Senate Landscape Minus Missouri

If you assume Todd Akin stays on the ballot in Missouri (or is forced off in a way that splits the Republican vote), and that he is a deepy problematic candidate, then the GOP strategy for gaining control of the U.S. Senate gets pretty tricky. RCP’s Caitlin Huey-Burns has a detailed article today examining their options for picking up three (what’s needed if Romney wins) or four (a majority if Obama wins) net seats.

Assuming, as is likely, the GOP is going to lose Olympia Snowe’s seat in Maine, this means defending all the others (NV, AZ and MA have all been considered vulnerable), and picking up four or five Democratic seats. ND, NE and MT all have Democratic-held seats in elections that currently lean Republican, but none, with the possibility of NE, is out of reach for Democrats. Prospects of winning others are close propositions; WI looks better now that Tommy Thompson is the GOP nominee; Bill Nelson’s still maintaining a lead in FL, and VA remains an absolute dead heat, as it has been all along. In NM and OH, Democrats currently lead, but not by large margins.

This is all another way of saying that the dynamics of the presidential races, and particularly the two parties’ GOTV efforts, will probably make the difference in Senate control as well. After all, WI, FL, WI, NV, VA, NM, and OH are all presidential as well as Senate battleground states. With partisan polarization being what it is, crossover votes will be difficult barring big down-ballot financial disparities, scandals (a problem for Dems in NV), and the occasional candidate with demonstrated cross-party appeal (e.g., Nelson of FL and arguably Tester of MT, Thompson of WI and Kerry of NE). That’s all the more reason you can expect the party committees, the 501(c)(4)’s and the Super PACs to ensure that no battleground state voter is allowed to watch television, listen to radio, open the mail, or answer the phone without multiple appeals. It will get brutal and intense for certain sure.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.