Political Animal


November 05, 2012 11:21 AM The Right’s Dream Fades

By Ed Kilgore

Forgive the repetition, but since it continues to be an underreported story, you can argue the most momentous development of the latter stages of this campaign has been the very likely failure of the GOP’s once-indomitable drive to retake control of the Senate. The reason is very simple: only with control of the Senate could the conservative dream scenario of a Republican Congress repealing Obamacare and enacting the Ryan Budget in 2013, with a President Romney redeeming his promises to sign both measures, come to fruition. And with Democrats holding 23 of the 33 seats up for grabs this year—five in states certain to be carried by Mitt Romney—the prospects of picking up three (for a tie that a Vice President Ryan would break) or four (for control regardless of the presidential outcome) seemed overwhelming not that long ago.

Now almost no one is predicting a Republican Senate. Larry Sabato has just issued his final predictions, and is projecting the status quo: a 53-47 Democratic majority. Politico’s David Catanese suggests that late polls have pretty much resolved all the races other than five “nail-biters” in Montana, North Dakota, Wisconsin, Indiana and Nevada. Republicans would have to win four of five to retake the Senate if Romney wins, and sweep all five if Obama wins. Sabato has Tammy Baldwin winning Wisconsin (she leads in the last three public polls), and Joe Donnelly in Indiana (he led by double digits in the only poll published after Mourdock’s rape-and-abortion moment).

Strange things could happen, of course, but it would take something like an 1980 scenario—a year when Republicans won virtually all the close races—to produce a GOP Senate. And it’s just as likely that Democrats could actually gain in the Senate (the Sabato scenario plus a Democratic win in Arizona, Montana, Nevada or North Dakota). If you want to get really wild, Democratic wins in all those states plus a possible upset in Nebraska could produce a 58-42 Democratic majority. That’s very unlikely, but so, too, is a GOP Senate.

But the best gauge of fading GOP hopes is some of the arguments we are hearing for why the takeover will happen, viz. this quote in the Catanese piece:

“The level of organizing on the ground I don’t think is reflected in the polling today,” said FreedomWorks President Matt Kibbe, who still is holding onto the dream of a Republican Senate. “I’m an outlier. But Mourdock won the primary by 20 points and nobody was predicting anything like that. No one predicted a double-digit victory for Ted Cruz in the primary. How do you explain that? I think the pollsters are having a hard time measuring this wildly decentralized political system.”

Nice try. But polling in primaries is vastly less accurate than in general elections. And in any event, both Mourdock and Cruz were leading in every pre-primary poll with every indication they were making big gains daily. If there’s some Mourdock Surge going on in Indiana right now, it’s well-hidden.

In the possible panoply of Republican post-election regrets, the flubbing of the slam-dunk opportunity to win the Senate will play a large role, and it’s not something that can readily be blamed on Sandy or “Chicago” or the godless media.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Mimikatz on November 05, 2012 11:33 AM:

    They have no one to blame but themselves. In many states the GOP primary electorate is a small fraction of the total electorate and it enthusiastically elects wing nuts who can't win statewide. (IN, MO) Where they did have good establishment candidates they were either retreads (FL, HI, VA, WI) or self-funders like Linda (CT) or House reps with baggage (MT, ND). It really doesn't bode well for them in 2014 when they have another chance as the Dems elected in 2008 will be up, but the Dems really, really have to a better turnout job than in 2010.

  • Peter C on November 05, 2012 11:33 AM:


    Wednesday morning can't come soon enough!

  • CurtMinIn on November 05, 2012 11:38 AM:

    Just voted today in Indiana. At age 50 I brought the average age of those in line down ... significantly. Of course, my polling place is in a county that went for McCain 70-30 in the last election but Mourdock is going to get alot of help from those who just vote straight ticket Republican. It's an uphill climb for Donnelly no matter who is on the Republican ticket.

    Of course I'm just a demoralized and outnumbered Democrat in a solid red district so don't take my defeatism as the last word. Still, I think it's fair to say that many voters here consider the Republicans their team just as much as they do the Colts. In fact, I'd wager they pay much more attention to the Colts lineup than they do to the political lineup of who they are voting for.

  • c u n d gulag on November 05, 2012 11:39 AM:

    The Republicans chances would improve if they had candidates that didn't made the creatures in "The Monster Mash" shriek and run away in fright.


    Mitt Romney! Todd Akins! BOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • K in VA on November 05, 2012 11:40 AM:

    I'm looking forward to seeing the end of Karl Rove. After all, he conned very rich people into giving him a slush fund of hundreds of millions of dollars, all of which he squandered on NOT defeating Obama and NOT taking control of the Senate. Some plutocrats will be looking for revenge, or refunds, or both, I'd guess.

  • Steve LaBonne on November 05, 2012 11:40 AM:

    We've got to hold them off again in 2014 (and as noted by Mimikatz we'll hopefully get another helping hand from crazy GOTea primary voters), then in 2016 we have the reverse situation, where a lot of GOP-held seats come up. With a little luck and some modest filibuster reform, we could actually start seeing a functional Senate again, just a little way down the road.

  • Charles Kuffner on November 05, 2012 11:57 AM:

    "No one predicted a double-digit victory for Ted Cruz in the primary."

    Tell that to Tom Jensen at PPP:


  • me5 on November 05, 2012 12:01 PM:

    just as Bonnie replied I'm impressed that a stay at home mom can make $7597 in one month on the computer. did you see this page.....Key14.com

  • Nameless Anonymity on November 05, 2012 12:10 PM:

    Shameful defines all that money spent on campaigns and primaries while some citizens here live a life as having third world nation conditions. Tiresome defines men in suits and ties running for office and being the deciders in a military-industrial complex where millionaire tricksters such as Rupert Murdock, Scaithe, and Rove control information to voters.

  • Bobby Goren on November 05, 2012 12:16 PM:

    Anything's possible after 2000. However, if things go the Dems' way tomorrow, I wonder how much longer we'll have to endure Karl Rove. The hundreds of millions he raised and spent may be chump change to billionaires; however, two things are true.

    (1) Nobody likes to lose - especially guys that don't lose very often. I'm guessing Rove's donor hate it more than most.

    (2) If there's one thing they hate more than losing it's spending money to lose.

    There's only so far Rove can coast on the 2010 Tea Party success.

  • Ronald on November 05, 2012 12:22 PM:

    Is it me or is it worrisome that it has taken this much effort to defeat candidates that are obviously unqualified and just out-right batty as hell?
    Shouldn't we Democrats have candidates that whomp through idiots like this? How come this was such a fight this year?
    It seems to point to two things:
    1) the Republicans are batty as hell, still
    2) the Democrats can't figure out how to get everybody in their coalition pointing the same way at the same time, still.

    Did the mega-bucks make that much of a difference in boosting the prospects of the crazy wing?

  • Josef K on November 05, 2012 12:42 PM:

    In the possible panoply of Republican post-election regrets, the flubbing of the slam-dunk opportunity to win the Senate will play a large role, and it’s not something that can readily be blamed on Sandy or “Chicago” or the godless media.

    Of course it is. God wants Republicans in charge of everything, thus it is only by intervention of the Devil himself (aka Hurricane Cassandra) and the God-dispising liberal media that the designs of the almighty are thwarted.

    Seems to happen a lot lately, doesn't it? Almost like The Almighty doesn't want this collection of idiots in charge. Plus which the GOP keeps nominating and running candidates who you normally wouldn't entertain in your woodshed, never mind in the statehouse.

  • Akuca on November 05, 2012 2:06 PM:

    /rel Mourdock and primary.... There was no Dem race last May, and many of us voted in the Repub primary for M,because Lugar had always been unbeatable in the general. So Mourdock won partly because he got a lot of Dem votes... Not because we liked him, but because we knew he could be beaten.

    Seems to have worked. :) But do not assume that his primary victory means much of anything. He got a lot of Dem nasty-votes. Not that he'll ever thank us. :)

  • schtick on November 05, 2012 3:24 PM:

    I'm voting tomorrow and I'm going to do something I've never, ever believed anyone should do when voting. I'm going to vote a straight dem ticket. With the republican reps here I thought had a brain sending flyers about repealing laws that actually help me and today seeing American Crossroads spewing lies has made me decide for sure on a straight ticket.
    Another thing it's made me decide is that if there should ever be a republican that is honest around here, they better be listed on another party on the ticket or they won't get my vote. I can't even hold my nose to vote for a republican and where I live is republicanland. I'll never vote on the republican line again for the few years of my life I have left.

  • exlibra on November 05, 2012 6:24 PM:

    Politico’s David Catanese suggests that late polls have pretty much resolved all the races other than five “nail-biters” in Montana, North Dakota, Wisconsin, Indiana and Nevada. -- Ed Kilgore

    I just hope to hell and gone that he's right about not listing Virginia among those "nail biters". 'cause my own nails are bitten right to the quick, and I've been getting "please send more money immediately; we're down in the polls" messages from Tim Kaine about every 15 minutes.

  • Robert Waldmann on November 05, 2012 9:42 PM:

    "Montana, North Dakota, Wisconsin, Indiana and Nevada. Republicans would have to win four of five to retake the Senate if Romney wins," isn't uh accurate. Aside from those nail biters Republicans are picking up Nebraska and losing Maine and Massachusetts so down 1. Indiana and Nevada are currently Republican, so if the Republicans win 4 of 5 they get to 48 not 50.

    To get to 50 they need all 5 nail biters plus one
    race that leans Democratic (Massachusetts or Virginia).

    Your guess is the same as Sabato's (and for what it's worth mine). If Democrats win the non nail biters, Indiana and Wisconsin, then there will be a caucus of 51 Democrats and 2 independents in the next Senate just as there is in this Senate.