The Republican Party is feeling confident as the Nov. 4 election day approaches and tides begin to turn in some key states, as they need a net gain of only six seats to regain control in the Senate. Democrats hold an advantage of 55-45 heading into Tuesday, but have to defend 21 of the 36 seats on the ballot this year. Seven of these seats are in strong Republican states.
History and math are on the side of Republicans. Typically the sitting president’s party loses Congressional seats in the sixth year. In addition, experts place Democratic seats in nine states to be at risk, plus two Democratic seats in Montana and South Dakota that are virtually conceded to the Republican Party. Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, New Hampshire, North Carolina and West Virginia are the key states to watch, according to CNN.
Support for Democratic candidates from business political-action committees (PACs) has waned since July with a significant shift in donations to Republican Party candidates in seven of these most competitive races. In some cases the PACs are even betting against sitting senators, an unusual move. Nicholas Colas, brokerage firm ConvergEx Group chief market strategist, sees this shift in part due to the expectation of who is most likely to win. He says Wall Street expects a return on their investment and contributing to a losing campaign makes no sense.
Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana and North Carolina have all seen donations shift toward the Republican Party since July. These shifts have foreshadowed the outcome of several elections in the past. Before Democrats regained control of both House and Senate in 2006, business PACS had begun shifting their contributions away from Republicans. A similar pattern was seen in 2010, when business contributions swung toward the Republican Party, who regained the majority in the House and made big gains in the Senate.
Polls report that Democrats are regaining some momentum in some of their at-risk seats in key states, showing that the Republican Party is not yet a shoo-in to regain control of the Senate, despite needing only six seats. Although polling is unreliable in Alaska due to sparse population and large numbers of independent voters, Hellenthal and Associates poll results are showing a substantial lead for incumbent Senator Mark Begich, the first polls that put him ahead of Republican Party challenger Dan Sullivan in a month. In Iowa, a Loras College poll shows conservative Joni Ernst trailing Democrat Bruce Braley by one point in a tight race, a switch from recent trends showing Ernst in the lead. Finally, in Arkansas Democrat Mark Pryor is now only two points behind Republican Tom Cotton, according to an NBC News/Marist Poll.
Even if Braley manages to win Iowa’s open seat and Begich retains his spot in Alaska, Democrats are looking at difficult figures if they are going to keep control of the Senate. With only a 55-45 majority, a net loss of only six seats will allow the Republican Party to regain control of the Senate, and with key states now learning away from Democrats things are heating up coming down the stretch. It is predicted that Democrats will lose their seats in Montana, South Dakota and West Virginia to the Republican Party, as Obama’s unfavorable ratings drags the Democrats down in those states. Election forecast models are showing Democrats trailing in Arkansas, Colorado and Louisiana, while barely holding on in New Hampshire and North Carolina. The Democrats hope to grab one or two typically Republican seats in Georgia, Kansas and Kentucky.
By Beth A. Balen