.

Martin Longman disagrees about Nate's West Virginia 90% GOP probability call:

Jay Rockefeller's seat in the Senate has been in Democratic hands for all but eight years since FDR's 1933 inauguration and was last held by a Republican in 1958, when John D. Hoblitzell, Jr. was appointed as a temporary replacement for Sen. Matthew Neely.

Joe Manchin's seat in the Senate was held by Robert Byrd for 51 years. Republican Henry Hatfield lost the seat in 1934, and the GOP has only controlled it briefly (November 7, 1956 – January 3, 1959) since that time.

What this says is that West Virginian's are simply not in the habit of electing Republicans to state-wide office, especially for high-profile races.

Yes, the state has changed over the last two decades, and it is remarkably hostile to our multiracial president. But, the same day that Obama was elected president, Joe Manchin was reelected as governor with 70% of the vote. Manchin was then elected to serve in the Senate twice, the second time earning over 60% of the vote on a ballot he shared with Obama. West Virginians also elected Democrat Earl Ray Tomblin to replace Manchin as governor that same election day.

To which I reply that here in Kentucky, we elected and then re-elected Democrat Steve Beshear to succeed Ernie Fletcher, the first Republican governor we had since 1971.  Fletcher's administration crashed and burned in scandal.

But we haven't had a Democratic senator since 1998 and Nate puts better odds of that happening than West Virginia.  Very similar states, Kentucky's registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by 2 to 1, and yet Mitch will probably win by 15 points.  They hate Obama in West Virginia.  They hate him even more here in Kentucky.

Having said that, Nate's warning on that "enthusiasm gap" is real.

A tie on the generic ballot might not sound so bad for Democrats. But it’s a misleading signal, for two reasons. First, most of the generic ballot polls were conducted among registered voters. Those do not reflect the turnout advantage the GOP is likely to have in November. Especially in recent years, Democrats have come to rely on groups such as racial minorities and young voters that turn out much more reliably in presidential years than for the midterms. In 2010, the Republican turnout advantage amounted to the equivalent of 6 percentage points, meaning a tie on the generic ballot among registered voters translated into a six-point Republican lead among likely voters. The GOP’s edge hadn’t been quite that large in past years. But if the “enthusiasm gap” is as large this year as it was in 2010, Democrats will have a difficult time keeping the Senate.

If Dems don't show up in November, Republicans will control the Senate.

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