WWOD?

I don’t know if you are following the cold war going on between election forecasters Nate Silver and Sam Wang. I’m partial to both of these gentleman, though (to use a Wang term about Silver’s use of non-polling data) I’d put a “thumb on the scales” for Nate having worked with him back before he was so insanely famous.

But I’m not going to wade into their dispute at present. I brought it up as context for reading Wang’s latest forecast and discovering this bottom line about the Senate:

The likeliest outcome is a 50-50 split, with Greg Orman having to decide how he will caucus.

Yes, I know that much of Pat Roberts’ campaign is focused on arguing that the independent Orman is a judas goat who fully intends to caucus with Democrats if he’s placed in a position to determine control. But it still seems a remote contingency–until it’s not.

So What Will Orman Do (WWOD)? He says if his vote will determine control (which would mean Republicans having a 50-49 advantage) he’d “ask both parties to commit to issues like immigration and tax reform, and join the one that agreed,” according to interviewer Molly Ball.

Now, in real life, if this scenario were to emerge it could very well be on an Election Night in which one (Louisiana) or two (Louisiana and Georgia) Senate contests go into overtime, for runoffs in December (Louisiana) and/or January (Georgia). So the final composition of the Senate might not be known for a good while. That would give Orman a very long time to hang out at some Starbucks and sort through bids from both parties as to how they would “solve our country’s problems,” as he likes to put it.

You have to wonder if this whole bargaining routine is going to come off as a high-minded exercise in bringing stubborn political parties to the table, or its opposite: pure power politics. You also have to wonder how much slack senators are going to give Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell in negotiating with the dude, and also whether he might obtain high-profile “partners” like Angus King or even a few “centrist” partisans in pushing for this or that concession. To the extent Orman is going to be required to swear on stacks of Bibles between now and November 4 that he hasn’t secretly made up his mind already, he would for sure have to take his time in announcing a decision, in a Washington, DC that will be insanely focused on every bit of information or misinformation it can find about his leanings or intentions.

Yes, it could be a wild holiday season for political animals this year.

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.