After playing offense in 2014 and netting nine Senate seats to set up a 54-46 majority in the 114th Congress, Republicans will mostly be playing defense in 2016. That probably means the GOP will end up losing seats, but recent history suggests that we should not be certain about that.
Heading into the 2016 Senate cycle, Republicans find themselves in a position similar to the Democrats going into 2012, with a Senate map dotted with vulnerabilities created by victories won six and 12 years prior.
There is great symbolic importance to the lone U.S. House race where votes are being recounted. If Martha McSally (R) holds her narrow lead against Rep. Ron Barber (D, AZ-2), Republicans will have netted 13 House seats, giving them 247 in the 114th Congress and narrowly topping the 246 seats the Republicans held after the 1946 election, giving the GOP its biggest House caucus since 1928. If Barber somehow survives, the Republicans will only tie that mark with a net gain of 12.
The GOP gain proved to be a bit smaller than seemed likely on Nov. 4: ABC News , for instance, projected a 14-to-18 seat Republican net on Election Night. But Democrats won nearly all the races that were called in the days following the election. Still, the Republicans did slightly better than most prognosticators expected (we pegged them for a gain of nine before the election).
With less than two weeks to go until Election Day, the picture in several key races remains hazy. But when the dust settles, the most likely result is a Republican majority, as the Crystal Ball ’s outlook of Republicans adding five to eight seats has long indicated.
The GOP needs at least a net gain of six seats to win back Congress’ upper chamber. But the math is complicated by Sen. Pat Roberts’ (R) struggles in Kansas against independent Greg Orman, and even if Roberts wins, the GOP may not get to 51 seats until after Dec. 6 (Louisiana’s runoff) or even Jan. 6, 2015 (Georgia’s runoff), making it difficult to actually call the Senate for Republicans even this close to Nov. 4.
The national numbers indicate that Republicans should be on the verge of big House gains. But a district-by-district analysis suggests a different story.
Another week is down the drain in the race for the Senate, and while our overall outlook is unchanged — a five to eight seat gain for the GOP — some of our ratings are in need of adjustments.
One of these comes as a surprise, as Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) is proving to be quite resilient.
A Republican at the end of 1928 could look back on the previous few decades and smile: His party was quite clearly the dominant force in American politics. Starting in 1896, Republicans had held the White House for 24 of 32 years, interrupted only by the GOP split that helped Democrat Woodrow Wilson get elected in 1912.* Another Republican, Herbert Hoover, was about to stretch that streak in the White House to 28 of 36 years.
In the House, Republicans also had held control for 24 of 32 years, and Hoover’s 444-electoral vote landslide in 1928 boosted the House GOP majority to 270 seats, a Republican edge whose size was only eclipsed by the 302-member Republican caucus elected in 1920 (the House expanded to its present 435 seats in 1913).
An old country phrase best describes the possibility of a turnout increase saving Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) in an upcoming runoff: That dog don’t hunt. But it’s also far from clear whether a bigger turnout would naturally help Cochran in the runoff anyway. Mississippi Republicans voted at record levels in the regular primary, and that of course wasn’t enough to push the incumbent over 50%.
As to the first point, turnout generally falls in runoffs held after primary and general elections –significantly.
In his classic book Southern Politics in State and Nation , V.O. Key Jr. wrote about the importance of “friends and neighbors” in one-party southern elections. More than half a century after the book was written, strength at home powered yet another Deep South candidate.
Tuesday night featured about as dramatic a race as we’ve seen in recent years, which not only delighted the political hacks on Twitter but, more importantly, produced a result that suggests a victory for the more conservative wing of the Republican Party.
It’s become clear over the past few months that Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR), despite the increasing Republican lean of his state, has been holding his own, or better, against Rep. Tom Cotton (R, AR-4). Several positive polls for the incumbent, including a too-optimistic 11-point lead from NBC/Marist earlier this week, moved the HuffPost Pollster average in the race to 45.2% Pryor, 42.7% Cotton.
This map shows the 2014 Senate races in blue and red, with the states sized according to their population and colored based on their current occupant. (The gray states are those with no regular Senate election this year.)
Senate Class 2, the one contested this year, is far less representative of the nation as a whole than the two other classes. Its 33 states contain slightly more than half (51.8%) of the nation’s population. Class 1 (the 2012 class) also features 33 states, but those states host three-quarters (75.2%) of the population; Class 3, coming in 2016 with 34 states, is similar to Class 1, with 72.6% of the population.