GOP Will Keep Senate

Democrats are salivating at the prospect of recapturing the Senate in 2016. With 24 of the 34 seats up in this cycle now held by Republicans, the Dems are hoping to make up for the ground they lost in the upper chamber in 2010 and 2014. The decisions of Dan Coats, R-Ind., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., not to seek re-election whets their appetites further.

Dick Morris 3

But not so fast! A close analysis of the seats in play shows that the composition of the 2017 Senate is not likely to be much different from its current makeup.

Indiana, one of the two states where a vacant seat attracts Democratic interest, is a solidly Republican state. Carried by Mitt Romney in 2012, it only elected a Democratic Senator in 2012 because Richard Mourdock, the Republican nominee, called a pregnancy stemming from a rape “something God intended.” Barring such self-immolation, there is no reason not to believe that the Republicans will hold the Coats seat.

Republicans might lose the Rubio seat in Florida, but the possible loss might be offset by a GOP victory in the Nevada seat vacated by Harry Reid, D-Nev., Florida and Nevada are genuine tossup states. President Obama beat Romney in the Sunshine State by only 0.9 percent of the vote, the smallest margin of victory for the president in any state. Republican Governor Rick Scott won re-election two years later by only 1.1 percent. Florida could go either way.

But so could Nevada. Republican Brian Sandoval won the governorship in 2010, defeating Rory Reid — Harry’s son – by 52-48. In 2014, he was re-elected with 70 percent of the vote. While Obama carried Nevada in both elections, Nevadans elected Republican Dean Heller to the Senate, albeit by a margin of only 1.2 percent.

Beyond these two tossup states, the best Democratic hope for a pickup is Illinois, where Republican Senator Mark Kirk is handicapped by the possible lingering effects of a stroke he suffered early in his tenure. Kirk’s efforts to sanction Iran, however, give him a great issue to take into the election. Still, Illinois is a quintessentially Democratic state and could revert to form in 2016.

But Republicans could well offset any losses by winning in Colorado, where Michael Bennet, the surprise winner of a tight race in 2010, is up for re-election. Having won by only 1.6 percent in 2010, despite a terribly flawed campaign by tea party favorite Republican Ken Buck, Bennet should be in Republican crosshairs this year. Cory Gardner’s, R-Colo., upset win in 2014 and two Republican Congressional takeaways in 2010 could indicate a swing to the right in this formerly reliable Republican state.

And don’t forget — as Democrats tend to — Washington state, where Patty Murray, D-Wash., survived a strong challenge from Republican Dino Rossi 52-48. In the two weeks before the 2010 election, Rossi was running even or slightly ahead of Murray, forcing her to turn to slashing negative ads in the final days. Rossi, ineptly, failed to answer the attacks and they did their damage. But Murray is no shoo-in this time around.

Wisconsin could pose a problem for Republicans as Ron Johnson, R-Wis., seeks to turn back a challenge from Russ Feingold, who he defeated in 2010 by five points. With Scott Walker’s increasingly successful runs in Wisconsin and Johnson’s record as Senator, it is hard to see this state electing Feingold.

Rob Portman, R-Ohio, elected in 2010 with 57 percent of the vote, faces former Governor Ted Strickland who lost to John Kasich by two points in 2010. Portman should be able to keep his seat.

Democrats hope that Pat Toomey, R-Pa., or Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., could prove vulnerable, but it’s not very likely.

So the Democrats could lose Nevada and Colorado. And the Republicans could lose Illinois and Florida. The more things change, the more they remain the same.

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