Mike Berman’s Washington Watch

October 4, 2014 11:56 AM

The Races: U.S. Senate

Since passage of the 17th amendment in 1913, the President’s Party has lost an average of nearly 6 U.S. Senate seats in the mid-term election of the 6th year of the President’s term (this includes circumstances when a President was replaced by the Vice President).

The most dramatic exception was Bill Clinton in 1998, when the Democrats did not lose a single seat. (Clinton had overseen the loss of 10 Democratic Senate seats in the 1994 and 1996 elections.)

1918 Wilson -6
1926 Harding/Coolidge -6
1938 F. Roosevelt -7
1950 Truman -5
1958 Eisenhower -12
1966 Kennedy/Johnson -4
1974 Nixon/Ford -4
1986 Reagan -9
1998 Clinton -0
2006 G.W. Bush -6

There have been a number of changes in the status of the U.S. Senate races since the last Watch in August.

In Kansas, the incumbent Pat Roberts (R) is now faced with an unexpected contest. It has been hard to miss the stories about the political and legal machinations that have gone on in this race, so I will not repeat them here. The bottom line is that Roberts is running against an Independent (who used to be a Democrat), Greg Orman. Recent polls, including Fox News, have Orman ahead by 4-6 points. Orman has not said with which side he will caucus, but he could find himself in a situation in which he would decide which Party controls the Senate.

Franken (D-MN) was previously in the Safe Dem column, but the race has become a little closer than expected, and he has been moved to Leaning Dem. Shaheen (D-NH) is still Leaning Dem, but looking a little stronger. Udall (D-CO) and Peters (D-MICH) were previously rated as Toss Ups and are now in the Leaning Dem column.

McConnell (R-KY) and Georgia (R incumbent not running), which were previously in the Toss-Up column, have now moved to Leaning Republican.

Finally, Montana, West Virginia and South Dakota, all with Democratic incumbents who are not running for re-election, should now be considered as Safe Republican.

Louisiana will add a little excitement to election night. The State has no primaries, so if one of the candidates does not get 50% of the vote on November 4th, there will be a runoff of the top two finishers in early December. In Georgia, which did have a primary, if neither candidate draws more than 50% on election night there will be a runoff in January 2015.

There are a variety of opinions as to the impact of a sitting President’s job approval rating on Senate contests in a particular State. Recently, CNN/ORC began a series of State-based polls. In those surveys made public to date, while the President’s job approval rating is 40%, in Iowa it is 37%, in Arkansas it is 33%, in Kentucky it is 29% and in New Hampshire it is 35%.

The U.S. Senate

  • Democrats 53
  • Republicans 45
  • Independents 2

  Democrats Republicans
Seats not up in 2014 34 30
Safe in 2014 9 15
Leaning in 2014 4 3
  Shaheen (NH) McConnell (KY)
  Michigan Georgia
  Udall (CO) Roberts (KS)
  Franken (MN)  
Total 47 48

5 Democrats  
Landrieu (LA)  
Hagan (NC)  
Pryor (AR)  
Begich (AK)  

If one pushes the Toss Ups, Landrieu, Pryor and Begich tilt Republican, and Iowa and North Carolina are smack in the middle.

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