Republican-majority Senate is starting to look likelier
The polls have shown Republicans faring quite well over the last couple of weeks, and they now appear to lead in the polls in enough contests to win 52 seats, with Iowa, Colorado and the six Democratic-held states won by John McCain in the 2008 presidential election and Mitt Romney in 2012.
The Democrats still have a plausible path to victory. But if the next week of polling, particularly in Colorado and Iowa, looks like the last few weeks, then the Republicans will solidify a clear advantage heading into the final stretch.
The Republicans have a solid grasp on 44 seats, and the Democrats on 45 seats. Republicans need to win seven of the remaining seats to take control. Here is a look at them.
Republicans have emerged as clear favorites in three states where they easily win presidential elections and where Democratic incumbents are trying to hold on: Alaska, Arkansas and Louisiana.
The polls themselves are clear: Sen. Mark Begich has trailed the Republican, Dan Sullivan, in every nonpartisan poll over the last month and a half. But if the Republicans were to choose a state to have a clear lead, Alaska wouldn’t be it.
The state has a long history of polling misfires, perhaps because of its small and dispersed population.
For most of the year, analysts assumed that the Republicans would hold all of their seats, including Georgia and Kentucky, where Democrats had slight chances at an upset. They were also thought to be assured to win three red states where Democratic incumbents were retiring: Montana, West Virginia and South Dakota.
In Kansas, Greg Orman, a businessman turned independent candidate, and Sen. Pat Roberts, a Republican, are locked in a tight race. Orman still leads in most polls, but some polls now show Roberts with a slight lead. That’s a change from a month ago, and it could suggest that the state’s undecided, predominantly Republican-leaning voters are breaking his way.
Another wild card is South Dakota. Mike Rounds, the Republican nominee and a former governor, was thought to be a strong candidate for the state’s open seat. But he has been embroiled in a scandal over the state’s EB-5 visa program, which was expanded when he was governor.
If the Republicans lose South Dakota or Kansas, they will need to flip a state won by Obama to win the Senate — even if they win Alaska, Arkansas and Louisiana.
At the moment, Iowa is a strong candidate to offset a Republican loss in Kansas or South Dakota. But Iowa also helps highlight the uncertainty in the campaign.
It would be hard to describe Iowa as part of a GOP firewall. Over the last few weeks, there are nearly as many polls showing a tied race or the Democrat ahead as there are polls showing the Republican in the lead.
Overall, Leo, The Upshot’s Senate model, gives the Republicans a 68 percent chance of retaking the Senate.
That reflects the GOP’s edge, but also the reality that they haven’t yet locked down the 51 seats they need for a majority.