It’s entirely possible that Republicans will get a few breaks and a last-minute battleground state tail wind and win control of the Senate on November 6. But it ain’t looking good for them, as a long and meandering Politico piece from Catanese and Raju shows. Having entered the cycle thinking Senate control was a can’t-miss proposition, given an incredibly favorable landscape (Democrats defending 23 of 33 seats in a viciously wrong-track atmosphere) and a new determination to find attractive and credible wingnut candidates as opposed to people who seemed to have drawn straws for Republican nominations at a John Birch Society mixer.
If they fall short for the second straight cycle, Beltway Republicans can’t just blame it all on the Tea Folk, as they did in 2010 when Christine O’Donnell, Sharron Angle and Ken Buck won highly contested primaries and then lost after crazy-person antics in the general election. Yes, one Tea Party purger, Richard Mourdock of Indiana, is in unexpected trouble. But so, too, are GOP Establishment war horses and more conventional conservatives. And even in the bad-candidate-poster-boy situation, Missouri, Todd Akin wasn’t any more ideologically risky than the two candidates he defeated in the primary.
At the moment, the situation is dire enough that we are all having to consider the possibility of a scenario almost no one had anticipated earlier: Mitt Romney entering the White House with Democrats retaining not only “veto power” in the Senate via the filibuster but actual control of the chamber, with enough votes (if they stand firm) to block enactment of the Ryan budget via reconciliation procedures. You’d best believe the pressure on Romney to avoid any contaminating contact with Democrats during the transition would increase exponentially.
As Catanese and Raju note, however, enough of the very close races (particularly Virginia and Nevada) are in presidential battleground states that a Romney victory would probably give GOPers just enough juice to win 50 seats. But that’s no longer anything like a sure bet.