The constant question on people’s minds – at least that small number of fanatics who pay attention to politics – is who will take control of the Senate after November 4th.
Actually, that is a trick question, but more on that later.
House of Representatives? Speaker Boehner will remain in power, assuming renegade Republicans don’t knock him off. But no one, and I mean no one, thinks there is a chance that Democrats will retake the House.
Presidency? Check your copy of your pocket Constitution. The next presidential election is not until 2016, and we all know She Who Will Be Elected Next President (although Republicans and Bernie Sanders beg to differ).
So control of the Senate is where the action is at – although there are a number of key contests for Governor.
And the Senate winner is — I will save my hard predictions for the Council for a Livable World election contest which will be launched in a couple of weeks. Now that’s where the rubber meets the road.
The closest I will come at this point: Republicans are slight favorites to take control of the Senate, but there are too many close contests to be sure of the outcome.
Nate Silver’s 538 gives the Republicans a 57.6% chance of winning the Senate. For the math majors among you, that still gives the Democrats a solid shot of retaining control of 42.4%.
Silver popularized these election models and now the New York Times and the Washington Post have created their own versions.
The New York Times LEO (LEO = Let Elections Obfuscate?) model gives Republicans a 61% chance. The Washington Post’s Date Lab (ooops, sorry, Election Lab) is more optimistic — if you are of the Ted Cruz persuasion — and gives Republicans an 84% chance.
The fact that these numbers and state polls vary widely suggests how imprecise most polling and election models are.
There are simply too many close elections.
Just yesterday, The Bluegrass Poll gave Alison Ludergan Grimes (D) a 46%-44% edge over Sen. Mitch McConnell (R). A CBS/New York Times poll says it is McConnell 47%-41%.
Who is correct? Who knows?
In Kansas, an NBC/Marist poll puts upstart independent Greg Orman (I) with a 10 point lead; CBS New York Times says the race is dead even.
Who is right? We don’t know that either.
And there are numerous contests where polls show about a four point margin, which is within the margin of error for most polls:
Arkansas – Sen. Mark Pryor (D) vs. Rep. Tom Cotton (R)
Colorado – Sen. Mark Udall (D) vs. Rep. Cory Gardner (R)
Georgia – David Perdue (R) vs. Michelle Nunn (D)
Iowa – Rep. Bruce Braley (D) vs. Joni Ernst (R)
Louisiana – Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) vs. Rep. Bill Cassidy (R)
North Carolina – Sen. Kay Hagan (D) vs. Thom Tillis (R)
So if you know the winner of all these contests, then you know who is going to win the Senate.
Earlier, I pointed out that who will win the Senate on November 4 is a trick question.
Why? Because there are three wild cards in the deck.
Louisiana is almost surely going to face a runoff election when no candidate exceeds 50% of the vote. Remember, there are third party candidates in many states — Libertarians and Greens, among others — who will slice off some percentage of the vote. The runoff will be held December 6th .
If Georgia too has a runoff, that second election will be held January 6th. Yes, two months after “election day.” Just for fun, Georgia has a different date for a gubernatorial runoff, December 2. That should thoroughly confuse the Peach State voters.
The third wild card: Kansas. Earlier, I mentioned conflicting polls in Kansas. Independent Orman is either 10 points ahead or tied. If he wins, which party will he choose?
Orman, who has been known to associate with known Democrats and Republicans (some of his best friends) in the past, refuses to choose in advance, and says he may just go with the majority party. And if the election in December or January is 50-49, which way will he swing?
Elections models notwithstanding, no one really knows who will win the Senate, but it is ok to give Republicans a small edge, remembering that Democrats are still very much in it.