This is not a good year for Republicans. Yet, somehow, the GOP faithful just don’t see it.
Let’s look at the United States Senate.
In early August, the State of Sunshine wrote about the Senate prospects. At the time, we noted that Florida appears safe for the Democrats because the Republican nominee was Katherine Harris. In preparing this analysis, the State of Sunshine uses the Rothenberg Political Report, the Cook Political Report, and the New York Times’ Election Guide.
Consider that the Republicans currently hold a 55-45 margin in the Senate. That means the Democrats need to take six seats away from the GOP to take the majority. It would appear likely. There are eight states that seem to be the ones to watch, seven held by Republicans and one by a Democrat. The State of Sunshine is ready to predict that three of them – Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Montana – will flip.
In Pennsylvania, incubment Republican Senator Rick Santorum remains well behind Demcratic Auditor General Robert Casey. A Morning Call poll showed a 5% gap at the beginning of October, but a more recent McClatchy-MSNBC poll has the gap at 11%.
PA: Cook – Toss Up | Rothenberg – Likely Takeover | NY Times – Leaning Democratic
Stories out of Ohio erroneously reported that, but RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman denied this. This may be based on polls showing incumbent Republican Senator Mike DeWine trailing far behind Democratic Congressman Sherrod Brown. Quinnipiac and New York Times polls showed Brown ahead by 12% and 14% respectively.
OH: Cook – Toss Up | Rothenberg – Lean Takeover | NY Times – Leaning Democratic
Out west, in Montana, incumbent Republican Senator Conrad Burns is losing ground to Demoratic State Senate President Jon Tester. Polls have gone from 48-45 (Gallup) in August to 47-40 (Mason Dixon) in September to 46-35 (Montana State University) in October.
MT: Cook – Toss Up | Rothenberg – Lean Takeover | NY Times – Leaning Democratic
Rhode Island was a different picture in August, but incumbent Republican Senator Lincoln Chafee was able to beat a more conservative Republican opponent in the primary. He now faces former Democrat Attorney General Sheldon Whitehouse. The MSNBC poll shows Whitehouse leading by 5 points, it was 3 points earlier this month, and 11 points in a Gallup poll a month ago.
RI: Cook – Toss Up | Rothenberg – Lean Takeover | NY Times – Leaning Democratic
Incumbent Republican Senator James Talent in Missouri is facing a stiff challenge from Democratic Auditor Claire McCaskill, with a recent MSNBC poll showing him trailing her by 3 points, 48-45. Gallup showed the race also 3 points (48-45) at the beginning of October had the race at 43-43 in late September. The controversy over Rush Limbaugh’s response to actor Michael J. Fox appearing in a commerical for McCaskill should make this race interesting.
MO: Cook – Toss Up | Rothenberg – Toss Up | NY Times – Toss Up
The race for outgoing Senator Bill Frist’s seat in Tennessee is getting interesting, because Republican Chattanooga Mayor Bob Corker is attacking Democratic Congressman Harold Ford for attended the 2005 Super Bowl party hosted by Playboy mogul Hugh Hefner. Still, polling in this race has been erratic. In late September, Middle Tennessee State had the race for Corker (43-42), but Mason Dixon (43-42) and Gallup (50-45) had the race for Ford. A more recent poll shows the race at 45-42.
PN: Cook – Toss Up | Rothenberg – Toss Up | NY Times – Toss Up
Republicans didn’t expect to have a problem in Virginia, until incumbent Senator George Allen put both feet in his mouth, repeatedly using a slur to describe an operative of Democratic challenger Jim Webb’s campaign at a campaign appearance this summer. Now, polls show the race very close narrowing from 48-32 in July, to 43-43 in late September. Recent polls have shown Allen recovering slightly, to a 47-43 lead over Webb.
VA: Cook – Toss Up | Rothenberg – Toss Up | NY Times – Toss Up
The New Jersey Senate race is one of the few bright spots for the Republicans. Incumbent Democratic Senator Bob Menendez, appointed to fill an unexpired seat is facing Republican State Senator Tom Kean, who is also the son of a popular former governor. Polls have widely varied giving Menendez a lead of anywhere from 4% to 9%. The latest poll has Menendez up by only 3 points, but with 11 percent still undecided.
NJ: Cook – Toss Up | Rothenberg – Toss Up | NY Times – Toss Up
By this analysis, we at The State of Sunshine have the Senate divided with 48 Republicans and 47 Democrats. On Election Night, we will be closely watching the races in Missouri, Rhode Island, Virginia, Tennessee, and New Jersey. Remember, late undecided voters tend to break more for challengers than incumbents.
The State of Sunshine predicts the Democrats will take Missouri, Rhode Island, and Tennessee as well as hold New Jersey – taking back the Senate by a margin of 51-49.